Wednesday, 23 February 2011



 In this Post I shall attempt to deal at length with THE SHADOW ARCHETYPE and the various ways it is either interpreted or manifests itself. So this is the structure. I shall:

1. define it  according to how I see it  2.  See how it is fulfilled in Tom by way of contrast  3. Show how other characters manifest it.

Without more ado let us define the SHADOW FIRST, then apply it to the Fairy tale.

What then do we mean by THE SHADOW?

I must say right at the start, this is not intended to be an Academic Thesis. Rather, the intention is to provide enough information on this particular ARCHETYPE to enable the reader to explore other Fairy Stories, or other genre with this sort of approach in mind.

So, here goes. From the standpoint of this Post then, the SHADOW ARCHETYPE can be understood as that part of ourselves, which is HIDDEN either from our own Consciousness because the psyche has pushed it ‘further down’, or that is hidden from others because these aspects of our personality would not be acceptable to Society at large. Without becoming too technical, The SHADOW designates any part of ourselves that we reject, and so do not permit to manifest itself, particularly in our dealings with others. An interesting aspect of our personality is that we often project onto others those attributes we most dislike in ourselves.

Let us try to nail it down a little more. The SHADOW represents a set of psychic FORCES that we abhor, if we are ‘normal’, whatever normal is. These forces include such things as primitive urges and drives. They may be unbridled sexual desires, hatreds, jealousies, cantankerousness, selfishness, envy. These forces may be undefined UNTIL they are manifested in some sort of action. For example primitive sexual drives may result in rape, cantankerousness may result in outbursts of anger. In short, we try to keep the SHADOW from manifesting itself in certain forms or else we run the risk of being isolated by others or damage to our health might be a consequence.

It is possible to argue that the SHADOW DRIVES are not always negative. They may in fact, push to be recognised and cause a change in our behaviour. For instance no one likes to be seen as an individual who is filled with fear, yet such a psychological condition may save one from deliberately encountering a dangerous situation. We could go on, but  this is such a huge aspect and is outside our main idea.

I must state briefly that this notion of the SHADOW proposes some sort of Universal Moral Code that may well be built into the Human organism. Such an idea might not be far off, for whatever Tribal society one studies, or whatever nation one looks at the more we might be persuaded that some sort of Common Moral Code exists. For example throughout Europe, and extending to the furthest reaches of the World there seem to be certain inbuilt principles such as 1. Telling the Truth as opposed to lying   2. Punishment for theft   3. Abhorrence of cheating or deception   4. Not bearing false Witness against another   5. Avoidance of Adultery  6. Abomination of incest (not in every tribe or nation but most)  6. Murder is severely punished  7. Physical or Mental abuse is deplored 8. A desire to take care of the environment (Western Europe is conscious of  pillaging the earth, yet carries on doing so), which means having regard for the preservation of animals and plants. 9. Care for young children and in many cultures but not all; care for the aged and infirm.

I think enough has been said to imply that hardly anyone deliberately – unless they are mentally unstable – violates these codes. Nevertheless, the drives within do exist. I repeat, the Shadow, can be interpreted as the other side of ourselves.

What then in is the connection with the Fairy Tale, ‘Tom Thumb’? How is the SHADOW manifested in Tom Thumb and in other characters?

Let us look at Tom Thumb first. Here seems a very strange state of affairs. Tom definitely seems to have a duel nature, but THE TRICKSTER dominates most. Let me explain.

It is not as easy as one thinks to isolate THE SHADOW in the character of Tom Thumb himself. Why not?

Quite simply because the writer presents Tom in a LIMITED way, therefore the READER’S own viewpoint (Reader Response) must come into play and this is the joy of literature, the JUDGEMENTS of disparate readers will vary. Let us see why.

We must appreciate that the SHADOW is NOT the actions which a person, or character exhibits; Murder is not the SHADOW it is an ACTION FUELLED BY THE SHADOW. It might be based on the drives of Greed, Jealousy, or  Bitterness. So in evaluating Tom’s BEHAVIOUR we need to ask:

1. How do WE see his actions?  2. On what DRIVES do these actions seem to be based?
3. What underlying EMOTIONS drive his behaviour?  4. Does he try to HIDE his actions (forcing them into the SHADOW) or does he feel they are not condemned socially?

Perhaps in the case of Tom Thumb himself the reader’s own judgement is the key. In the case of the other characters that I shall discuss the SHADOW is plain to see. Ask yourself, the things that Tom does, do I APPROVE of them to such an extent that they pass beyond the actions of A TRICKSTER and enter the realms of a MALICIOUS character? We shall see. It is worth keeping in mind that the AUTHOR does NOT appear to condemn or castigate Tom’s behaviour.

In the story there are over twenty EMOTIONAL STATES described. The following are the ones that apply to Tom.

