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  • Wie kommt man ans Ziel seiner Wünsche? Modelle des Glücks in Märchentexten
  • R. Seth C. Knox (bio)
Wie kommt man ans Ziel seiner Wünsche? Modelle des Glücks in Märchentexten. Edited by Brigitte Boothe. Gießen: Psychosozial-Verlag, 2002. 172 pp.

As Brigitte Boothe states in her foreword to this collection of essays, fairy tales have charmed researchers across a vast expanse of disciplines, from linguistics and literary studies to psychology and psychotherapy, from mythology [End Page 355] and theology to pedagogy (7). This book focuses on the fairy tale as an object of interest for the psychotherapist. As the title suggests, a central question of the collected essays is how fairy tales encode strategies of achieving happiness in the face of adversity and deeply rooted fears that have come to life. Closely aligned with this question is an inquiry into how fairy tales may embed expressions of wish fulfillment. While these questions may be asked of traditional fairy tales, such as those collected by the Grimms, the chapters of this book build upon research of fairy tales imagined by young research subjects, and the book is organized along an axis of age: from tales authored by children and adolescents to an account of the few Grimms fairy tales that offer a model of happiness for aging adults.

The book opens with a foreword by Boothe, followed by an essay by Kristin Wardetzky that examines sex/gender differences in the fairy-tale fantasies of young children. The chapter by Lorenz Lunin adds the dimension of age-specific narrative themes in children's fairy tales. This is followed by Claudia Galli and Catherine Paterson's chapter on the notable emergence of a subgenre in the fairy tales of adolescents: the anti-fairy tale. The research on young people's fairy tales is then synthesized in a chapter by Boothe that asks questions about the developmental value of fairy tales. Boothe closes the book with a chapter on the few Grimms tales that imagine happiness in the twilight years, and a brief afterword that analyzes a fairy tale with a curious model for happiness in marriage.

The chapter "Eroberer und Königstöchter" (Conquerors and Princesses) by Wardetzky utilizes two corpuses of children's fairy tales: the first corpus contains approximately two thousand fairy tales by eight-to-eleven-year-old children in the former East Germany (written between 1986 and 1988), and the second corpus includes approximately two hundred fairy tales by Swiss children of the same age (Lunin's 1994 Zurich study). All of these tales were written essentially spontaneously. They were provided brief, simple prompts written by Wardetzky; all of the prompts avoided specifying the sex of the child-hero in the tale (in the Zurich study, the prompts were presented in pairs differing only by the sex of the protagonist—each child was given free choice of which to use). For example, one of the prompts reads (translated): "Once upon a time there was a child playing on the edge of a sea. Suddenly the child went pale from fright, for the waves rose up and the water foamed" (46). The data reveals narrative features and themes often specific to the sex of the child author. Once identified, these features and themes are not surprising: children tend to imagine a protagonist of their own sex (18-19); boys tend to focus on a selfless hero battling a monster that threatens his family (22); girls typically present marriage as the ultimate goal of the heroine (29); and so forth. Less obvious [End Page 356] is that the tales of boys conform largely to the hero-myth of antiquity, while girls compose wonder tales in which magical, rather than physical, skills are typically critical to the success of the heroine (19). What the research does not illuminate at this stage is whether these are sex or gender differences, or to what degree they are a combination.

Lunin claims boldly in his chapter, "Der Weg in die Fremde—der Weg nach Hause" (The Way to the Foreign—the Way Home), that Vladimir Propp's structural analysis of fairy-tale functions has lapsed into triviality...


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pp. 355-358
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