Folklore and the Human Zoo -or- Philosophy of Animal Farm

Oral Tradition of Fairy Tales and Fables -or- The Uses of Enchantment

In "Folk Psychology" Wilhelm Wundt tells us that the fairy tale is the oldest narrative form, revealing the (archetypal) basis for the oral cultural mind set of primitive man and his folklore. Sigmund Freud found Grimm's fairy tales circulating in the dreams of his patients, such as the "Wolf Man" (aka Sergei Pankejeff). The dream interpretation "Running with the Wolves" underscores the ongoing existence of the psychological motif of animal archetypes found circulating in our dreams. 

Fables like fairy tales, anthropomorphize the forces of nature, and such tales as Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland, can still be found playing themselves out in our dreams. The snake, who had played an evil personified role of the devil in Biblical times, can also be found living in our modern dreams. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates on the morning of his execution was asked by his friends what he was doing, he responded telling them that he had had a dream which told him to, "Make music and work at it." Socrates went on, and said, "since I was not a maker of myths, I took the myths of Aesop, which I had at hand and knew and turned into verse the first I came upon." Read the dream interpretation "Aesop's Fables Rock". 

For Bruno Bettelheim "The Uses of Enchantment" fairy tales "offer new dimensions to the child's imagination." "In order to master the psychological problems of growing up-over-coming narcissistic disappointments, oedipal dilemmas, sibling rivalries; becoming able to relinquish childhood dependencies; gaining a feeling of selfhood and of self-worth, and a sense of moral obligation-a child needs to understand what is going on within his conscious self so that he can also cope with that which goes on in his unconscious." 

Fairy tales much like dreams and nightmares, represent dark existential dilemmas. Many of these psychological problems, and dark existential dilemmas that Bettelheim points to, have already been discussed, and find a psychological voice in the dream interpretation section at the International Institute for Dream Research website. The zoologist Desmond Morris in "The Naked Ape" and "The Human Zoo", has attempted to ethologically frame human behaviour from an evolutionary perspective. In this sense, the archetypal dream of the animal can be viewed from an evolutionary perspective. Read, "An Evolutionary Theory of Dreaming". 

George Orwell's "Animal Farm" is a satirical story about humans dressed in animal clothing. Orwell introduces us to his animal character "Old Major" who lives on a farm, and has called a meeting to tell his fellow comrade animals about a dream he has had. Old Major's philosophical dream is one where animals are free from the cruel owner of the farm, Mr Jones, and then are left to their own devices to create a workers paradise. 

Here is Old Major speaking to the animal crowd;

"And now, comrades, I will tell you about my dream of last night. I cannot describe that dream to you. It was a dream of the earth as it will be when Man has vanished. But it reminded me of something that I had long forgotten. Many years ago, when I was a little pig, my mother and the other sows used to sing an old song of which they knew only the tune and the first three words. I had known that tune in my infancy, but it had long since passed out of my mind. Last night, however, it came back to me in my dream. And what is more, the words of the song also came back-words, I am certain, which were sung by the animals of long ago and have been lost to memory for generations. I will sing you that song now, comrades. I am old and my voice is hoarse, but when I have taught you the tune, you can sing it better for yourselves. It is called "Beasts of England."

Utopian Dream of the Beasts of England -or- Personality Traits of the Three Little Pigs 

The farm animals sing the revolutionary song "Beasts of England," in which Old Major's philosophical dream vision is lyrically described.  Shortly after Old Major dies, the animals stage a revolution against their oppression and slavery, sending Jones packing. The animals want to turn Old Major's dream into a utopian philosophy of freedom. Three younger pigs are given the task of formulating the philosophy they call "Animalism". They rename the farm "Animal Farm", which operates by the law and motto "All animals are equal". What begins as a utopian dream of a collective workers paradise, is perverted into a dystopian nightmare of absolute power, corruption, greed, cruelty and tyranny. In the end the law re-written, reads; "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Bettelheim provides a psychoanalytic interpretive fairy tale framework for the animal personalities and behaviours of Animal Farm. In the tale of the "Three Little Pigs", the house that the pigs build can be viewed as psychological stages in human progress made in human history. This psychological progress seen from the psychoanalytic perspective, represents the "id" (instinctual) and pleasure thinking principle, represented by the two younger pigs desire to play after building their houses of straw and wood. 

The more mature older pig who renounces thoughts of play, to work on a more solid house, thereby represents the "ego" and "superego" controled personality. Only the third and oldest pig has learnt the "reality thinking principle", and has built a house that can protect and withstand the destructive devouring forces symbolically represented in the predatorial "Big Bad Wolf". 

From a satirical perspective, the "Three Little Pigs", much like in Animal Farm we find the irony that the "personality" development of some animals is predatorial, while other animals don't want to, or haven't learnt to renounce the pleasure thinking principle. Many of these "personality traits" both postive and negative can be found in our dreams. 

No definitive scientific dream research studies as far as I can ascertain has ever been carried out that relate the study of personality such as the "Big Five Personality Traits", or personality "types", to the psychological and behavioual patterns found in our dreams. 

Further Reading: 

  • Ernest Rossi, "Dreams and the Growth of Personality: Expanding Awareness in Psychotherapy"




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