The term “Fairy Tale” refers to a story that doesn’t portray real characters or real historical events. Fairy Tales are the inventions of the human creative imagination and therefore should not be confused as literal or empirical truth. But do they represent an ontological reality of a higher order?
Having studied the theological works of Emanuel Swedenborg for more than 35 years I have verified for myself that God’s Holy Word contains a symbolic language that offers further revelations about divine order and the process of salvation. Swedenborg claimed that this symbolic language was a part of the cultural fabric of more remote civilizations and became more obscure as humankind descended into materialistic ideologies. Ancient mythologies represent fragmentary remains of this once universally understood language.
Thanks to Swedenborg, and my heart’s passion for abstract thought, I have become sensitized to this symbolic language. One picks up on things that are in agreement with one’s love. My heart and mind most definitely have detected evidence of this symbolic language in Fairy Tales! The reason why such far-fetched stories have a powerful effect on the human psyche is that they address the psyche (and human spirit). Even without a comprehension of the symbolic language in Fairy Tales they reach our subconscious mind with staying power.
Let’s take a deeper look at the story of Cinderella. If this famous Fairy Tale contains a deeper symbolic language, then the characters and places depicted will represent the theater of the human heart and mind – especially the challenges of inner growth (spiritual evolution),
Cinderella lived in a house that has been annexed by “outsiders.” Her mother and father are deceased and the house has been taken over by a mean stepmother and her “ugly” daughters. Symbolically speaking, a house represents the quality of a person’s spiritual abode. That Cinderella’s hereditary parents are dead and a stepmother has moved in and taken over means that a new and foreign influence has entered into her soul’s house.
The stepmother is mean to Cinderella and favors her own “ugly” daughters. Symbolically, the female gender represents the affection or love of some worldview. This tells us that a harmful influence and its derivative (and ugly) offspring are threatening Cinderella’s soul and its rightful goodness (birthright).
Things look grim until a fairy godmother appears. A fairy godmother and her magical powers represent angelic and heavenly power. This angelic power is evidenced by the symbolism of turning a pumpkin into a carriage, mice into horses and her rags into a beautiful gown. Pumpkins are foodstuffs and “goods,” Therefore, the fairy godmother’s turning a pumpkin into a coach, represents turning goodness into doctrine or vehicle to carry one through life. Turning mice into horses represents transforming something small and insignificant in one’s mind into a greater capacity for understanding—which pulls one’s heart and belief system in the right direction.
This is all done so that Cinderella can go to the ball at the castle and meet “Prince Charming.” A castle represents the Kingdom of Heaven and a prince symbolizes the truth and strength of goodness (what else would be charming to Cinderella’s soul and its confirmation of such truth?). So this is the proper direction for her soul.
That Cinderella’s spell runs out at midnight means that the heart and mind cannot stay in this rarefied and enchanted state until the prince can enter into a permanent relationship with her. That the prince finds her glass slipper symbolizes that whoever’s foot it fits he is to marry because of spiritual affinity.
Certainly the prince should have been able to recognize the face of the woman who had caught his attention at the ball. So a glass slipper must add another dimension to the story. A foot represents the lower or foundational level of the human heart and mind—everyday life. A glass slipper represents the clarity of truth, which can allow higher spiritual knowledge to be transparent to one’s corporeal or worldly nature. Therefore, the prince, who represents a primary principle of heavenly truth, must find a partner who has lived a life guided by such transparency. That person would be the perfect “fit.” Cinderella’s “ugly” stepsisters represent fraudulent qualities.
The story of Cinderella is the story of the marriage of good and truth—a spiritual and heavenly marriage—that can take place in each of our hearts and minds. We each have a Cinderella and Prince Charming within us representing the best qualities of human volition and discernment. The phrase “living happily ever after” refers to eternal life in heaven, which results from such an optimum marriage.
I have been able to apply this symbolic language to other Fairy Tales as well. What do you think?