Many of Grimm’s fairytales begin with three sisters or three brothers who have a critical task to perform. Invariably, the youngest succeeds. In her introduction to a story called “The Golden Bird,” Maria Tatar, editor of the recently published bicentennial collection says: “If the female protagonists of fairy tales are often as good as they are beautiful, their male counterparts often appear to be as young and naive as they are stupid.”
“The Golden Bird” illustrates the point. The youngest son is so hopeless that even his animal guide, a fox, grows frustrated, yet in the end, the boy wins “complete happiness.”
Not all youngest sons are so dense, and sometimes the stories have great depth, like “The Water of Life,” which I discussed here last March (http://wp.me/pYql4-1OC and http://wp.me/pYql4-1Pm).
According to Marie-Louise von Franz, Carl Jung’s closest colleague and author of five books on fairytales, the…
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