Hildegard wiedemann

12.06.2020 11:49 (Comments: 0)

Fairy tale constellations

Hildegard Wiedemann

by Hildegard Wiedemann

Folk tales represent a self-contained wholeness and correspond to our soul, which is just such a wholeness. Fairy tales have developed from ancient myths, religious stories from pre-Christian times. In their wholeness they act as a healing space.

Folk tales contain ancient knowledge about how life succeeds. They begin with a general human problem. A man sets out to find a solution for it. He is courageous, has confidence and perseverance. After some tests, often at the risk of his own life, he finds the solution. On this way he learns something he was missing before. It develops so that its inherent wholeness can blossom.

Not only the protagonist is important in the fairy tale. Every shape and action are necessary for the development process. Apparently it is about good and evil and the victory of good. In this struggle of the forces a deep wisdom is perceptible, which leads to a perceptive consciousness.

This wisdom is not named. It can communicate in talking animals, in dwarfs and old men or mothers. The rational and the irrational weave into each other in the fairy tale. Man and his need are taken seriously. When he sets out to find a solution, he often experiences unexpected help.

The difficulties in the fairy tale – as in life – serve the people for development. The development processes in folk tales work on different levels: on the external relationship level with concrete people and on the internal relationship level with oneself. The spiritual level interweaves and encompasses everything. It can be experienced in the wisdom of fairy tales.

I like to set up a fairy tale in several sequences, following the course of the tale. To do this, I read aloud the relevant section before planting. Who feels a resonance with a figure, can go into its representation, take a coherent place in space and communicate his perception. The relationships between the individual figures become clear. When movements arise, they can be followed slowly. After the constellation, the participants feel which of their own issues are addressed. It can be problems in the "outside world" with people in their own environment. Inner problems, longings, blockages and resources can also be experienced and become conscious. The individual development is stimulated. The fairy tale addresses the personal unconscious, which arises from one’s own experiences, and the deeper unconscious, which C.G. Jung calls the collective unconscious, because it contains the knowledge of mankind. Like a deep flowing stream it connects the people with ancient knowledge.

The participants in a constellation are always amazed to discover that they are also being addressed on a spiritual level. The experience of the great, which acts as wisdom in the fairy tale, enables a widening of the heart. The polarization into opposites can be overcome. Devotion to life as it is becomes possible. – In the constellations I follow what shows up and touches the participants. I accompany her to herself.

In the following text I will present constellations with the help of symbols. The symbols for the representatives always contain a point. This can be understood as a "nose" and indicates the direction of vision. The female figures are represented by round symbols, the male figures by square symbols. The figure they represent is above or below the figure.

In this article I complement the findings from the fairy tale constellations with my knowledge from depth psychology according to C.G. Jung and Erich Neumann.


Text from the original version of the Kinder- und Hausmarchen of the Brothers Grimm, ed. Friedrich Panzer, Vollmer publishing house, Wiesbaden

  • Straw becomes gold
  • Worthlessness is transformed into self-worth
  • Inner emptiness fills with self-love

"Once upon a time there was a poor miller". What is the reason for his poverty? We do not experience it in the fairy tale. It is essential that the professional existence of the miller and his material basis are endangered. In his mill is ground too little. The grinding of grain into flour is a process of transformation from coarse to fine. In the mill hardly any transformation takes place. There life has paused. What happened? We do not find out in fairy tales. The miller’s wife is not mentioned. The female side of the miller, his wife, is missing. Is she dead? Has the pain of their loss changed the miller? The fairy tale reports nothing about it. Is she wasted next to her husband because he did not have access to his feelings? This is how some representatives of the miller experience it when setting up this scene.


The miller stands bent, slumped and looks to the left. His wife is lying dead on her back on the floor, her head is to the right. It looks to the left.

Phases of inner stagnation, emptiness or poverty are experienced by many people in their lives. Times when they feel that nothing is moving in them, or nothing is going on in their lives. Quickly the feeling of worthlessness creeps in. Since the fairy tale begins with the "poor miller," it also contains the problem that wants to be solved. How can a person transform the experience of inner poverty, emptiness and worthlessness into the experience of his self-worth?? This theme also plays a role in our time of Corona crisis. How many "mills" are at a standstill at the moment! Inns, educational houses, hotels, bars, cafes, stores are closed. They will open up again under different conditions. Many people are unemployed and feel great distress, despite offered help.

