Fairytales: Fairy Tale and Existential Predicaments

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Fairy tales play different roles teaching children about morals, right v. wrong and with these teaching it impacts a child and helps them with their growth. In “Fairy Tales and the Existential Predicament” by Bruno Bettelheim he argues that fairy tales help teach children more than parents do, since parents want to shelter children and only show them the sunny side of things.

Fairy tales help them understand the existential predicaments one can face in life and shows that one can overcome anything that is thrown at them.In “Aschenputtel” by the brothers Grimm there’s this young girl that is expose to existential predicaments and shows the journey on overcoming them and Bettelheim will agree that this fairy tale can help a child grow by the arguments he argues, the same could be said for “The Algonquin Cinderella” they teach the same values to help children understand more about the reality in life.The exposing of existential predicaments as well as the exposure of the characters self worth in fairytales and the characters journey in overcoming hardships according to Bettelheim, can help a child understand their unconscious mind, the fairytales qualities show in “Aschenputtel” and in “the Algonquian Cinderella” through their hard but growing experiences.The exposure to existential predicaments are necessary for a child’s growth which are clearly seen in the predicament that Aschenputtel faces.

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Existential predicaments are problems that happen in real life that a child isn’t expose to but by watching or hearing fairytales they can help a child understand. Bettelheim mentions this when he states “The child needs most particularly to be given suggestions in symbolic form about how he may deal with these issues and grow safely into maturity”(216).In other words, the symbolism in fairytales plays an important role to help a child understand and In “Aschenputtel” to help her cope she doesn’t need materialistic things, she wants “The first twig, father, that strikes against your hat on the way home; that is what I should like you to bring me”(203) the twig symbolizes that all she needs is the little things to help her out and for that something beautiful comes out and that is why the twig flourishes and becomes a fine tree, since she has troubles and problems to help her cope she uses the connection she has with nature.The existential predicaments are expose to help a child understand problems in real life and the nature of how people can be.

Exposing the good and evil, also helps children understand what is right and life and how they can identify with either of the characters. Exposing children to the good and evil of life in human nature can help a child understand that they are two sides of people and in “The Algonquian Cinderella” we clearly see the good v. evil. Children don’t always see the bad in people because parents are sheltering them and teaching them they always have to be good, when in reality not everyone is good.

Bettelheim argues that “In practically every fairy tale good and evil are given body in form of some figures and their actions, as good and evil are omnipresent in life and the propensities for both are present in every man”(216). What Bettelheim is trying to say, is that evil is presented in real life all the time in different ways but nonetheless it’s presented in every person. We see the evil presented in the sister in “the Algonquian Cinderella” when her actions toward the little sister are described “[..

. but the wicked sister would burn her hands and feet with hot cinders”(214) she would scar her own blood sister torment her for no apparent reason and through all that Oochigeaskw not to say a word to the father shows clearly the evil sister from the good sister. The meaning of family means you have someone who always looks out for you, whenever you need someone they will always be there, that’s what we first think about when we hear family; security, love, happiness, and always having someone there for you, and that’s what parents teach their children but that’s not true in all cases in family.We always hear about children getting abused, sometimes molested by their own family but children won’t ever hear that, so in “the Algonquin Cinderella” it gives the child a taste of the reality of some of the cases where family isn’t always the good.

It’s a very meaningful passage for the child to understand that in reality they are some families that are like that and their is no explanation on why that happens but it does show the struggle a character has and the ways they can overcome it.Death is also a problem one is scared to talk to their children about but in most fairytales death is the first things we are introduce to. Exposing the idea of death in fairy tales can help children grow and understand the meaning of life and as seen in Aschenputtel the reason she is a good person is because of her mothers death. Bettelheim’s argument is “[.

.. ] many fairy stories begin with death of a mother or father; in these tales the death of a parent creates the most agonizing problems, as it (or the fear of it) does in real life”(216).When you face the death of someone who plays a big role in your life, there are somethings you can’t understand but once you accept the fact someone is death it helps you grow as a person and keeps you strong.