He is described early on in the story as ‘crafty’. I have dealt with this in my previous Post. There I argued that this characterized him as a TRICKSTER. Can we push it deeper? I think we can. Look more carefully at the text. I shall Capitalize the salient areas.

“as he got older he became very CUNNING AND full of tricks.”

That is clear enough. He became CUNNING. This describes a set of actions fuelled by the SHADOW. What were these actions and on what DRIVES from the SHADOW can we spot? What did this behaviour result in and on what was it based? Look at the text.

“When Tom had “lost all his own cherry-stones, he used to creep into the bags of his playfellows, fill his pockets, and, getting out unseen, would again join in the game.”

It would seem to me fairly clear. The vibrations of he SHADOW were vibrations of GREED. These vibrations Manifested in –I know it is a bit strong-Tom’s becoming a THIEF.

I have capitalized AND because this, to me, perhaps not to other readers, seems somewhat milder, especially when the author does not tell us what these TRICKS were. He was not exhibiting any characteristics of the SHADOW when ‘his mother was making a batter-pudding’ and Tom climbed onto the rim of the bowl because he was simply curious to see what was going on. We know he fell into the mixture and on ‘feeling the hot water, he kicked and struggled … in the pot’ You must judge whether this anxiety, that caused Tom to wriggle and try to cry out was an impulse from the SHADOW based on fear of death.  One has to be careful not to squeeze everything into some sort of theoretical interpretation.


We encounter the same thing when he is in the Tinker’s bag;  when he is in the mouth of the cow and was ‘afraid of her great teeth, which threatened to crush him in pieces’; again, when he is trapped in the Giant’s Castle and in the Giant’s stomach; Finally, when he is swallowed by the Great Fish, like Jonah.


These are all examples of SITUATIONS which GENERATE FEAR. Ask yourself, are there any circumstances where FEAR is NOT part of the SHADOW ARCHETYPE? If you think it is always characteristic of the SHADOW at work, then push it further and ask, does this imply that sometimes the vibrations of the SHADOW can result in POSITIVE action; action that can enable one to escape an apparent doom.

I have my own interpretation of that question, but I have said enough on Tom’s attributes in this Post and in the previous one. It is my purpose to stimulate your responses. If I have succeeded then that is enough.

One thing is sure, that Tom was elated at being delivered from the Great Fish.



Before exploring the manifestation of the SHADOW in other characters I want to comment on those in whom the SHADOW DOES NOT MANIFEST. In fact, they seem so idealized – we remember it is fiction – that the Shadow does not seem to form in their psyche at all. Again, we must remember it is FICTION. Even so an observation or two might be enlightening.

The characters in question are: Merlin, a Poor  Ploughman and his wife, the Queen of the Fairies, unnumbered Fairies, King Arthur’s Queen.



First let us look at Merlin. We first meet him when he visits the poor Ploughman and his wife. The author does not skip over the details concerning Merlin. Note how he delineates Merlin’s PERSONALITY. I have capitalized for emphasis.

“In the year 516, there lived a GREAT magician, called Merlin, the MOST LEARNED and SKILFUL enchanter in the world at that time.

This GREAT magician, who could assume any form he pleased, was
travelling and …. stopped at the cottage of an honest ploughman”

There is no suggestion here of anything obnoxious in Merlin’s character. Instead, the author influences the reader to admire Merlin as much as he does.

Then Merlin interacts with those of a similar disposition, the poor Ploughman and his Wife. Once more the writer goes to great pains to suggest that this pair are not influenced by THE SHADOW at all. Notice the stress on the PERSONAL QUALITIES once more.

The Ploughman is described as giving Merlin, ‘ a HEARTY welcome’. He was not simply performing a duty towards a traveling stranger. The PERSONAL QUALITIES of the Ploughman’s wife come to our attention next. She is ‘a very GOOD HEARTED, HOSPITABLE woman’, who immediately cares for her unfamiliar guest. She rapidly ‘brought him some milk in a wooden bowl, and some coarse brown bread on a platter.’ Incidentally, the mention of ‘coarse brown bread’ reveals their lowly social level.

Because Merlin detects a true sincerity at the bottom of the actions of this couple – their motivations are not driven by the SHADOW, he initiates a reward for their kindness.

There is an old saying, “Birds of a Feather, Flock together”. This simply means that individuals with similar interests, or who possess the same personal qualities, group together. How true that is in this case. Merlin and the Peasant Pair share the same characteristics; they are interested in the Welfare of others devoid of any SHADOW motivations. Let us see who Merlin can count as his companions and what action he takes in behalf of the Ploughman and his Wife.

He notices the unhappiness of the Peasant Pair because of their childlessness. He acts at once to remedy this.


