Thursday, November 10, 2011

World of Symbols: Fairytales


 Once Upon a Time…
By Michelle Snyder
The Symbologist
The White Knight Studio

“Once Upon A Time” stories are among the greatest love stories ever told; layered with history, culture, and ancient ethics, these fascinating tales have been preserved for thousands of years by oral and literary tradition. Faerie tales boast a variety of well-loved characters: Faerie godmothers, wicked queens, beautiful damsels-in-distress, and hero-knights. Despicable villains, elusive little people, and wondrous magical happenings capture our imaginations. Characters like these are symbols which represent people in life. These timeless tales proclaim the love of parent for child, grandmother for granddaughter, and Prince Charming for the fair maiden. Legends record in grand style the brave deeds of hero-knights who rescued princesses and restored them to their rightful place; magical forces from the power of love prevailed.

Damsels in distress appear in stories of love and faith like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, recently made famous by the brothers Grimm, and Walt Disney. According to Duncan-Enzmann’s ice-age translations these stories had their start 14,500 years ago, with the Sun Child. This was a time when daughters were precious, representing the circle of life. Faerie tales that refer to spinning or weaving also began here, when women taught the children with stories while working at their looms.

Love stories about youthful girls such as Beauty and the Beast and The Frog Prince come from a time when girls married young. Fathers always want their daughters to marry well, and the slightly older gentleman with means and manners could provide and protect. In these tales, the young girl starts out despising the doting gentleman, as if he were a beast or slimy frog, but after a time she decides he is not so bad and falls in love with him. Even popular tales about very young children, such as Hansel and Gretel and Babes in the Woods, are about love between siblings, and warnings about getting lost in the Great Woods. We can trace these tales to ca. 8000 BC, when there were dangerous, enormous thick forests, miles and miles wide; it was possible to be lost in them forever.

Faerie tales also bring us fairies, pixies, dwarves, elves, kings and queens, and a variety of merchants and tradesmen. These characters are found in legends, tales, and mythologies, from the earliest to the most modern cultural stories; their presence tells us our ancestors understood a great deal about the nature of human beings. This knowledge was preserved, along with their history, in Faerie tales told to children generation after generation, in true oral tradition. This tradition has preserved unique parts of history that would otherwise be lost. Within our favorite Faerie tales are lessons about love, loyalty, tradition, and deceit, coupled with historic events, told over and over as verisimilitudes. The ability to recognize the historic (once upon a time…) elements of these great stories, and to place them in context of time, event, and climate, provides clues to the roots and age of the stories.  Symbology: Decoding Classic Images reveals more about the history of Faeries – the “Fair Folk” of northern Europe, so called because of their white skin and platinum blonde hair. Magnificent tales of love and courage have been told for hundreds of generations by and about these long-ago people.

Article and artwork © 2011 Michelle Snyder, author of Symbology: Decoding Classic Images, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online, and at The Book Rack Bookstore in Arlington. Post your questions on her blog at www.whiteknightstudio.com