Bloody Mary in the Mirror

Bloody Mary in the Mirror: Essays in Psychoanalytic Folkloristics

Alan Dundes
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 141
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvfn2
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Bloody Mary in the Mirror
    Book Description:

    Bloody Mary in the Mirrormixes Sigmund Freud with vampires andThe Little Mermaidto see what new light psychoanalysis can bring to folklore techniques and forms.

    Ever since Freud published his analysis of Jewish jokes in 1905 and his disciple Otto Rank followed with his groundbreakingThe Myth of the Birth of the Heroin 1909, the psychoanalytic study of folklore has been an acknowledged part of applied psychoanalysis.

    However, psychoanalysts, handicapped by their limited knowledge of folklore techniques, have tended to confine their efforts to the Bible, to classical mythology, and to the Grimm fairy tales. Most folklorists have been slow to consider psychoanalysis as a method of interpreting folklore.

    One notable exception is folklorist Alan Dundes. In the seven fascinating essays ofBloody Mary in the Mirror, psychoanalytic theory illuminates such folklore genres as legend (in the vampire tale), folktale (in the ancient Egyptian tale of two brothers), custom (in fraternity hazing and ritual fasting), and games (in the modern Greek game of "Long Donkey"). One of two essays Dundes co-authored with his daughter Lauren Dundes, professor of sociology at Western Maryland College, successfully probes the content of Disney'sThe Little Mermaid, yielding new insights into this popular reworking of a Hans Christian Andersen favorite.

    Among folk rituals investigated is the girl's game of "Bloody Mary." Elementary or middle school-age girls huddle in a darkened bathroom awaiting the appearance in the mirror of a frightening apparition. The plausible analysis of this well-known--if somewhat puzzling--American rite is one of many surprising and enlightening finds in this book.

    All of the essays in this remarkable volume create new takes on old traditions.Bloody Mary in the Mirroris an expedition into psychoanalytic folklore techniques and constitutes a giant step towards realizing the potential Freud's work promises for folklore studies.

    Alan Dundes is professor of anthropology and folklore at the University of California, Berkeley. Among many others, his books includeInterpreting Folklore(1980) andFrom Game to War and Other Psychoanalytic Essays on Folklore(1997). He editedMother Wit from the Laughing Barrel: Readings in the Interpretation of Afro-American Folklore(1991), which was published by University Press of Mississippi.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-151-2
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-xviii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xix-2)
  5. 1 The Psychoanalytic Study of Religious Custom and Belief: RITUAL FASTING, SELF-MUTILATION, AND THE DEUS OTIOSUS
    (pp. 3-15)

    One of the possible approaches to the study of religious custom and belief utilizes the principles of psychoanalysis. There is an abundant literature devoted to the psychoanalytic consideration of religion (cf. Saffady 1976; Wallace 1990). Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi’s annotated bibliography on the subject, revised in 1996, contains more than 2000 entries and this useful survey refers only to English-language books and articles. Had materials in other languages, e.g., French and German, been surveyed, that number could easily have been trebled or quadrupled.

    According to a critique by Joel Kovel, “Freud was oddly preoccupied with religion considering that he held the subject...

  6. 2 The Vampire as Bloodthirsty Revenant: A PSYCHOANALYTIC POST MORTEM
    (pp. 16-32)

    In accordance with a pronounced penchant for the ritual number three, Western folklorists are prone to divide cultural materials into a tripartite classificatory scheme: elite culture, mass or popular culture, and folklore. Sometimes these admittedly somewhat arbitrary categories are mutually exclusive. That is, there are surely literary creations which have no analogs or parallels in either popular culture or folklore. By the same token there may be instances of popular culture (e.g., comic books, television programs, motion pictures, and the like) which are totally independent of both elite or high culture and folklore. In the same way, there may be...

