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 adumbriato (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.”
Four of the twelve dreams have been selected as headings for the movements of this work:
- (1) “The evil animal,” a snakelike monster with many horns, kills and devours all other animals. But God comes from the four corners, being in fact four separate gods, and gives rebirth to all the animals.
- (11) The girl dreams she is dangerously ill. Suddenly birds come out of her skin and cover her completely.
- (6) A bad boy has a clod of earth and throws bits of it at everyone who passes. In this way all the passersby become bad.
- (12) Swarms of gnats obscure the sun, the moon, and all the stars except one. That one star falls upon the dreamer.
Program note by David Maslanka.
Excerpts from pp. 69-75 of Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung. New York: Doubleday, 1964.