Sooner or later, you must enter the dark forest and leave the well-trodden path. Let us re-look at the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood.
As you recall, Little Red Riding Hood is off to Grandma’s
house to deliver some food for her sick grandma. Before leaving, her mother
warns her to “stick to the path.”
Instead, part way down the path, a wolf entices her to wander from the
The wolf beat Little Red Riding Hood to grandma’s house and
is disguised as grandma lying in bed. The wolf swallows Little Red Riding Hood
whole. Later, Little Red Riding Hood cuts
a hole in the wolf’s stomach and climbs out alive.
What do you make of this fairy-tale? One thing that Little Red Riding Hood learned
was that wandering from the path came at a great cost—one that almost killed
her. However, by doing so, she learned about the evil ways of the wolf and
emerged alive with an increased consciousness that should help her in
navigating her future.
Without this experience with the wolf, Little Red Riding Hood
would remain naïve and ill-prepared for her life’s challenges.
Sooner or later, you will likely be tasked by life to leave
the well-traveled path. Of course, you can decide not to leave this path, but
this decision too will come at a price. The cost—a loss of your own
individuality and truth that comes from soul.
Evil, disguised as the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, can be the stimulus that pushes you or pulls you off the well-trodden path. Evil can be described as that which stops or interferes with your ego’s limited perspective of your life. Put another way, Jungian analyst, John Sanford (1981) said, “…this destructive power drive can be seen as an archetypal quality of the human ego that wants to set itself up in the place of the Self.”
Little Red Riding Hood, from her limited ego perspective, may not have left the path since danger lurked there. But paradoxically, she needed to leave the path to gain awareness into self and to become who she was meant to become.
In another story, this one from a dream, a duckling swims by
the river’s edge. It is dark, but not yet night. The duckling is all alone, not
aware of the dangers lurking in the forest just over the river’s edge.
Behind the duckling, over the bank of the river and at the
edge of the forest, is a door to a long hallway. The end of the hallway is not
in sight. Behind the door and about half way down the long hall with no end, is
a large black wolf. The black wolf is docile and non-threatening. In this case,
the wolf is a metaphor for something that is not evil. (This illustrates a
tricky part of dealing with images that illicit evil—on the surface, something
that may seem like evil in one situation, can be an image of salvation in
another. Unfortunately for the wolf, it is too often a symbol for evil in
fairytale, story and even politics.)
The duckling climbs over the bank of the river and enters the
long hallway. She meets the wolf who
looks down upon her. In this dream, the duckling be-friends the wolf and the
two mismatched animals help each other travel through the dark forest together.
The duckling gifted to the wolf, love through friendship and a curiosity with the world, while the wolf gifted the duckling a sense of cunning and following instinct. The two animals need each other to survive and to travel their respective paths without becoming too one-sided.
Evil does have the potential to greatly increase suffering
and to stop the current trajectory of your life’s process in full. But evil serves as a necessary part of the
individuation process. As in Little Red Riding Hood’s case, evil can
paradoxically serve as a catalyst for increasing consciousness necessary for
the next stage of your life.
Sanford, J. A. (1981). Evil:
The Shadow Side of Reality. New York: Crossroads.
© 2019, Dr. Jeff Howlin. All rights reserved.