Marie-Louise von Franz : Introduction to the Interpretation of Fairytales & Animus and Anima in Fairytales
Marie-Louise von Franz believed fairytales to be the purest and simplest expressions of the collective unconscious. Too often the interpreter regresses to a personalized approach, however, heroes and heroines are abstractions that embody collective archetypes. The innumerable variations within the same fairytale told in different cultures are like a musical theme crisscrossing humanity. In Volume 8, von Franz establishes that there is only one psychic fact to which the fairytale addresses itself, namely, the SELF.
Some fairytales emphasize the beginning phases of this experience by dwelling on the shadow, others draw attention to the anima and animus, while still others hint at the unobtainable treasure. This volume contains new and updated translations of The Interpretation of Fairytales along with Anima and Animus in Fairytales and combines them into a single volume, clarifying the Jungian approach to interpreting fairytales and offering a deep dive into anima and animus.
The anima and the animus deliver to consciousness the “life-affirming fruit.” Individuation requires engagement with these contra-sexual archetypes, but von Franz observes that “Anima and animus are not always happy to have this relationship—they lose part of their power when they are made conscious.” She further warns of the inflation resulting from possession by them and points out that the animus “loves to create an atmosphere of mist in which nobody can find orientation.” These are supra-personal elements of psychic life capable of breaking beyond the tendency of consciousness to become one-sided. This second section of Volume 8 provides an insightful explanation of a woman’s encounter with her animus and a man’s encounter with his anima.
Aurora Consurgens, the rising sun, is a vision forged in the pseudo-Aristotelian tradition that became a cornerstone of medieval Church doctrine and the centerpiece of the Dominican and Franciscan traditions. While its authorship has been shrouded in mystery and controversy, Marie Louise von Franz furnishes ample evidence that this was a final work of Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church. His vision begins with an anima figure of the Sapentia Dei.
This medieval alchemical text is rich in symbolism and offers a glimpse into how unconscious contents can be understood through their interactions with the material world. Marie Louise von Franz places Aurora Consurgens squarely in the tradition of visionary spiritual writings similar to the visions of Hildegard von Bingen or John of Patmos. Aquinas’s visions and his final commentary on the Song of Songs appear to have been the result of a state of ecstasy into which he fell just before his death. Marie Louise von Franz excavates a psychological treasure from his work.
Saint Niklaus von Flüe, the patron saint of Switzerland, was held in the highest esteem by both CG Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz. Jung even declared him the Patron Saint of Psychotherapy, due to the Saint’s deep inward reflections and profound experiences. His visions reportedly began while still in his mother’s womb and continued until his death. One of his later visions was a terrifying image of the face of God. Von Franz saw Niklaus as the shadow brother of Christ and wrote of him as the alchemical Anthropos, a universal man. His visions were an evolution of Christian mysticism.
Saint Perpetua was a young Christian woman put to death in 203 AD in the Roman arena at the age of 22. Her profound visions occurred days before her death. Von Franz penetrates these images, suggesting they were revelations of a new, Christian God-image breaking through from the collective unconscious into the animus of young Perpetua.
Marie-Louise von Franz is at her very best as she unravels the mysteries held within the visions of these two saints.
Volume 3 turns to the Maiden’s Quest within fairytales.
The maiden/heroine navigates a complicated maze of inner and outer relationships as she builds a bridge to the unconscious. The heroine contends with the animus in many forms like a devouring and incestuous father, demonic groom, the beautiful prince, an androgenous mother, a cold dark tower, and through conflict with the evil stepmother.
Dangers and pitfalls await her as the conscious feminine strives to make connections with the unconscious masculine. The maiden is the undeveloped feminine and the promised fruit of her struggle with the animus is the coniunctio. Volume 3 is a masterwork of cross-cultural scholarship, penetrating psychological insight, and a strikingly illuminating treatise. With her usual perspicacity and thoroughness, von Franz gathers countless fairytale motifs revealing a myriad of facets to the maiden’s quest.
Von Franz’s prodigious knowledge of fairytales from around the world demonstrates that the fairytale draws its root moisture from the collective realm. This volume continues where Volume 1 left off as von Franz describes the fairytale, “suspended between the divine and the secular worlds (…) creating a mysterious and pregnant tension that requires extreme power to withstand.” The resistance of the great mother against the hero and his humble origins, as well as the hero freeing the anima figure from the clutches of the unconscious are universal archetypal patterns. The spoils retrieved by the hero symbolize new levels of consciousness wrested from the unconscious.