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Cancelled: Violence in Fairy Tales: a Symbolic Key to Violence in our Culture and its Possible Transformation

April 3, 2020 - April 4, 2020


Donald Kalsched, Ph.D.

When Bruno Bettelheim published The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and

Importance of Fairy Tales in 1989, controversies erupted about how all the violence in the Grimm’s tales might traumatize our children or provoke them to violent behavior. Bettelheim said this was nonsense—that violence was part of life and that children were actually helped by having imagery for violence that placed it in the context of the human imagination and surrounded it with meaningful stories. Today, the violence in fairy tales seems mild—even quaint— in comparison with a profusion of terrifying films, horror videos on TV, video-games that specialize in killing, and the mind-numbing violence of actual mass-killings in our schools, synagogues, and churches. It is as though violence has jumped the tracks—breaking free of its origins in human “stories”—and becoming something truly demonic, senseless, meaningless, and traumatic. We are losing the ability to talk about it. It has become “speechless horror.”

G. Jung, following the Roman playwright Terrence, said “I am human—therefore nothing human is alien to me.” He also said, “We need an imagination for evil,” and I believe this is especially true for the violence that saturates American culture today. We need to re-locate it in our human experience. Fairy tales are a good place to look for an understanding of the archetypal and human factors surrounding violence—thus restoring our imagination for this evil reality. When we look, we will discover that we can’t understand our current violence without understanding modern psychological theories of affect-regulation, trauma and dissociation. Such an understanding leads us back to the human stories that are violated by violence and gives us insight into how violence can be transformed.


In this Saturday workshop, we will explore three fairy tales centered in violence and its resolution: Fitcher’s Bird (one of the Bluebeard cycle of tales), The Handless Maiden, and Prince Lindworm.  All of these tales describe total destructive aggression—its origins, its attack upon innocence, and its ultimate resolution.  Participants are encouraged to read the first two tales which are part of the Grimm’s collection.  The third, Prince Lindworm, will be distributed at the Friday evening lecture for those attending the workshop the next day.

Donald Kalsched, Ph.D., see p.8 for bio.


  • Friday, April 3, 2020
  • 7 pm – 9 pm     $10*
  • 2 CEUs or 2 Cultural CEUs


  • Saturday, April 4, 2020
  • 9 am – 1:15 pm     $55*
  • 4 CEUs or 4 Cultural CEUs

*(add $20 surcharge for CEUs)



April 3, 2020
April 4, 2020
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Rich Ryan


Center for Spritual Living
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Santa Fe, NM United States
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