"But the miller had a beautiful daughter". Looking at his daughter, the miller, bent by fate, straightens up. Pride, joy and confidence return to him. He says he hopes the daughter will transform poverty. She is upright, young and beautiful. – When the "poor miller" looks inwardly at his "beautiful daughter", he experiences her as his own source of strength.

Fig. 2

"When he came to speak with the king, he tells him: "I have a daughter who knows the art of turning straw into gold." Many women in the groups are outraged when they hear this. You feel betrayed by this father, not recognized and think he is adorning himself with the daughter so as not to look so poor in front of the king. Anger rises in them, as they have probably experienced similar things in their lives. Other women feel that this father perceives a potential in his daughter and believes that she can develop it. I assume that all the figures in the fairy tale act as forces in man. This ambivalent father power is also in man. If she is trustful, she perceives that the "emptiness of the straw", the inner emptiness, can be transformed into something precious, into gold. If we allow ourselves to become involved with this inner trusting father instance, which sees our beauty and believes in our development, a new space is created within us, full of warmth and goodwill. We develop understanding and compassion for our situation, which is not easy, even in this time of crisis. The willingness to change something in one’s own life grows, as does the confidence in our abilities. At the same time we do not know yet how it can succeed.


The king immediately sent for the miller’s daughter and ordered her to turn a whole chamber full of straw into gold in one night. If she could not, she would have to die!" The king is experienced in a representation as a man who is initially more interested in the miller’s daughter than in gold.

While his representative looks at her, he perceives that he is lonely, that there is no love in his castle, no wife and no children. He says that he is accustomed to suppress his inner emptiness and feel the fullness of his power. He turns his gaze away from the miller’s daughter and looks into the vastness before him. To this he says: "I want even more power, more gold. I want to be the richest man in the world, have the most gold." In this he sees his value. He is a "poor man" inside, because he has no relation to his being, his own potential and his self-worth. The zeitgeist today is similar. Many people make their value dependent on their professional success, their reputation and bank balance and do not perceive their value as a person.

How is the miller’s daughter now? "She was locked in the chamber, sat there and cried, because for the life of her she knew no advice on how to turn the straw into gold."Her need is existential. She knows that she has not learned the transformation from straw to gold that is expected of her. We humans are also sometimes expected to do something that we are not able to do? Feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, anger and shame arise. This can be in an exam, during work or in a relationship. In the current Corona crisis, many people feel trapped and powerless in the face of the situation. How should their lives go on in the face of empty coffers?? Questions come up about what is essential in his own life. The miller’s daughter cries in her distress. She lets herself "fall into the straw" in some constellations , accepts the hopeless situation, does not defend herself, but expresses her feelings of powerlessness, fear and despair. Her initial tension is released. She arrives at herself, feels that she is alive and wants to continue living. Does the experience of the miller’s daughter show us a way how we can individually come to ourselves in an emergency situation?? I am currently telling people in distress this fairy tale scene in telephone consultations. One client says that it helps her to be able to express and feel her distress. She feels an inner emptiness, which she has covered up for a long time with many activities. Then she cries. Even as a child she felt so empty and worthless. She thought it was over now. But now, alone in her apartment and without work, she feels this emptiness again, like a black hole. She would like to fall in and disappear in it. I encourage her to do this in imagination. The crying stops. Silence. After some time she says that she has arrived in a wonderful, dark, warm space. They feel welcome and comfortable here. "That I have never seen. I have arrived at myself," she says in conclusion. "Here I am allowed to be as I am. I don’t have to do anything, I’m just there!" When we express and accept our need, we arrive at ourselves. So the trouble can turn. Suddenly we have an idea of how things can go on.

In the fairy tale a little man appears at this place. "That said, What givest thou me to make all things gold? It took off its collar and gave it to the Mannlein. And it did as it promised." Whoever wants to realize the unexpected, inner impulse that promises salvation, must part with something that adorns him or that is dear to him, like a "necklace". This may be a familiar pattern inherited from parents. In one constellation the necklace was a gift from the mother. The representative of the miller’s daughter associated with the necklace the sentence: "I’ll do it like you mama. I sacrifice myself for the others." She felt that this sentence did not do her any good and decided to let it go, thus separating herself from the values of the mother in a good way.

