Where are we going?

At the end of the fairy tale, the main characters in our stories make a recovery. They reclaim what they have lost, they remember what they have forgotten, and they come into themselves. They show us what it means to arrive at the "innermost center, the divine nucleus of the human psyche," as Marie-Louise von Franz put it.

It's important to remember that however dark or difficult our characters' ordeals have been, they have gathered new knowledge from those experiences. The brothers who turned into swans return to their human forms with the knowledge of what it was like to be a swan, and to be part of the whole bird kingdom. A person who has been following Snow White might find that she awakens from her paralysis wise to the deadly motives of envy, and also wise to the existence of earthworkers, hidden in the mountain, who know the sublime goodness of Mother Earth.

We too emerge from our fairy tales with new knowledge of ourselves, of human nature, and of the world around us.

In this chapter, we'll explore what our protagonists are recovering in our stories, and how others are enjoying the rewards of their efforts. We'll also explore our own recoveries, gather what we have learned from the story, and reflect on how it has been beneficial for us. We'll start out by completing our protagonists' stories, and following their steps through the Region of Recovery.

The Region of Recovery

You might say, "Well, not much happens in the Region of Recovery in my story." While some fairy tales have lengthy return cycles, most stories come to an abrupt end after the final transformation. Spells are broken, wounds are healed, and our characters return home where they live in "happily ever after." We are often only given a few lines from which to infer the nature of the recovered state. That means that we might have to use our imaginations to amplify and infer the events of the Recovery. If that's the case in your story, then part of your own recovery may be to activate your imagination so that you can truly find it and feel it.

While fairy tales typically end "happily ever after," not all of them seem to. Some endings seem tragic and unresolved. Hans Christian Andersen's story, The Sea Maid, for example, literally ends up "in the air." She becomes an air spirit and she has to wait three hundred years before she will be finally released and given a soul. Each person who explores her story will have insights into what she has learned and is learning in the air, and one of us might even write a convincing story about her final triumph. In the meantime, there is much to be gathered from her story, and no shortage of potential epiphanies.

Whatever the Region of Recovery looks like in your story, many things change after the transformation. The quest is over. Our protagonists are coming home. This is a time of consolidation, remembrance, and reconciliation for us all.