Evil and Fairy Tales: The Witch as Symbol of Evil in Fairy Tales

Dissertation, California Institute of Integral Studies (1984)

This thesis is an attempt to supplement the existing body of knowledge on the subject of evil. Fairy tales are used as the stimulus to an exploration of what Paul Ricoeur calls "the transcendental deduction" of symbols by which he means the "promotion of meaning, the forming of meaning, and the creative interpretation" of symbols of evil. ;A prominent symbol of evil in fairy tales is the witch. The witch, who, like evil itself mutters, schemes and devours,--demands a response if we, the heroes and heroines of our own lives, are to survive. An analysis of the symbolism of the witch and the meaning of the various responses to her presence makes up the heart of this thesis. ;Following the tradition established by C. G. Jung, Marie-Louise Von-Franz and Erich Neumann the thesis addresses the following questions: What can fairy tales teach us about comparative views of evil? What can fairy tales tell us about the way the psyche operates vis-a-vis evil? Do the tales reflect a difference between masculine and feminine responses to evil? ;The first third of the thesis is devoted to a review and discussion of the literature on the nature of evil as perceived by several key disciplines. The nature of evil is placed within the framework of psychotherapy, the social sciences, theology and philosophy. ;The second third of the thesis defines and explicates the nature of the fairy tale itself. In this section, the history of the fairy tale is discussed along with its role in activating archetypal images of the human psyche. ;The concluding third of the thesis discusses seven fairy tales in depth. These tales are analyzed in the light of the responses that the characters in the tale display toward evil . Four different responses to the witch appear to predominate and each of these is discussed and illustrated by the tales themselves. These four responses are: ignoring and identifying with evil; outwitting evil; killing evil; standing present to evil. ;The thesis concludes with a discussion of what fairy tales can teach about comparative views of evil, the way the psyche operates ;vis-a-vis evil and differences reflected in the tales between masculine and feminine responses to evil. Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil , p. 355. Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil, p.12
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