And who is the little man? We know dwarfs and goblins. They are symbolically servants of the "Great Mother", the Nature. The "Great Mother" is after C.G. Jung an archetypal force. It gives life and takes it back to itself in eternal cycle. Her servants share in her knowledge and power. The dwarfs serving her work in the earth and find treasures there. The little man supports the girl in her development. That’s what the great mother of life wants. There is gold in the earth. It is available to the little man. The little man is an inner part of the girl, who has access to her hidden treasures. The girl has to sacrifice something dear to her so that the inner male can become active. It brings her hidden treasures to light as gold that fills the king’s chamber.

"The next morning the king found the whole chamber full of gold. It only made his heart more eager. He had the miller’s daughter put in another, even bigger chamber full of straw. That should also make her gold, if life were dear to her (addition from later versions). And the little man came again, she gave him her ring from her hand, and everything became gold again." The king is also an aspect in the soul of man. It corresponds to the I that regulates its own life. The inner king rules and has the power. In his castle there are also hidden chambers full of straw, of empty shells. But he never shows this inner emptiness to anyone. Maybe he hopes that one day he will fill it with something meaningful. The prospect of filling it with gold without any effort on his part is wonderful. What a glorious illusion and yet so human! Who does not know that? The king in the fairy tale is experienced by the representatives as cold, calculating and heartless. The life of the miller’s daughter means nothing to him. He experiences only his need, his inner emptiness and the desire to fill it. He does not perceive that he is acting ego-centered and emotionally cold.

The miller’s daughter in the fairy tale symbolizes the female side of the king, to which he does not yet have a conscious connection. He uses her like a "mill to turn straw into gold".

The miller’s daughter has understood in her depth how the straw is transformed, how she comes into relationship with her treasures, her hidden potential. She must let go of something that is dear or familiar but constricts her. Otherwise she cannot go on living. The representatives in the constellations usually experience constricting beliefs as an obstacle to letting their potential come to life. There are sentences like: "Be state!" or: " You are stupid " or "You can’t do that. You are too clumsy!"

If the negative beliefs are consciously perceived and recognized as not true, they can be discarded. Transformation can happen: "Everything turns to gold". In the groups the question arises what the ring can mean? As a symbol, it stands for the bond: with oneself, a partner or the great, the Being. It is round, a symbol of wholeness and completion and also something that can go round in circles in eternal repetition. Where is the miller’s daughter bound in a way that is no longer good for her, that prevents the preciousness of her life from shining like gold?

Participants also ask themselves this question individually. Where are they bound in a way that is no longer coherent for them today?. Is it the attachment to a person or to a belief set that makes her helpless and small? If something goes round in circles in them, an inner film repeats itself in which they believe? What do they want to break away from in order to blossom? The participants write down their answers and share them with each other. A woman tells of her inner film that shows her how others devalue her. This film torments her. She feels like a victim and gets angry. In the past she would have sung, danced, made handicrafts. She would have been so creative. That is all over now. She says it is relieving to express and realize that. She feels that she is "the child of a king". She wants to stop this film and turn back to her creativity.

The miller’s daughter can be seen inwardly as the female side of the king. It is at the same time the side of the feeling that he has not considered so far. This side now becomes active at night, in the dark. Something moves in the unconscious of the king. His limiting beliefs emerge, he becomes aware of his feelings. The utterances of the miller’s daughter during the constellation can be seen as an expression of the king’s feelings. In a lineup, the miller’s daughter said, "No one really sees me. All look only at my achievement, the gold. I feel completely overwhelmed." Through these words of the King’s emotional side, his inner distress and lack of self-worth can be guessed at.

The representative of the miller’s daughter recognizes in this sentence one of her own beliefs. It becomes clear to her that she wants to let go of this sentence and her victim role in order to come to herself, her creativity and her self-love.

"But the king ordered her to be locked up again the third night in a third chamber, which was even bigger than the first two and completely full of straw, "and if you also succeed in this, you shall become my wife". Many women in my groups are horrified. Such a cold, self-centered, unfeeling, gold-hungry guy should the girl marry, just because she can "turn everything to gold"? They feel that he uses the girl, abuses her and does not see her in her individuality. Very understandable. – Sometimes the inner king, the ego, also looks only at its own performance. Then the person feels that he is fulfilling his duties, but remains empty and unloved inside.

Maybe the king begins to perceive the miracle of transformation in his castle, inside himself. It happens through the girl, his feminine side. The miller’s daughter brings gold, something precious, into his empty chambers. This does him good and awakens his desire to connect with her. This is how the king communicates it in a lineup. It is not said in the fairy tale why the king wants to marry the miller’s daughter. Has he perhaps perceived that not only the castle is changing, but also the girl, that she is coming into her power and beginning to feel her self-worth? This is perceived by a representative of the miller’s daughter. Has she become more beautiful through her process of letting go of old patterns, which pleases the king? When they stand, the transformation of the king becomes apparent. Now the essential thing for him is no longer his power, but the connection with the king’s daughter.

