Princesses sleep, princes are enchanted. We rarely have sleeping queens and enchanted kings. These states are usually reserved for the young. This makes a certain amount of sense, psychologically. The young are in transition, moving from one state to another, moving from childhood (being asleep, being enchanted) to a state of adulthood (becoming their true selves). There is travail involved. Someone has to get to the princess to give her the awakening kiss or token. The prince labors to nullify the curse laid upon him.
Examples abound of this common motif of young royalty under a curse: Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, the Princess and the Frog, The Flounder and the Fisherman – no wait. What about that flounder?
In the beginning of “The Flounder and the Fisherman” the fisherman catches a huge flounder, who speaks to him telling the fisherman that he is an enchanted prince. By the end of the story the flounder is still an enchanted prince. The spell is not broken.
In my mental magical pond a frog has broken to the surface and croaks, “Why?”
My intuition tells me the flounder represents the unconscious. The fisherman exists at the conscious level. He lives in the world of air. The flounder lives at the unconscious level, in the world of water, beneath the surface.
But do we stand upon our rock and call out, asking favors of our unconscious? Is the unconscious at our beck and call?
The frog in my mental pond makes a big splash, disturbing my thoughts. It pokes it head out again and croaks, “Bruno, Bruno.”
Now I remember. Bruno Bettelheim. In his book, “The Uses of Enchantment” he discusses this fairy tale. Bettelheim’s observations are filtered through a Freudian lens. They both go on about the Oedipal myth as it can be used, metaphorically, to understand child/parent relationships. Why didn’t Freud use “The Flounder and the Fisherman” (as Bettelheim did) to explain the id—ego—super-ego concept?
Isabelle, the fisherman’s wife, is the id, the primal satisfaction of desire. The flounder, our enchanted prince, is the super-ego, the holder of higher thoughts and ideals. The fisherman is the ego, the poor sap, who shuffles between the id and the super-ego, trying to communicate between the two. It is not the flounder who is the unconscious, but rather the entire tale rises up from beneath the surface.
Had Freud used this tale by way of explanation, we would never have, erroneously, come up with the term “egotistical” when we really meant “idtistical”. The relationships would have been clear.
My magical pond frog is staring at me with its big yellow eyes, but not croaking anything at me. I think I got this one right.