In Aschenputtel the story begins with her mom dying, “[… ] she felt her end drawing near she called to her only daughter to come near her bed, and said, “Dear child, be pious and good, and God will always take care of you and I will look down upon you from heaven, and will be with you”(202).

As the result of her mother telling her this she was always pious and good, and shows that from a tragic event instead of rebelling but doing the opposite can help you grow. Although someone already left this world you can always make them apart of you, having some sort of connection with them, whether it’s visiting their grave, talking to them just like Aschenputtel does. Her mom helps her through life and keeps her strong and whenever she needs her all she needs to do is remember what she told her.Having that connection with someone that isn’t here is always a growing experience and helps a person with it’s hardships knowing someone is looking out for you although they aren’t here in presence they are here in spirit.

Overcoming obstacles plays a big role in trying to find your identity and a person’s self-worth. The exposure to existential predicaments in a fairytale also has to show the characters journey through the hardship they encounter and in “the Algonquian Cinderella” Oochigeaskw we see that she’s isolated and then needs help from some sort of primitive thing to help her overcome the hardship she is face.Bettelheim can agree and states “The fairy-tale hero proceeds for a time in isolation, as the modern child ofter feels isolated. The hero is helped by being in touch with primitive things- a tree, an animal, nature- as the child feels more in touch with those things than adults”(218).

His argument says that each character at one point is alone in the world has no one to help them out, and that’s when they go to nature to help them out in a time of need. For example Oochigeaskw has no one to help her out when she ants to overcome the hatred of her sister and therefore she goes out into the wild to help her out, “Now, with no other clothes than her usual rags, the poor little thing went into the woods and got herself some sheets of birch bark, from which she made a dress[.. ]”(215).

The birch bark is known to be a strong but flexible to do certain things with, and for Oochigeaskw to make a dress out of this for her to wear signifies that she is a strong individual on the outside and in but can mold herself to be whoever she wants to be.She sees the beauty of life and nature and is one with nature and has the qualities of it as well. Nature indeed helps her feel safe and strong to overcome the struggles she is faced and with children it the struggle is guided step by step and whenever they need help they can ask for it and that’s what children need to be reassured they can get help. When the obstacle is overcome in most cases you are now left with a victorious ending.

The ending of fairy tales plays a big part of helping the child understand that at the end something always ends good and that the evil can have it’s justice as well, as shown in “Aschenputtel” not only is there a happy ending for Aschenputtel but their is also the revenge that takes place to the evil sisters that made it hard for her. Bettelheim argues “In many fairy tales a usurper succeeds for a time in seizing the place which rightfully belongs to the hero[…

and that is why in fairy tales the bad person always loses out. No matter what struggles the character has if they are the hero and shows all the good qualities of a person then at the end they will rightfully have what belongs to them.“And when she stood up, and the prince looked in her face, he knew again the beautiful maiden that had danced with him, and he cried, “This is the right bride! (207) which shows that although she struggled to show herself to the prince at the end she was able to show herself and become the princess that she was meant to be no matter how much the evil stepmother tried to stop her from becoming. Not only is that a victorious ending for Aschenputtel but without her doing her evil stepsisters get the revenge they deserved “And so they were condemned to go blind for the rest of their days because of their wickedness and falsehood.

(208) which in many fairy tales we usually don’t ever see the evil doer get what they deserve all we see is the hero with the victorious ending and then living happily ever after. The ending of Aschenputtel is to me a better way to end the fairy tales, so that children can see that not only the good character gets what is rightfully theirs, but that also the evil character gets what they deserve because everything in life in one way or another has consequences, it might not happen right away but in the end something will happen in the actions you take.Fairy tales are not only made to entertain children, they are made to help children understand real life issues by showing them a journey a character can take by doing good in life. The existential predicaments, the idea of right v wrong, and the victorious ending all show the good qualities that a fairy tale consist of and that Bettelheim believes helps a child grow and understand their unconscious mind.

In both of the stories they show all the good qualities of the fairy tales and that justifies both the good and bad characters.

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Fairytales: Fairy Tale and Existential Predicaments. (2017, Apr 26). Retrieved from


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