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Marcus, D.M. (1963). The Cinderella Mortif: Fairy Tale and Defense. Am. Imago, 20(1):81-92.

(1963). American Imago, 20(1):81-92

The Cinderella Mortif: Fairy Tale and Defense

Donald M. Marcus, M.D.

Fairy tales have attracted psychoanalytic interest for many years, and Freud very early called attention to the relationship between fairy tales, myths, dreams, hysteria, and psychotic productions. One of the most universally found fairy tales is “Cinderella” or the motif of the cruel stepmother (witch or giantess). Freud (1) was the first to allude to the Cinderella story, which he did in his short paper, “The Theme of the Three Caskets”. However, his only interest in the story in that paper is in using the story as an example of the old man's denial of his fear of death. Freud did not discuss the meaning of the story to little girls.

In a classic monograph, written in 1915, Ricklin (3) gives examples from all parts of the world and describes the ubiquitous nature of the Cinderella fairy tale. Ricklin stressed in his monograph that fairy tales are much like dreams, in that the important aspects are wish-fulfillment of sexual and sadistic impulses. The mechanisms of condensation, displacement, transposition upward, and sexual symbolism are especially prominent. He drew attention to the Cinderella motif as an attempt to solve the oedipal striving of the little girl and noted the importance in this connection of the cruel step-mother, i.e., the hated rival, and the sexual attack of the father on the little girl.

Rubenstein (4) in an interesting paper, discusses the meaning of the Cinderella story in the development of his 5/12 year old daughter. He relates it to her handling of her penis envy, phallic striving, and masochistic wish to be beaten (attacked sexually) by her father.


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