Folktales as Therapy

Folktales as Therapy by Verena Kast. Translated by Douglas Whitcher. New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1995. 171 pp. ISBN 0-88064-210-6 $12.95.

"The characters not only bring us face to face with our concerns,
they often show us how to deal with them as well."

This book was first published in Switzerland in 1986 as Märchen als Therapie. The author, Verena Kast, is a professor of psychology at Zurich University and the author of more than 20 books on Jungian psychology.

Kast begins the book with an introduction in which she points out that our favorite stories can tell us a great deal about ourselves -not only about hopes, dreams, attitudes and values, but also about areas of concern. "The characters we remember from folktales," she says, "often embody issues of pressing personal concern." The very structure of folktales, honed and polished, streamlined as they have been through decades of telling, lends them a universality which allows the reader/listener to easily compare his own situation to the problems faced by the protagonists.

Folktales speak to us in symbols and images, but many people have lost the ability to recognize symbolic messages and themes. Kast explores a number of ways in which we can interpret stories. For instance, all the characters of a tale can be looked at as sub-personalities of the protagonist. Viewed this way, a character meeting a dragon may be meeting a dragon-like part of herself.

The body of the book consists of six chapters, each of which presents a clinical case and the folktale which was used in therapy. Kast gives a thematic synopsis for each folktale, identifying the primary concern of each story and offering various ways in which the tale might be interpreted. She then relates the tale to the analysand's biography and we see how the person in analysis was able to undergo a healing process. The stories used are: Little Red Cap, The Brave Little Tailor, The Snow Queen, Beloved Roland, The Ill-Fated Princess, and The White Shirt, The Heavy Sword, and The Golden Ring.

Kast has written a book which can serve as a stepping stone for those interested in the use of folktales to connect confront mirror, or stimulate the creative process of symbolization.

The Second Story Review, Vol 2, No 3 December 1997
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