Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fairy Tales express some of our most deep-seated yearnings: knowledge of the future, especially at the New Year

Today's highlights:

Stories about the New Year
Folk traditions to predict the future.
Designing your own New Year's celebration based on folk traditions.
New Year's Resolutions

Fairy Tale Justice
In these stories, characters are driven by a desire to know the future. There are many folk sayings and proverbs warning that it's not such a great idea to see too far ahead. In fact, much is to be said about ignoring the future altogether so as not to lose sight of the present. "Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once." (William Shakespeare) or "Hardly anyone knows how much is gained by ignoring the future." (Bernard de Fontenelle) or "Neither in the life of the individual nor in that of mankind is it desirable to know the future." (Jakob Burckhardt)

The fairy tale follows this sentiment but for the strong of heart or socially deviant there are certain rules to augur the future successfully. It is usually the breaking of these rules that leads to the destruction of the fairy tale character.

Divining the future in fairy tales & literature

There are various ways to divine the future in a fairy tale: dreams can reveal an answer to a question, signs or auguries can be interpreted or a medium can be consulted to communicate with a ghost or spirit. An early account of communicating with a ghost is told in 1 Samuel 28. Often the person most anxious to know the future is undone by the information received. The story of Saul and the "woman of spirits" is a good example. See the link for the entire Biblical story.