How do we feel when we separate ourselves from non-essentials that are so familiar to us that we think they belong to us?? This process is often not easy. But it "saves our life", gives us inner vitality, transforms "straw into gold" – the wish of the alchemists. The girl succeeds. His own value becomes visible by letting go of old values. It begins to shine. The king perceives this.

Gold girl king

"Then the little man came and said, "I want to do it again, but you must promise me the first child you have with the king." She promised it in the need. When the king saw this straw turned into gold, he took the beautiful miller’s daughter as his wife."

Some women continue to be outraged at how high-handed the king acts, not even asking the girl if she is willing to marry him. They are also annoyed by the girl who puts up with everything and does not dare to say "no", neither to the king’s demands nor to those of the little man.

In the setting, a representation of the girl communicated that she had grown up during these three nights. She feels as if she has changed and is now at eye level with the king. She is ready to marry him, she is looking forward to it. In the group we felt this and guessed that this is so. Immediately the question arose why she did not say "no" to the male’s demand that she promise him her first child. Did she promise it to him so that she could marry the king?? The text no longer says that the king would kill her if she did not succeed in her transformation. Nevertheless, she is "in need" and promises her first child to the male. Did she do this to save her life or to marry the king? Had she become greedy for power and in it equal to the king? Or did she perceive her maturation into a queen and the transformation of the king into a warm man who appreciates her?? A fine bond of love has been woven between the two of them? The fairy tale gives no answer. When they stand, the equality of the two becomes apparent.

"Soon after, the queen went into childbirth. Then the little man came before the queen and demanded the promised child. But the queen asked what she could and offered the male all the riches if he would let her have her child. But it was all in vain. At last she said: "In three days I’ll come back and get the child". But if you then know my name, you shall keep the child"!

Here we see that the miller’s daughter has really grown up and fills the role of queen and mother. She fights for her child, for the aliveness that has grown in her, for the newness that she had brought into the world. After C.G. Young is this child symbolically her self to which she has found. She has learned to distinguish what promotes inner vitality and what does not, what she must give away and what she must stand up for. Now she takes responsibility.

How is it now with the little man?. It is a figure that does not exist in reality. Symbolically it is a servant of the Great Mother Nature. In this fairy tale it occurs when the girl is threatened by death. The little man knows how the girl’s life can go on. It corresponds to an inner instinct, an inner voice that advises the girl what to do. It demands something from the girl, does not help him in vain. Does the male also have an inner emptiness and fills it with things that the girl’s heart is attached to, like the necklace and the ring? It thinks it gets thereby something of her love? In the representation of the little male, it is clear that he is very much in need of human love. "Gold is not important to me. I am ashamed that I got so much from the girl. I have the feeling that I have cut something out of the girl’s heart. I need something from the people and I know that I am not entitled to it."He says this after getting the necklace and the ring. And now he demands her child. Is it so hungry for human love that it wants the newborn despite its shame? Does the girl need this incredible demand to finally say "no"? Learn to distinguish which demands serve life and which do not? The little man seems to feel that he has gone too far in his demand for the child. It gives the queen the possibility to keep her child if she finds the name of the male. He who knows the name of someone has power over him. Spiritually, knowing the name means having access to the essence of the other person.

"The queen wondered the first and second day what name the male would have. But she couldn’t come to her senses and got all sad."

The queen wants to recognize this male. It saved her life, rumbled and transformed in royal chambers, filled them with gold. A representative of the queen feels gratitude to this little man. At the same time she suspects that the little man has played with false cards. It helped her, but it was selfish. It demanded too much of her, did not respect her limits. She perceives that he wants something from her, which he himself does not have and that it is vital for the man. She feels his insatiability, his greed. She can’t find a name for this small, ambivalent figure. She can only think of the devil, of whom it is said that he gives people gold and wants their souls in return.

"On the third day the king comes home from the hunt and tells her: I was hunting the day before yesterday. When I came deep into the dark forest, there was a small house and in front of the house was a ridiculous little man, who jumped around on one leg in front of it and shouted:

Today I bake, tomorrow I brew,

The day after tomorrow I will get the queen her child.

Oh how good that no one knows,

that my name is Rumpelstiltskin!"

