December 31, 2014 by Martha’s Dad
Fairy tales have long been of interest to psychoanalysts. These fantastic stories we pass on to our children are deemed to be riddled with insights into the unconscious mind. When Hansel and Gretel return from the woods, this supposedly signifies their completion of some unspoken “rite of passage”, whilst the Freudian significance of Jack’s giant beanstalk features in many an undergraduate text book.
The recently released movie version of Sondheim’s musical Into The Woods has stimulated renewed interest in this particular stream of work and a number of blog posts have appeared over the past few weeks seeking to identify examples of Freud’s legacy in the movie’s key themes and imagery. One particularly interesting example, however, draws upon Jung for inspiration, rather than Freud. Over on the Psychology Today site, Susan Krauss Whitbourne presents her own interpretation of Sondheim’s work, relating it to our development as individuals rather than our supposedly repressed sexuality. Again picking up on the rites-of-passage angle, Whitbourne draws on both Jung’s archetypes and Erikson’s “seasons of man” as concepts to tease out what the musical can tell us about our own journey to adulthood. Not normally my cup of tea, I’m not a psychoanalyst by any stretch of the imagination, but this is well worth a read before viewing the movie, it’ll add a whole new dimension to the cinematic experience!
The conclusion? Well, it seems we don’t really become adulthoods until we are about thirty years old. I rather like that idea, it means I haven’t been an adult for nearly as long as I thought I had, though there are some who know me who would say I’m not quite there even now. Still, to paraphrase Tom Baker in his debut performance as the definitive incarnation of Doctor Who, there’s no point in being a grown up if you can’t be childish…sometimes!