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Susanne K. Langer

The fairytale is irresponsible; it is frankly imaginary, and its purpose is to gratify wishes, "as a dream doth flatter." It heroes and heroines, though of delightfully high station, wealth, beauty, etc., are simply individuals; "certain prince," "a lovely princess." The end of the story is always satisfying, though by no means always moral; the hero's heroism may be slyness or luck quite as readily as integrity or valor. The theme is generally the triumph of an unfortunate one—an enchanted maiden, a youngest son, a poor Cinderella, an alleged fool—over his or her superiors.... In short, the fairytale is a form of "wishful thinking," and the Freudian analysis of it fully explains why it is perennially attractive, yet never believed by adults even in the telling. Myth, on the other hand, whether literally believed or not, is taken with religious seriousness, either as a historic fact or as a "mystic" truth. Its typical theme is tragic, not utopian; and its personages tend to fuse into stable personalities of supernatural character.

Susanne K. Langer in "Life-Symbols: The Roots of Myth," Philosophy in a New Key (1951)Report problemRelated quotes
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