Like folk music, fairy tales represent ancient traditions, patterns, of wisdom. We call these longstanding patterns archetypes. Yet we often hear the stories without identifying the meaning, the pattern, behind the narrative. Fairy tales reveal these patterns of behavior. Note that alternate versions teach other lessons without denying the former meanings. For this post, let’s examine the pattern of true love and how particular stories reveal ways to identify a worthy partner.

Beauty and the Beast

This story identifies how the heroic feminine finds love. This prince maintains a fallen kingdom and is ruled by beastly passions – anger, aggression, withdrawal, depression, and despair. His captive princess, Belle, possesses true sight. She sees the good in him that his suffering has produced and she reveals it. She does this by honoring the best in him and proclaiming it to the fallen community, giving him hope for new life. Also, the beast doesn’t have other princesses, and he doesn’t chain her with love or her word, allowing her to return to her father.

  • Aiming at your best self reveals the prince. Belle engages the hard, heroic things. She runs in to help, and abdicates wanderlust for meaningful adventure.
  • Princes have integrated their shadow and can self-assert and protect – but they are kind towards their love. Assertiveness is used for good after battling and winning against their dark side.
  • Love is an open hand. A prince releases his beloved to do her heroic deeds. He doesn’t restrict and control her goodness. (Note an open hand is granted a heroic princess. Cue next story…)

The Frog Prince

Shockingly hilarious, this story identifies how narcissistic, undeveloped women can find love through commitment (and justifies arranged marriage). A princess loses her golden ball and a frog retrieves it. He refuses her attempts to buy his help and requests three nights in her bed. She agrees, deceptively, but her father commands her to honor her word. She complies in disgust (in the earliest version she tries to kill the frog) and he transforms into a prince. (Gone with the Wind) is the tragic version of this story, with the princess rejecting intimacy and failing to commit.)

  • Princes wake up the psyche. The underdeveloped princess with a narcissistic psyche (i.e. golden ball) requires a prince to retrieve her consciousness from her depths.
  • Honoring commitments reveals the prince. The prince is revealed by a princess who keeps her word. Committing fully is required to transform a prince.
  • An man who desires intimacy over wealth is a prince in disguise. Frogs symbolize transformation, and a phallus. Princes honor love and will serve to be loved, and turn the other cheek.
  • Intimacy reveals character. This princess only recognizes the prince after intimacy develops, as sex or long-suffering. “Spending the night“ references hard times or a dark night of the soul. This explains Stockholm Syndrome. Moreover, the prince is kind when she is cruel – princes turn the other cheek.

Sleeping Beauty

This is a tale of lucky cognitive transformation for a sheltered, naive princess. She is pricked, bleeds, and falls asleep for years (malevolence prefers she die). She is awakened by a kiss from a prince who braves chaos (a dragon) and her walled psyche (thorns) to free her.

  • Sex can fracture the psyche. This leaves her in a suspended state of disconnection. Surprised? The sub-narrative is that an overprotected girl has sex, gets her period/libido, and suffers a loss of self.
  • Princes challenge and wake you up. Princes pass through thorns around your heart, easily penetrating the psyche and awakening consciousness through the intimate choice of love.
  • Princesses want to be woken and loved. Perhaps because her first sexual experience was traumatic, Sleeping Beauty is awakened by love, like The Frog Prince, though with less difficulty.

The Water of Life

This fantastic story about the heroic masculine and a wise princess. A good prince learns how to enter an enchanted castle where he saves a princess. He is on another mission, so she tells him to return in a year (like Beauty and the Beast). His life goes to hell in that year, and he ends up hiding in a forest. Meanwhile, she paves the road to her castle with gold. Her servants are ordered to only allow entry to the man who rides straight up the road. His brothers each come to steal her, pretending to be the prince, but they ride cautiously beside the road and are turned away. The prince, desperate to be with his love, comes from the wild and rides straight up the road. He is received with joy, despite his poverty and appearance. The princess then helps restore his lost kingdom.

  • Princes are intentional. They ride straight and true towards love.
  • Princesses see past poverty, failures, and hardships. Princesses recognize, heal, and restore princes to their kingdoms, despite the courage or cost. (Behind every great man is a great woman.)


Finally, Frozen holds some unique, accidental lessons as a metaphor for the psyche – if Elsa represents the rational left brain and Anna represents emotive right brain. However, the tale is too new to be archetypal and is also propaganda at the surface level interpretation. Worse, many characters are deceived and pitiable while singing happily; men are useless or dangerous; and female emotional instability justifies aggression or foolhardiness, to name a few. Here are the points from the sub-narrative:

  • An unconquered shadow will destroy you. Elsa, who is cognition, learns restrained fear and rejects emotion – Anna – who makes the opposite mistake as unrestrained emotion which constantly tries to manipulate Elsa. Cognition then defeats Anna, and shame defeats Elsa. This is true of the two halves of the brain at war.
  • Psychological unification is necessary to love or be loved. Both cognition and emotion have dark sides which must be trained and brought into unified purpose. Emotional Anna and rational Elsa must unite. The brain’s disparate parts must be unified or one part will dominate and sabotage the other parts.
  • A prince can wake, but not change nor heal you. Princesses take responsibility for personal transformation. Hans and Kristoff are useless because these princesses are the enemies. An alpha male (Hans) who tries to fix your dark side to save you from yourself will take over your psyche and your emotion will die. A beta male “nice guy” (Kristoff) has not integrated his shadow so he will be useless or dominated by you.

Here’s the thing – use your head to sort your emotions and see clearly what the intent and character of others are, after sorting yourself out. Love can do many things, but it can’t save you from yourself. If a prince wakes you before your’re ready, it will be rough. So take responsibility, work to make a better world, and find a man who does the same – regardless of his success. You will know him by his intent.

~ Dave S Wallace, MS PSY

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