#293 – A Jungian Approach to Fairy Tales with Tom Elsner


Thomas Elsner, J.D., M.A., Jungian analyst, is a core faculty member at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California where he also has a private practice. A former attorney, he trained at the Jung-Von Franz Center for Depth Psychology in Zurich. A member of the C. G. Jung Study Center of Southern California, his areas of special interest include alchemy and the depth psychology of folklore and literature. He is currently completing a book about Coleridge and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. Irina Mooi Almgren
    Posted February 6, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this rich conversation, Dr Dave!

    Glad you let the time run long and we could enjoy Tom Elsner’s take on one of H. C. Anderson’s tales.
    Actually, it’s the one I grew up with in Russia/Soviet although it’s not a Russian folk tale, of course.

    Regarding folk tales from the place of origin, many of the ones we had back in Russia started with a lazy tzar getting intel on something precious in a foreign land and instead of investing in R&D, sending off a few people to try and steal the treasure (often times an apple or a feather of a magic bird). It would involve three brothers, of which the youngest was counted as a fool by everyone (Ivan the fool), but was the kindest one and was in the end the one who would land both the apple and the princess from far away.

    Connecting to what your guest said about growing up with certain myths and stories, them dying away, I cannot relate to any such story right now, or when I left Russia for that matter.

    I found it amusing that the tzar in the tales always chose to steal what he wanted. 🙂 I can now give those tales another chance and not take them so literally. 🙂



  2. John Knight
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Man, you’re on a roll, Dr. Dave.

    Heck, what an episode – I feel I could write about ten pages on this, but I’ll cut myself off short for the sake of others! Fairy Tale analysis is one of my favourite things too, and John Betts (my initiation into the Jungian world, see jungian.ca) had a lengthy section of his course dedicated to this very subject. The interesting thing about J. Betts’ course is how often he would accidentally say, “in the dream”, rather than, “in the fairy tale”, then call himself out on it, amused, and then pointing out this significance in this, as well as the relevance between fairy tales and dreams.

    As for the story you went through here, I found certain parts of it particularly applicable to me, and certain situations I’m going through now.

    About the only other thing I feel I can add without going overboard is that I always hated ‘Disney-fication’ as a kid, and genuinely resented the way adults would patronise us with this sanitised, saccharin garbage, and only ever liked the darker stuff. I also remember liking Back to the Future #2 the best, and Mum hating it because it was the darkest and me loving it for exactly the same reason. Being annoyed by all the Disney garbage as a lad, I’d actively seek darker, freakier stuff like Dr. Who, that didn’t speak down to me the way Disney did.

    In this sense, and in relation to cultural compensation, I wonder if this is where the current young-teen obsession with vampire stories has come from?

  3. Jerry Trumbule
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Another fabulous interview! Drs. Dave and Tom combine their talents to weave a fascinating and instructive tale in examination of a fairy tale, of all things. I had no idea! Someday this series of interviews by Dr. Dave will be recognized for its enormous value in opening the doors of knowledge to seekers like myself.

  4. Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Wow. This interview was terrific. This was my introduction to this podcast and I have alot of catching up to do. But now I want to go back and read fairy tales.

  5. gloria
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    I so enjoyed this interview and especially Tom’s detailed analysis of the fairy tale Dave presented.

    I also Liked Dave’s comment on his wife’s take on fairy tales demonstrating children’s cleverness. It got me thinking that many fairy tales also demonstrate children’s resourcefulness, creativity and often courage in overthrowing the ‘big people’ who threaten to destroy them. I had never before looked at them as symbolising the inner strength of children to deal with the often quite destructive forces of the adult world in which they find themselves.

  6. Posted December 9, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Great episode! Thanks so much! Any suggestions on books of Fairy Tales?

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