Author Topic: The Princess in the Tree  (Read 6014 times)

Matt Koeske

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The Princess in the Tree
« on: March 20, 2007, 02:01:37 PM »
This is a fairytale that Jung recounts in Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious in the essay, "The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales" [p. 231-233].  I haven't found a "storyteller-like" telling of the tale online, so I will reproduce Jung's re-telling here (unembellished though it may be).

I was reminded of this story by Sealchan's talk about dreams of trees and what they might represent.  Also, a while back I brought up this story in an e-mail to Remo Roth as an illustration of the only way I feel comfortable approaching the concept of the Subtle Body (which I equate here with the horse symbols).

However we see it, it's a rich story that reflects a good chunk of the individuation process.

Enjoy!

-Matt



The Princess in the Tree
(collected by Grimm)


While the young man is watching his pigs in the wood, he discovers a large tree, whose branches lose themselves in the clouds. "How would it be," says he to himself, "if you were to look at the world from the top of that great tree?" So he climbs up, all day long he climbs, without even reaching the branches. Evening comes, and he has to pass the night in a fork of the tree. Next day he goes on climbing and by noon has reached the foliage. Only towards evening does he come to a village nestling in the branches. The peasants who live there give him food and shelter for the night. In the morning he climbs still further. Towards noon, he reaches a castle in which a young girl lives. Here he finds that the tree goes no higher. She is a king's daughter, held prisoner by a wicked magician. So the young man stays with the princess, and she allows him to go into all the rooms of the castle: one room alone she forbids him to enter. But curiosity is too strong. He unlocks the door, and there in the room he finds a raven fixed to the wall with three nails. One nail goes through his throat, the two others through the wings. The raven complains of thirst and the young man, moved by pity, gives him water to drink. At each sip a nail falls out, and at the third sip the raven is free and flies out at the window. When the princess hears of it she is very frightened and says, "That was the devil who enchanted me! It won't be long now before he fetches me again." And one fine morning she has indeed vanished.

The young man now sets out in search of her and, as we have described above, meets the wolf. In the same way he meets a bear and a lion, who also give him some hairs. In addition the lion informs him that the princess is imprisoned nearby in a hunting-lodge. The young man finds the house and the princess, but is told that flight is impossible, because the hunter possesses a three-legged white horse that knows everything and would infallibly warn its master. Despite that, the young man tries to flee away with her, but in vain. The hunter overtakes him but, because he had saved his life as a raven, lets him go and rides off again with the princess. When the hunter has disappeared into the wood, the young man creeps back to the house and persuades the princess to wheedle from the hunter the secret of how he obtained his clever white horse. This she successfully does in the night, and the young man, who has hidden himself under the bed, learns that about an hour's journey from the hunting-lodge there dwells a witch who breeds magic horses. Whoever was able to guard the foals for three days might choose a horse as a reward. In former times, said the hunter, she used to make a gift of twelve lambs into the bargain, in order to satisfy the hunger of the twelve wolves who lived in the woods near the farmstead, and prevent them from attacking; but to him she gave no lambs. So the wolves followed him as he rode away, and while crossing the borders of her domain they succeeded in tearing off one of his horse's hoofs. That was why it had only three legs.

Then the young man made haste to seek out the witch and agreed to serve her on condition that she gave him not only a horse of his own choosing but twelve lambs as well. To this she consented. Instantly she commanded the foals to run away, and, to make him sleepy, she gave him brandy. He drinks, falls asleep, and the foals escape. On the first day he catches them with the help of the wolf, on the second day the bear helps him, and on the third the lion. He can now go and choose his reward. The witch's little daughter tells him which horse her mother rides.

