Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Language of "Once Upon a Time"

  The Crying Dragon  

“Once Upon A Time” stories are among the greatest love stories ever told; layered with history, culture, and ancient ethics, these fascinating tales have been preserved for thousands of years by oral and literary tradition. Oral tradition is defined as "a set of practices by which societies communicate their vital knowledge and culture without writing." This clearly states that these "stories" contain information vital to our historic record; they were passed on through the millennia, mostly from mothers to children. We know them now as folklore, nursery rhymes, fables, legends, mythologies, and faerie (fairy) tales. 

Faerie tales boast a variety of well-loved characters:, wicked queens, beautiful damsels-in-distress,  faerie godmothers, and hero-knights. Despicable villains, elusive little people, and wondrous magical happenings capture our imaginations. Characters like these are symbols which represent people in life. What they represent is as old as life itself; symbols like these are archetypes: images and behaviors common to all human experience. These timeless tales proclaim the love of parent for child, grandmother for granddaughter, and Prince Charming for the fair maiden. Legends record in grand style the brave deeds of hero-knights who rescued princesses and restored them to their rightful place; magical forces from the power of love prevailed.

Once Upon A Time tradition of fantastic beasts, heroes, and villains all play a role on the stage of history in these captivating stories. Symbols and illustrations which accompany these legends have much to offer, and when considered alongside the written volumes, enrich our understanding of events described by literary artists. Mythological symbolism is found worldwide; these stories, as with all symbols, astatize over time and pick up layers of meaning, or change meaning altogether. Placing the myriad of characters in context is crucial to deciphering accurate information.

Damsels in distress appear in stories of love and faith like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, recently made famous by the brothers Grimm and Walt Disney. According to Duncan-Enzmann’s ice-age translations these stories had their start at least 14,500 years ago, with the emergence of the Sun Child. This was a time when daughters were precious, representing the sun, and the circle of life. Faerie tales that refer to spinning or weaving also began here, when women taught children with stories, while working at their looms.

Love stories about youthful girls such as Beauty and the Beast and The Frog Prince come from a time when girls married young. Fathers always want their daughters to marry well, and at that time slightly older gentleman with means and manners could provide and protect. In these tales, the young girl starts out despising the doting gentleman, as if he were a beast or slimy frog, but after a time she decides he is not so bad and falls in love with him. Even popular tales about very young children, such as Hansel and Gretel and Babes in the Woods, are about love between siblings, and warnings about getting lost in the Great Woods. We can trace these tales to ca. 4000 BC, during the Atlantic Era - the Grand Climate Optimum - when there were dangerous, enormous thick forests, miles and miles wide; it was possible to be lost in them forever. 

Faerie tales also bring us  faeries , pixies, dwarves, elves, kings and queens, and a variety of merchants and tradesmen. These characters are found in legends, tales, and mythologies, from the earliest to the most modern cultural stories; their presence tells us our ancestors understood a great deal about the nature of human beings. This knowledge was preserved, along with their history, in faerie tales told to children generation after generation, in true oral tradition. This tradition has preserved unique parts of history that would otherwise be lost. Within our favorite faerie tales are lessons about love, loyalty, tradition, and deceit, coupled with historic events, told over and over as verisimilitudes. The ability to recognize the historic (once upon a time…) elements of these great stories, and to place them in context of time, event, and climate, provides clues to the roots and age of the stories.  Symbology: Decoding Classic Images reveals more about the history of Faeries – the “Fair Folk” of northern Europe, so called because of their white skin, blue eyes, and platinum blonde hair. Magnificent tales of love and courage have been told for hundreds of generations by and about these long-ago people. 

About Symbologist Michelle Snyder

Michelle earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales. She is an author, columnist, publisher, artist, and teacher. Her artwork, inspired by her love of symbolism and folklore, has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio with her husband Jay Robert.
Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:


Symbology ReVision: Unlocking Secret Knowledge  
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: My Art and Symbols 
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered 
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images 
Symbology: World of Symbols 
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids



A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book One - The Lost Unicorn


A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book Two - The Lost Mermaid

1 comment:

  1. Because I don't write fairytale based stories, I've never given the symbolism behind these characters much thought. You've given me some ideas for a future project, Michelle. Thanks! :D

    Great blog, btw.


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