Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast
Birds can represent the fluttering, darting thoughts of intuition. This is why little birds helped Cinderella help herself.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cinderella #364 "To Love My Father All: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Folktale Source of King Lear" (Dundes, A.)


Cinderella #364 "To Love My Father All: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Folktale Source of King Lear" (Dundes, A.)
A child's fantasy princess.
Illustration by the other Emily, age 5.
Once upon a time, in Berkeley, CA, there lived a man named Alan Dundes. As a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, he became a renowned scholar of Cinderella. In his 1983 book, Cinderella: A Casebook, he wrote about the variants known as Catskin (in which the father lusts for his own daughter) and "the King Lear variant" in which his daughter is banished for saying that she loves her father "as much as salt". This essay posits that Shakespeare's King Lear was inspired by a well known folktale, Cinderella. He points out the facts which can be used to support this, including the "tale type index" established in 1910. He identifies an even earlier literary borrowing from folktale plots, that of Homer's Odyssey. The story of Polyphemus (The Ogre Blinded), Dundes said, is "an identifiable, independent folktale which certainly must have been incorporated into" the Odyssey. Furthermore, he said,"Not only do most conventional Shakespeare scholars merely allude en passant to possible 'old stories rooted in the popular faith' ...but they rarely if ever stop to consider the psychological implications of the folktale plot lying at the base of a given work of literature. In short, they do not always properly identify possible folktale sources and without such identification, they are in no position to make a judicious psychological or for that matter any other type of interpretation derived from folklore." In other words, it's the archetypes, dummy! That is why characters repeat, and yet always feel fresh. Dundes zeroed in on King Lear, and declared that "it has long been recognized that the plot  was borrowed in part from folklore". The test of filial love is the tell-tale marker, with this particular story element (of the three daughters called before their father, the king, and asked to tell him how much each one loves him). It was actually nick-named by Marian Roalfe Cox as the "King Lear type/Loves Like Salt" in her 1892 study, Cinderella: Three Hundred Forty Five Variants of Cinderella, Catskin, and Cap O' Rushes. Dunded pointed out, however, a very significant difference between the Shakespeare version and the folktale. Fairy tales usually are told from the point of the child or younger generation, not the parent or older folks. Wise old women may advise and old Kings may be benevolent or not, but never do they get the princess. Yet the theme of incest runs deeply through this play, as "a number of pyschoanalytically oriented critics have remarked. Dundes cites Bransom (1934) and Sigmund Freud himself, who wrote to Bransom after reading his book and "agreed 'that the secret meaning of the tragedy' had to do with Lear's repressed incestuous claims on his daughter's love". Dundes argued that "none of the critics who see an incest theme in King Lear appear to be aware of the existence of the same theme in folktale sources from which the play is definitely derived." Using the Freudian method of psychoanalysis, in which the unconscious mind is understood to project things upside and sideways and otherwise obscure their clear meaning, Dundes explains that a little girl in a fairy tale who is "forced" to marry her father, or is pursued by her is really acting out her own wish to replace her mother. Thus, with so many Cinderella stories conveniently beginning with the death of the mother and the amazing coincidence of the mother's death bed wish being that Dad remarry someone who fits into her clothes or ring exactly (like, maybe, her daughter?) Dundes said that the incestuous fathers of the Catskin/King Lear variant can  actually be viewed as the projections of little girls. (p.237). One problem with this theory is that it misses the point. Remember the archetypes, which(according to a Jungian interpretation) are memories of the collective unconscious, not author-creations. Thus, since the Cinderella story is not one made up by little girls and told to one another, rather it is an ancient tale told the world over by adults. This Cinderella researcher believes, the reason for the existence of men who are sexually attracted to little girls in fairy tales and literature is as simple as the existence of such men in real life. Fact: many men are highly attracted to females in the Cinderella state of transforming from little girl to woman. Most men seem able not to act on this attraction but it nonetheless exists. When Sigmund Freud began hearing from his patients about being sexually abused by their fathers, and realized that one in four of his patients made such claims, he at first thought that such high numbers could only be fantasy. Yet even today, "over 3 million reports of child abuse are made each day in the United States" (Childwatch http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics). Ultimately, Freud recognized the truth and wrote in a letter ,to Wilhelm Fliess, Dec.22, 1897, citing Goethe, after relating his patient's memory
of having been raped by her father at age two, "A new motto: What has been done to you, poor child?"
-Sigmund Freud.(From "The Universality of Incest
Lloyd DeMause
The Journal of Psychohistory, Fall 1991, Vol. 19, No. 2, http://www.psychohistory.com/htm/06a1_incest.html)

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