Psychological Interpretation Of The Topic Of Sibling’s Rivalry And Oedipal Period In Cinderella

June 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

This essay is an evaluation of psychological interpretation of fairy and folklore tales looking at the topic of sibling’s rivalry and oedipal period in Cinderella. There is a use of Freud Sigmund psychological theory to interpret. Cambridge dictionary defines psychological as: several number of human personality theories that attempt to examine a person’s unconscious mind to discover the hidden causes of their mental problems. Freud Sigmund (1950) is one of the first psychologists to study human motivation, he is also known as the father of psychoanalysis. In his theories he suggested that there are three elements which influence our behaviour: and these are the ID; the Superego and the Ego. In the tale, Cinderella’s childhood memories made her create her own world while she was under isolation and loneliness. After both of her parents died in the Disney version, her step-family never treated like a family member, she was treated differently and not like part of the family.

Painful memories like these are in the Grimm’s version (1812), she went to her mothers’ grave and wept bitterly’ this made her to grow up quickly and realise her own dream which was associated with escaping her reality and refused to be stay in the same house where she was not treated like a step- sister. In the Grimm’s Version (1812) sibling rivalry begun before her father died. Cinderella was already treated differently from her step-sisters after her father remarried as the story tells us that they took away her belongings, dressed her in rags and she begun to do house chores while her step sisters ridiculed her. The interpretation of Cinderella’s siblings is well explained by Freudian psychologist Bruno Bettelheim who wrote about the relationships in the Cinderella tale in his article “Cinderella”: A Story of Sibling Rivalry and Oedipal Conflicts. Bettelheim (1975) reveals reasons why society is so fascinated with the Cinderella story, explaining that the core of the tale is sibling rivalry; moreover, Bettelheim offers reasoning as to why Cinderella behaves the way she does. Going back to the Grimm’s version while her father is preparing to leave for a trip Cinderella only politely asked him to bring her a rose while the step sisters ask for clothes and fine things. Favouritism was already in place.

Another notable author Madonna Kolbenschlag in her piece, “A Feminist View of ‘Cinderella,’” says that the fantasy of Cinderella is more than a rags-to-riches story and also reflects on how the tale shows sibling rivalry, the characteristics of a heroine from Cinderella’s thoughts and actions, specifically her passive behaviour towards her family. Although they treat her badly, she still holds on to her dream that there is something or someone out there for her. The fairy God mother appears to give her chance to dream and attend the ball. The Grimm’s version a tree grows because she filled it with tears because of her dreams and sibling’s rivalry. All children crave for attention, Cinderella is not given any special attention in all the versions that is why she befriends animals in the Disney version. Her sisters, father and stepmother all treat her like she is not worthy to be part of their family. Their anger and hate towards her only made her resent her siblings. Cinderella suffers because her step-sisters’ jealous psychologically as a child she is not consciously aware of. In theory Bettelheim (1991) calls this parental criticism. Her father seems loving and kind in the Disney version. “The only explanation for parental criticism a child can think of is that there must be a serious flaw in him which accounts for what he experiences rejection”. Because of this treatment, evil stepmother and parents’ exploitation and actions makes her the desperate sibling who is patiently suffering and waiting to be rescued. Explaining the elements of unconscious and conscious mind, ID superego and ego to describe Cinderella’s actions and behaviour. In this case the super-ego element incorporates the values and morals learnt from parents and society, developing between the ages of Three and five. Cinderella still had the consciousness of a child she lacked parents and society interaction to incorporate with.

Although many critics have criticised Cinderella for waiting for her prince ‘Kolbenschlag (1976) describes Cinderella’s behaviour is that of a typical heroine; making sacrifices and skimming rock bottom before they become triumph. This statement is a reminder of modern-day heroines. We all go through challenges and difficulties that will later inspire us to become better and strive. This when the unconscious and conscious mind is used to explain that we are aware of reality, using the ego element. The mind is always aware of what we going through and forces us to make us make decisions in the case of Cinderella, sibling rivalry and parent rejection which Bettelheim has discussed as the reason why Cinderella continued to be kind and seek approval even if her step-family treated her differently.


  1. Bettelheim, B. (1991). Freud’s Vienna and other essays. New York: Vintage Books.
  2. Bettelheim, B. (2011). The uses of enchantment. New York: Vintage Books.
  3. Freud, S. and Fodor, N. (1950). Freud; dictionary of psychoanalysis. New York: Philosophical Library.
  4. Grimm, W. and Grimm, J. (2013). Grimms’ fairy tales. Floris Books. Kolbenschlag, M.
  5. Madonna Kolbenschlag (2019). [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jun. 2019].
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