  7. 3 Projective Inversion in the Ancient Egyptian “Tale of Two Brothers”
    (pp. 33-54)

    In 1852, the text of an ancient Egyptian folktale, written on papyrus, known as the “Tale of Two Brothers” was first revealed to the scholarly community. This tale has been called, rightly or wrongly, “The Oldest Fairy Tale in the World” (Hollis 1990). However, it is certainly not the oldest recorded folktale (Jason and Kempinski 1981). Not surprisingly, it has attracted the notice of many of the leading folklorists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, notably Mannhardt (1859), Cosquin (1877), Lang (1899:2:317-29) and Von Sydow (1930), among others. The abundant folkloristic scholarship (not to mention that of the Egyptologists) is...

  8. 4 The Trident and the Fork: DISNEY’S “THE LITTLE MERMAID” AS A MALE CONSTRUCTION OF AN ELECTRAL FANTASY
    (pp. 55-75)
    Lauren Dundes

    Most of the tales written by Hans Christian Andersen were not taken from oral tradition. Although he occasionally borrowed motifs from such tradition, the greater portion of his so-called fairy tales were strictly literary creations. The distinguished Danish folklorist Bengt Holbek claimed that of some 156 “fairy tales and stories” published by Andersen, “only seven of them are manifestly taken from Danish oral tradition" (Holbek, 1990, p. 165), a number confirmed by Grönbech (1996, p. 221). On the other hand, Elias Bredsdorff in his splendid biography of Andersen suggests that “nine tales were based on folktales Andersen had heard” (1975,...

  9. 5 Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A RITUAL REFLECTION OF PRE-PUBESCENT ANXIETY
    (pp. 76-94)

    One of the most disheartening aspects of folkloristics, the scientific study of folklore, is the persistent lack of analysis or interpretation. It is not just popularizers who churn out anthology after anthology of “texts only” without attention to context or possible meaning(s) of such texts, but the academic folklorists themselves, who despite pretentious definitional debates about the wisdom of continuing to use the term “folklore” or exaggerated claims of the importance of reporting folklore as “performed”—even to the point of calling this approach “performance theory”—what exactly is the “theory” supposedly underlying “performance theory”???—do little more than report...

  10. 6 The Elephant Walk and Other Amazing Hazing: MALE FRATERNITY INITIATION THROUGH INFANTILIZATION AND FEMINIZATION
    (pp. 95-121)
    Lauren Dundes

    The history of hazing is long and filled with cruel practices (Carus 1909, Nuwer 1999:92-115). Hazing is somewhat analogous to what was known in England as “fagging” (Thwing 1878-79:331, Hutchinson 1896), but fagging is more a matter of personal servitude whereas “hazing is a test of loyalty taken by a ‘pledge’ or prospective member to gain acceptance into a fraternity" (Leslie, Taff, and Mulvihill 1985:53). As defined by Connecticut, one of the thirty-five states that has banned hazing, it is “any action which recklessly or intentionally endangers the health or safety of a person for the purpose of initiation admission...

  11. 7 The Greek Game of Makria Yaidoura [Long Donkey]: AN ADOLESCENT ARTICULATION OF A MEDITERRANEAN MODEL OF MASCULINITY
    (pp. 122-136)

    In the December 29, 1883, issue of theAthenaeum, J. Theodore Bent reported “Some Games played by modern Greeks,” a brief note that was reprinted the very next year in theFolk-Lore Journal. One of the games he observed on the island of Samos was called “How many?” He described it as follows:

    Four, six, or more lads divide themselves into sides, choosing two leaders. One leader takes up a stone, the other guesses in which hand it is, and if he is wrong, he and his party turn their backs to be mounted by their opponents. The leader, as...

  12. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 137-138)

    Several years ago, the editors ofWho’s Who in Americainvited those individuals profiled in that volume to submit a personal closing statement under the rubric of “Thoughts on My Life.” The statement was supposed to be a succinct autobiographical summary of the “principles, goals, ideals, and values that have been guidelines for success and achievement.” Most individuals declined this unusual invitation, but a few took up the challenge, and their statements appear in italics following their formal list of degrees, honors, and publications.

    I thought long and hard about what I might say, but secure in the knowledge that...

  13. INDEX
    (pp. 139-141)