This is naturally the best horse, and it too is white. Hardly has he got it out of the stall when the witch pierces the four hoofs and sucks the marrow out of the bones. From this she bakes a cake and gives it to the young man for his journey. The horse grows deathly weak, but the young man feeds it on the cake, whereupon the horse recovers its former strength. He gets out of the woods unscathed after quieting the twelve wolves with the twelve lambs. He then fetches the princess and rides away with her. But the three-legged horse calls out to the hunter, who sets off in pursuit and quickly catches up with them, because the four-legged horse refuses to gallop. As the hunter approaches, the four-legged horse cries out to the three-legged, "Sister, throw him off!" The magician is thrown and trampled to pieces by the two horses. The young man sets the princess on the three-legged horse, and the pair of them ride away to her father's kingdom, where they get married. The four-legged horse begs him to cut off both their heads, for otherwise they would bring disaster upon him. This he does, and the horses are transformed into a handsome prince and a wonderfully beautiful princess, who after a while repair "to their own kingdom." They had been changed into horses by the hunter, long ago.



« Last Edit: March 26, 2007, 04:33:27 PM by Matt Koeske »
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Sealchan

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Re: The Princess in the Tree
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2007, 03:16:39 PM »
I decided to do a dream interpretation of this story because it has lots of stuff in it I want to map to my understanding of psyche...Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey stages will be helpful as well...

Quote
The Princess in the Tree
(collected by Grimm)


While the young man is watching his pigs in the wood, he discovers a large tree, whose branches lose themselves in the clouds. "How would it be," says he to himself, "if you were to look at the world from the top of that great tree?" So he climbs up, all day long he climbs, without even reaching the branches. Evening comes, and he has to pass the night in a fork of the tree. Next day he goes on climbing and by noon has reached the foliage. Only towards evening does he come to a village nestling in the branches. The peasants who live there give him food and shelter for the night. In the morning he climbs still further. Towards noon, he reaches a castle in which a young girl lives. Here he finds that the tree goes no higher. She is a king's daughter, held prisoner by a wicked magician. So the young man stays with the princess, and she allows him to go into all the rooms of the castle: one room alone she forbids him to enter. But curiosity is too strong. He unlocks the door, and there in the room he finds a raven fixed to the wall with three nails. One nail goes through his throat, the two others through the wings. The raven complains of thirst and the young man, moved by pity, gives him water to drink. At each sip a nail falls out, and at the third sip the raven is free and flies out at the window. When the princess hears of it she is very frightened and says, "That was the devil who enchanted me! It won't be long now before he fetches me again." And one fine morning she has indeed vanished.

Here the Hero is a pig-herder who hears the Call to Adventure when he finds an extraordinary tree.  The tree takes the hero from the ordinary world to the other world.  This is analogous, perhaps, to how the sensory nervous system, which is tree-like in its overall design, brings the physical world up into the inner landscape of the brain and its higher cortical functions.  In this light the tree represents the bridge between the worlds whether they be the worlds of the outer and inner or the familiar and strange.

At the top of the tree, or alternately, at the top of the branching of the sensory nervous system into the most abstracted layers of cortical processing--having passed the simpler layers which more and more branch and having passed the common folk to arrive at the significant characters who rule this land and are otherwise more significant in it--the most differentiated personality structures are to be found.  Instead of unconsciously moving through the outer, familiar world with these secrets locked away, the hero now has turned within and ascending the tree sees these inner people and places and, thereby, comes into a secret understanding of his own nature. 

There he discovers a princess, one who has adapted to her enprisonment to such an extent that she hides her captors own enprisonment.  She is the anima of the hero and the raven the shadow, which nonetheless, is his spiritual (as opposed to physical) guide and so takes on the form of a bird, a creature of the upper branches.  So giving the life renewing libido in the form of water to the raven with compassion he comes into knowledge of this strange bird which is his inner brother and allows the conflict that he must experience to begin, the shadow-work.  Also, the love-triangle between shadow, anima and ego is played out in the fight for her favor which begins with her abduction.

