Archives for August 2019

Could there be a hidden map of life?

Imagine getting into a car for the first time without a driving instructor, a map or any idea of where you are supposed to go. Tentatively, you reach out and touch the different gears, the steering wheel, the ignition and the pedals and eventually manage to lurch forwards. Inevitably you crash and bump but at least you are moving.

Photo by Frenjamin Benklin on Unsplash

This is what it is like to be born into a human body. Over time, most of us learn how to sit up, crawl and eventually stand and walk. But what about the highways and byways we then have to negotiate? Or the huge motorways or tiny tracks that seem to go nowhere? Some of them have bends that we can’t see around while others are straight and give us a view. Some of them go uphill making us go slow while others plummet downhill, causing us to go fast. There’s also the weather. Driving in the pouring rain, driving snow, thick fog, glaring sun and heavy winds can be a nightmare. And that’s not all. What about the endless emotions and thoughts that plague us? There’s something less definable too, a constant battle between trying to be different from everyone and a craving to be the same as though we’re on an inner journey as well as an outer one.

Image by 95C from Pixabay

In order to drive ourselves more safely and enjoyably, we need a set of instructions. Throughout human existence, humans have created stories to provide such maps and because we create many of the beliefs we have about life from our childhood experiences, fairy tales are amongst some of the most profound of these maps, showing us how to navigate the muddy tracks, swollen rivers and icy ditches of life as long as we learn to unpick them and understand what they are trying to tell us.

Over the next few months, I shall be taking some of our most beloved fairy tales and look at what they really mean in an attempt to unravel some of the hidden truths that lie at the root of our culture. Let’s start with Little Red Cap, or Little Red Riding Hood as most of us know her.

Photo by Šárka Jonášová on Unsplash

Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood was sent into the woods by her mother to take some food to her grandmother. She was instructed to stick to the path and avoid any dangers but because she was naïve, fearless and curious she ignored her mother’s advice. As soon as she met the Big Bad Wolf, she told him what she was doing and where she was going. Slyly, he persuaded her to stray off the path and pick some flowers, thereby delaying her so that he could run off and find the old woman’s cottage before she did. It didn’t take him long. He ate up the grandmother and then dressed up in her clothes to trick the girl into the cottage. Once he had eaten her up as well, the wolf fell into a deep, satisfied sleep but, unfortunately for him, a woodsman found him, chopped off his head and his two victims were freed.

This story was first published in France in 1697 by Charles Perrault who dressed the girl in a red cloak but seems to have been in existence since the tenth century from an Italian folktale called The False Grandmother by Italo Calvino. The Grimm brothers changed the cloak to a red cap when they published the story in the nineteenth century. They also took out some of the more gruesome elements of the story to make it more palatable for young children.

There are deep hidden truths in this fairy tale that give us a map for the start of our inner journey. It does this with symbols. For example, the red of the cap or cloak signifies the beginning of menstruation as the girl steps into womanhood. The path is important too as a symbol of the way that society and religion try to show us how to keep safe.

Photo by Charles Black on Unsplash

However, when she is stalked by the wolf, which represents materialism and greed, she is seduced into straying off it and when she naively tells him where she is going, she demonstrates what happens when we fail to keep our counsel or learn who to trust.

It is not until she sees the wolf dressed up in her grandmother’s clothes, however, that her fall into materialism is completed. His big ears represent our sense of hearing; his big eyes our sense of vision, his big hands our sense of touch and his big mouth, our sense of taste and inclination to speak unwisely. In the end, she is eaten up and so loses her connection with innocence and herself as she is dragged into materialism and chaos. However, thanks to the Grimm brothers all is not lost. They added the woodsman who saved both Little Red Cap and her grandmother, suggesting that, with help, we can eventually be reborn into a greater sense of self than before.

Photo by RKTKN on Unsplash

Undoubtedly we are here to experience life and it would be a tragic waste for us to stay shut up in the safety of our parents’ cottage. However, as we step outside, it is imperative that we learn certain lessons. We will undoubtedly be pulled into materialism at some point and lose our sense of self but, as long as we learn to discern the difference between good and bad, we will be fine.

So enjoy this next month and become aware of the ways in which you are learning to drive the vehicle of your life and the lessons you are learning. Next time, we’ll look at Aladdin and his Magic Lamp see how shining light on life can make all sorts of wishes come true.

Happy September.

Love Laurelle