I was perplexed when Rapunzel’s father betrayed her by giving her to the sorcerer even though she hasn’t been born yet. Why he didn’t fight for his daughter? Why he only thinks about himself and his cabbage-craving wife?
According to James Hillman, we overreact with betrayal. Betrayal is a clue to something, it is an evidence of something very good (Young, Lecture 8). In mythology, we can observe masculine figures exercising the role of freeing spirit from the matter (King Arthur slaying dragon and Heracles fighting the Nemean Lion). It is an upward movement and its psychological manifestation is that of development of intellect and rationality, but also extension of consciousness in general, what we can call spirituality (Wilhelm 4).
In my experience it is the male members of the family that taught me how to drive a car, ride a bike, ride the waves, signifying freedom and independence. I had falls, accidents, bruises and left some scars but the skills acquired have a lifelong benefit.
One beautiful morning in Waikiki, my uncle pushed my surfboard with all his might when the six-foot wave was coming towards us. My immediate reaction was “are trying to kill me!?” I saw him smiling while the waves were taking me away. It was my first deep spiritual experience. It was a mile-long wave ride, such a numinous experience when you feel the presence of the divine creator. There was no sense of separation between me and nature, I was one with the sky, the air, and the deep blue sea.
In stories, a self-centered father figure can represent an exaggerated concern with power or safety. This is the agent of the outside world in the family (or the dream). While it is good to have aspirations, putting all our eggs into the success basket is a weak move. The quest for security is a nervous choice. In a moment of panic, we can betray ourselves.
The key to understanding the unreliable “father energy” is to figure out what part of our inner life he represents. How have we let ourselves down? Is there a more noble alternative image available within for us to bring forward?
At the same time, it is useful to appreciate the selfish father’s contribution to the story. Rapunzel would never have been such a strong and wise queen at the end of the tale without all the lessons.
I loved your wave story and resonate with the important lessons masculine figures tend to have in our lives that help us to grow. I would say that my mother held that masculine force in my life; pushing me to succeed despite my own fear that I might fail, or teaching me hard lessons in life that, at the time, felt unfair. I think it’s important to realize that these stories are meant to be impactful. To be “betrayed” by the very people who brought you into this world (male or female) is a matter of perspective.
Men give their daughters away in marriage and yet that seems to have a joyous undertone rather than giving them away to a sorcerer. In both scenarios we are set off to create a new chapter. The cutting of the umbilical cord is the important part, and when we look back we might find that what seemed like betrayal turned out to be freeing and beneficial after all.
Wilhelm H., The I Ching, Princeton University Press, New York, 1967.
Young, Jonathan. “Lecture 8. The Beloved of the Soul: Rapunzel”. PSY 512 Mythic Stories in Depth Psychology.” University of Philosophical Research, 2017.
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