Quote
The young man now sets out in search of her and, as we have described above, meets the wolf. In the same way he meets a bear and a lion, who also give him some hairs. In addition the lion informs him that the princess is imprisoned nearby in a hunting-lodge. The young man finds the house and the princess, but is told that flight is impossible, because the hunter possesses a three-legged white horse that knows everything and would infallibly warn its master. Despite that, the young man tries to flee away with her, but in vain. The hunter overtakes him but, because he had saved his life as a raven, lets him go and rides off again with the princess. When the hunter has disappeared into the wood, the young man creeps back to the house and persuades the princess to wheedle from the hunter the secret of how he obtained his clever white horse. This she successfully does in the night, and the young man, who has hidden himself under the bed, learns that about an hour's journey from the hunting-lodge there dwells a witch who breeds magic horses. Whoever was able to guard the foals for three days might choose a horse as a reward. In former times, said the hunter, she used to make a gift of twelve lambs into the bargain, in order to satisfy the hunger of the twelve wolves who lived in the woods near the farmstead, and prevent them from attacking; but to him she gave no lambs. So the wolves followed him as he rode away, and while crossing the borders of her domain they succeeded in tearing off one of his horse's hoofs. That was why it had only three legs.

Using deceipt, for the ego's powers of consciousness are greater than the shadow's, the ego gets the girl-anima to his side then through her gets the mystery of the clever white horse from him as well.  The shadow is itself the bridge to the unconscious and has that information which the ego lacks.  But always in opposition are the ego and shadow, so oftentimes a trick must be used by the ego to get the needed information.

In this hero's work he finds the witch who has the clever horses.  Ego, in partnership with the anima, has obtained the secrets to successfully come away with this treasure where the shadow had failed.

Quote
Then the young man made haste to seek out the witch and agreed to serve her on condition that she gave him not only a horse of his own choosing but twelve lambs as well. To this she consented. Instantly she commanded the foals to run away, and, to make him sleepy, she gave him brandy. He drinks, falls asleep, and the foals escape. On the first day he catches them with the help of the wolf, on the second day the bear helps him, and on the third the lion. He can now go and choose his reward. The witch's little daughter tells him which horse her mother rides.

The witch, serving to undo the hero's consciousness, induces him to sleep and scatters the treasures to the four winds.  Using the magical help he obtained earlier in his quest he is able to gather up the foals and still get his reward.  As the younger feminine characters provide the heroic ego with assistance, the older one seeks to block him and to undo his consciousness.

Quote
This is naturally the best horse, and it too is white. Hardly has he got it out of the stall when the witch pierces the four hoofs and sucks the marrow out of the bones. From this she bakes a cake and gives it to the young man for his journey. The horse grows deathly weak, but the young man feeds it on the cake, whereupon the horse recovers its former strength. He gets out of the woods unscathed after quieting the twelve wolves with the twelve lambs. He then fetches the princess and rides away with her. But the three-legged horse calls out to the hunter, who sets off in pursuit and quickly catches up with them, because the four-legged horse refuses to gallop. As the hunter approaches, the four-legged horse cries out to the three-legged, "Sister, throw him off!" The magician is thrown and trampled to pieces by the two horses. The young man sets the princess on the three-legged horse, and the pair of them ride away to her father's kingdom, where they get married. The four-legged horse begs him to cut off both their heads, for otherwise they would bring disaster upon him. This he does, and the horses are transformed into a handsome prince and a wonderfully beautiful princess, who after a while repair "to their own kingdom." They had been changed into horses by the hunter, long ago.

The hero restores the balance not to his egoic concerns but to the horse which is his greater Self, another bridge between his waking and his inner world, the symbol of his mastery of both worlds. 

Since the shadow element is still stuck in the wheel of change and time (3) and is not attuned to the constant, eternal and unchanging (4), the heroic ego on the vehicle of Self overcomes this last impediment by virtue of his "greater" horse.

In the end the quaternic marriage can take place with the higher hero-princess and lower horse-prince-princess marriages taking place.  The hero has shown that he can accomplish the Heraclean trials which involve negotiating the animal instinctual powers to achieve a balance of the opposites and gain a lasting balance of masculine and feminine styles of consciousness in a constructive way.

Interestingly the hero does not return to the original world but comes to rest in the kingdom atop the tree.  I have seen this in a couple of dreams which match the hero's journey cycle fairly well, there is a return journey but the return suggests a second cycle rather than a return to the original world as it was.  Perhaps, the world itself is transformed in the end and one can never fully return...