In the unabridged German original, each dream begins with the words of the old fairy tale: “Once upon a time….” By these words the little dreamer suggests that she felt each dream were a sort of fairy tale, which she wants to tell her father as a Christmas present. The father tried to explain the dreams in terms of their context. But he could not do so because there appeared to be no personal associations with them….
[The little girl] died of an infectious disease about a year after that Christmas….”
[The dreams were a preparation for death, expressed through short stories, like the tales told at primitive initiations.]
The little girl was approaching puberty and at the same time, the end of her life. Little or nothing in the symbolism of her dreams points to the beginning of a normal adult life…. When I first read her dreams, I had the uncanny feeling that they suggested impending disaster….
These dreams open up a new and rather terrifying aspect of life and death. One would expect to find such images in an aging person who looks back upon life, rather than to be given them by a child…. Their atmosphere recalls the old Roman saying, “Life is a short dream,” rather than the joy and exuberance of its springtime…. Experience shows that the unknown approach of death casts an adumbratio (an anticipatory shadow) over the life and dreams of the victim. Even the altar in Christian churches represents, on the one hand, a tomb, and on the other, a place of resurrection – the transformation of death into eternal life.”
I have selected five of the twelve dreams as motifs for the movements of this composition:
- There is a desert on the moon where the dreamer sinks so deeply into the ground that she reaches hell.
- A drunken woman falls into the water and comes out renewed and sober.
- A horde of small animals frightens the dreamer. The animals increase to a tremendous size, and one of them devours the little girl.
- A drop of water is seen as it appears when looked at through a microscope. The girl sees that the drop is full of tree branches. This portrays the origin of the world.
- An ascent into heaven where pagan dances are being celebrated; and a descent into hell where angels are doing good deeds.
Program note by David Maslanka.
Excerpts from pp. 69-75 of Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung. New York: Doubleday, 1964.