In constellations, representatives of Rumpelstiltskin like to jump around an imaginary fire in the forest. They feel vital, full of joie de vivre and strength. Some experience an inner mischievousness and wit, others feel devious. "I’m fine! I can do anything! – But I am alone. But not for long! I look forward to the queen’s child, who will soon be with me! I have done a great job. It is not quite ok to ask it. But the loneliness here in the forest kills me otherwise!"

The king has left his castle, the place where he is at home, where he knows his way around, the space of his consciousness. He hunts in the dark forest, a place that is not familiar to him. Symbolic it is in its unconscious. What does he hunt for, what does he lack and what does he seek?? He has enough gold now. He discovers a small house and a little man who jumps around on one leg in front of it and shouts his little spell. The king finds out about himself. He sees in the man a hidden part of himself, his greed for living things, his inner emptiness and need. With this secret greed he almost suffocated the queen’s child, who is their common child. It’s the new born in his castle, the love. He sees in the little jumping creature in the forest his inner man, hidden from the world, but powerful in his greed. It’s a little Stiltskin, a little man who rumbled and rumbled inside him and always wanted more. When the little man tells his name, the king recognizes it in himself and tells his wife about it.

"When the queen heard this, she was very happy. And when the dangerous little man came, he asked: "Madam Queen, what is my name??- Your name is Konrad? – No – Are you called Heinrich? – No – Are you called Rumpelstiltskin? – That is what the devil told you! Cried the little man, ran away in anger and never came back."

The queen now knows the name of the male. Thus the spell is broken, with which she was connected with the Mannlein. He has no more power over her. She recognizes in the man the power that has asked her to empty her "lumber room". That helped her to fill them with gold and to feel their own value. Besides this wonderful life-giving side of the male, it also has a life-devouring side. This one wants to have her child. Both sides are aspects of the archetype of the Great Mother. As the queen recognizes her in the little man, she also recognizes her in herself and in the king. Now she can responsibly deal with these inner forces. She has become wise. In the love for her child, her self, her self-love has blossomed. So she can meet the king as an equal in love. The emptiness in her, the king and the castle is now filled with love. If we see all figures as inner parts of a human being, he has filled the initial inner emptiness with self-worth and love. His process of development has caused him to become whole and whole.

A client told me in an individual session after the fairy tale constellation that she knew the two sides of Rumpelstiltskin. One of them helps her on the way of her personal development. Lets her empty her rumpus, recognize outdated behaviors and negative beliefs, and re-live her repressed creativity. Through this she finds her self, the royal child. In her joy she forgets the devouring side. Suddenly she is there in an old belief system that she thought she had overcome: "Don’t think that you are entitled to the new things!"And already the self-doubt is also there. In the joint conversation, the client expresses satisfaction that she has recognized her old belief system and. She realizes that she has unconsciously given power to this sentence and believed it. In an exercise she learns to accept the belief set as belonging to her childhood. Thus he loses his power over her. She now gives all her attention to her awakening creativity and fidelity to her being. While she paints glass pictures, she feels completely with herself. For her, "Rumpelstiltskin", has disappeared.

Towards the end of a seminar, a participant asks about the father and the initial problem. The miller is empty inside at the beginning and greedy for new life in his mill. We feel that the father, the king and the little man are connected to each other by the inner emptiness and the greed to fill it. The poverty of the miller is the trigger that sets the process in motion in this fairy tale. The inner poverty and emptiness we meet again with the king and Rumpelstiltskin. It is "decluttered. Inner blocking sentences are recognized and released. Transformation can happen. The hidden treasures show symbolically in the chambers full of gold. The inner emptiness is over. One’s own potential can be felt by all the characters in this fairy tale, by all the parts of us. Through the wedding, the masculine and feminine sides connect internally, allowing a process of creation to begin. A child is conceived and born. Inwardly we can experience it as our being or self to which we finally have access. In the fairy tale it symbolizes the "new life" for the mill, for which the poor miller longs at the beginning. Its poverty is over.

The father of the queen is no longer mentioned at the end. I add the missing final sentence, which occurs in many fairy tales. "A big party was celebrated for the birth of the child. It was a feast of love, to which the miller was also invited, the father of the queen". The set up of this end resulted in this picture.

The representative of the miller feels richly endowed by his daughter. She has brought transformation into his life. He looks full of love at his daughter, his son-in-law and the grandchild. In him he sees that life goes on well. Joy and gratitude fill him.


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