• The Faerytale Apothecary

The Marriage Invitation


One of the upsides of all this year is how much I am learning from reading fairy tales for people. They teach me in a myriad of ways, and each time I read the same one it shifts about me, changing my perception of it. But one recurring scenario that I still struggle with is the ‘Selling off of the Daughter’. Like a stubborn dream character that simply won’t get the hint and desist from knocking on the door of slumber, every single time I read aloud of yet another King, yet another Poor Father offering up his Daughter as if a mere object to be bought and sold, a place in me rails against the injustice of it. Not only the easy way the parent gives her away to the highest bidder but the apparent lack of choice or voice in the matter for the daughter.

I get it that so many of the stories we find in collections now are products of the time in which they were written down, that we should view them with this in mind, make allowances for how things were back then.


Actually, why should we?

medicine trust story storytelling red nose

There are so many rabbit holes to tumble down when I begin unpacking what always seems on the surface such a simple random thought! Do we view art in isolation or within its cultural and personal context? We’ll mark that branch for future exploration. For now, I want to try and stick with the tunnel I started burrowing to begin with.

How can I reconcile my love for fairy tales with their treatment of women?

I could, like I mentioned before stop right in my tracks and turn back. I can fluff it, bluff it, pretend I didn’t just speak those words and carry on, it’s only a story after all. Or I can change the story, make it the Daughter’s decision not the Father’s, as I have been doing, the new Son-in-law doesn’t inherit all the kingdom, the Daughter inherits the queendom I declare.

But this feels to continue to fight against rather than flow with the tale.

What if this tunnel, this rabbit burrow, we are cautiously all tiptoeing along – for you are with me in this now whether you wanted to be or not...what if, it led to a completely different destination.

What if all of the above were simply false trails to catch out the fox and misdirect it?


I have been dipping deeper into my dream studies, finding the edges of the warrens where dreams, shamanic journeys and fairy tales meet because they do, of course they do. Alchemy and Magicks weave into it, again, another branch off the tunnel – what is hidden in plain sight...

How easily we are tempted from the path!

Anyway, this week I have been diving into the idea of the Inner Marriage, the Sacred Marriage, the externalisation of this, the balance of the masculine and feminine within, how our dreams offer us solutions and prompts to renegotiating the contract.

Are you still with me?

There is plenty of information out there about Jung’s Anima and Animus – the inner opposite to our external projection of self, but this is often seen as too binary, too linear and rigid an idea. A more poetic way to think of it is, perhaps, Yin and Yang, the flowing together not of opposites but harmony and co-operation in action, the invitation of wholeness.

Yes, yes, all well and good but what does this have to do with Father’s always using their Daughters as bribes and deflections?


I have a theory!


What if…

What if I chose to read these tales in a different way? What if instead of reading them straight and objecting to it, I looked a little deeper, saw them as an invitation to a beautiful wedding, were privy to a curious courtship? How would that change my relationship not just to them to but to myself as well?

Let’s stay with the repeating motif of the King and the Princess with the Poor Suitor.

The King has gotten old, he realises he is soon to die and that someone needs to take over his role but he only has a daughter, there is no son to rule the kingdom. So he decides to set a challenge, a quest, and the winner will not only take over as King but receive the Princess as Queen in the bargain too.

What if we saw the King not as unfeeling but an internalised patriarchal figure realising its irrelevance? What if in the process of (Jung again) Individuation, one of our inner selves has come to the conclusion that it’s current way of being is outmoded and no longer serving our higher good.

Some would say it is playing out on the world stage at the moment, not going without a fight.

Let’s stay with our King.


He may be a bit skewed in some of his thinking but really, he has only ever had the best interests of the Kingdom at heart. And with a tired sigh he knows, deep down, that his way is simply not the best way any more. So he needs a successor. In this deep down place he also knows that a carbon copy of himself won’t cut it. This is THE marriage he is plotting after all. In realising (with grace for let’s give him a little goodness – he’s a King, he has some nobility) that his time is over then his parting gift can be to find the best possible that he can to replace him. And so the courting begins. For in order to win the hand of the Princess, the Suitor’s worth must be proven. Who is best to serve his Queen and the Land? And remember, as Yin, she is not passive at all but receptive, able to drop into the stillness of mystery and connection with the sacred. She is in need of her Yang, that which can support her in the restoration and rebalancing, he that will action all she receives.

The Poor Suitor represents Yang at it’s best potential, he is humble in his actions but assured of himself, knows himself, he doesn’t hide behind boasts or preening, he presents himself exactly as he is. And he is aided in his task, for his success will be of benefit for all beings in the kingdom, the seen and unseen, the human and other.

The King doesn’t give in without some resistance though. For on the completion of the quest, he is not quite yet ready to let go of his own projection, his expectation of his successor as mirror.

So he sets another challenge.

Again our Poor Suitor steps up as he shows himself more and more as the masculine in all he can be that he is.

There is a third and final challenge, just to make sure and because three is the magick number in these things. It is probably Jung again who said that when we talk of the Inner Marriage, we are shifting the mathematics of the universe to where 1+1=3.

The King finally acquiesces.

The Princess is able to blossom and grow into Queen finally with the healthy aspect of King by her side. In this way the Kingdom/Queendom supports itself to create a balanced, healthy and whole inner life which in turn therefore, creates a balanced, healthy and whole outer life.

This is why they always live happily ever after!

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