Once there was a woman who told a story. However, she had more than just an entertaining tale to tell. She chose common images that everyone would understand, and she wrapped her story around them, and in this way she was able to teach the people . . .
The traditions of storytelling have long been used as a means to impart wisdom and life lessons to others. One of the most effective ways in which this is done is through the use of archetypes. While it is possible to look at these images in a general way, one may also focus an analysis on a single tale. In this way it is possible to explore the particular images used and their significance in a given situation, (often a coming of age rite of
passage). One such tale is “Rapunzel”.
A general outline of this type of folktale is the introduction of a task, leading to a journey which concludes in the completion into maturity. Here the task is inverted, as it is not the child who must complete it, but her father. However, this undertaking influences the child directly. The father is told he must fetch some rapunzel lettuce from a witch’s garden to satisfy his pregnant wife’s cravings. His wife then eats this rapunzel, effectively tying her unborn child to the witch who has provided the lettuce. Food is often used as a symbol of transformation, and in this instance it allows the witch to claim possession of the baby girl before she is even born. Through the consumption of the rapunzel that belongs to the witch, the child becomes a sort of extension of her. Naming the baby Rapunzel for the very thing that connects them shows this. After this initial task, the father is never mentioned. He has completed his part in the child’s life, and disappears to al...
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...She weeps, causing two tears to fall onto his eyes. The water acts as an agent of transformation to restore the prince’s sight, her compassion and his new maturity allowing them to proceed to a happy ending. They are rewarded with their return to his kingdom, and the undefined but assumed presence of comfort and happiness.
On the surface Rapunzel may appear to be only an entertaining story, but upon closer inspection, there is the greater example of a lesson to be learned. Archetypes are used to present the wisdom in an attractive way, thus allowing a less awkward method of teaching, as well as presenting it in a manner likely to be remembered. Thus the story is completed with success. The audience leaves with a sense of something important having been shared with them, and hopefully, each will continue the storytelling tradition long after the teller has gone.
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