‘Merlin … made up his mind to pay a visit to the Queen of the Fairies, and ask her to grant the poor woman's wish’. She immediately grants Merlin’s request and the takes a PERSONAL INTEREST in the birth of Tom, to such an extent that the ‘Fairy Queen, wishing to see the little fellow thus born into the world, came in at the window while the mother was sitting up in bed admiring him.’ The fairy Queen like Merlin and the new parents has apparently no SHADOW DRIVES either. She is uninhibitedly AFFECTIONATE, for she ‘kissed the child,’ and also named it ‘Tom Thumb’. The Fairy Queen goes even further. She instructs the other fairies to dress the infant, which they promptly do. Once more then these characters, Merlin, The poor Peasants, the Fairy Queen and her attendants are like MIRRORS, DUPLICATES of each other. All of whom appear blameless. All perform the same acts of caring for others. I am not going to draw out a moral tale here. Feel free to do so if you wish.

But what is rather strange is the PERSONALITY of Tom. One would expect that with such genealogical origins he would also be blameless. I have suggested that Tom fulfils the role of TRICKSTER. Nevertheless a case could be made out that Tom WAS THE SHADOW IMAGE of the characters in the previous paragraph.

Finally, let us look at the Queen of King Arthur. There is only a passing mention of this lady. It occurs after Tom has been delivered from the Great fish and amuses her and the rest of King Arthur’s Court. However, unlike the Queen of King Thunstone, whom we shall consider later, Arthur’s queen exhibits no malicious tendencies whatsoever. This does not mean tha she has none. But there is nothing in the text to suggest that the Shadow plays any part in her actions.

Now we must turn to those who are either wholly or partially in the grip of theSHADOW and look at their actions.

These include King Arthur’s Cook, King Arthur himself, The Miller, and the Queen of King Thunstone.

In each of the above instances the characters have some connection with the EARTHLY Royal Court. Somehow, because of this connection, the SHADOW is drawn forth. I do not think it stretches the interpretation to suggest that perhaps in some respects THE EARTHLY ROYAL COURT IS THE SHADOW, OF THE FAIRY COURT.

Let us see, then how this works its way out.

First, let us consider King Arthur’s Cook. Look how the writer sets him up. When we initially meet this man, Tom has accidentally landed in the soup that the cook is preparing for the King. His personality is characterized by his being ‘an ill-natured fellow.’ As a result of this cantankerousness, he flies into ‘a TERRIBLE RAGE’. Then in an act of vengeance he LIES to the King that  ‘Tom had jumped into the royal furmenty, and thrown it down out of mere mischief.’ This was not true. The Cook’s whole demeanour was propelled by the SHADOW.

However, Tom manages to escape execution by acting swiftly. Unfortunately he appears in front of the King again. Once more the Cook acts under the impulse of THE SHADOW. The Cook ‘was determined that Tom should not slip out of his hands this time’. So what action does this GRUDGE-BEARING Cook take? He has Tom placed in prison, inside a mouse-trap, and left him to peep through the wires.’ Without a doubt this man is almost a personification of the SHADOW. After which, the Cook disappears from the story.

But, another character motivated by the SHADOW comes into the picture. This is the Miller. For some reason, which we are not given, he appears to be in the company of the King and his Court. He is described as a country boobie, ‘gaping with his great mouth’ As we recall he inadvertently provides Tom with a means of escape, but later after Tom has jumped out of the man’s throat, we see the Miller’s SHADOW personality emerge. ‘ The Miller, who was very much provoked at being tormented by such a little pygmy creature, fell into TERRIBLE RAGE.’ Without delay he carts Tom off to the King for judgement. Once more our little man ends up in custody. Similar to the Cook, we hear no more of the Miller. Once Tom’s fortunes change these characters, who personify THE SHADOW, retreat once more whence they came.

Let us see how the SHADOW occasionally manifests itself in the person of King Arthur.

He is introduced to us at the start of the tale as ‘the famed Prince Arthur, who was King of Britain, in the year 516,’ There is no mention of his temperament until the tale progresses. We meet him first when Tom is delivered from the Big fish and appears on Arthur’s table. The King, full of bonhomie made Tom his dwarf. Tom continues in the Royal favour and amuses the King and the Court ‘by his tricks and gambols’. So close is the relationship of King Arthur and Tom that ‘when the King rode out on horseback he often took Tom along with him’, and he even protects Tom from a shower of rain, which would no doubt drown the little man. He does this by allowing Tom to ‘creep into his majesty's waistcoat pocket, where he slept till the rain was over.’ Here is an example of warm intimacy with no trace of the SHADOW. Not yet! In fact, the King is even more generous towards his little dwarf. He demonstrates this when, discovering that Tom’s parents are relatively poor. After being informed of this fact ‘the king carried Tom to the treasure’ and gives him money to take home to his parents.

However, the King’s good nature will not last. He is somewhat fickle and driven at times by the impulses of the SHADOW. We see this when the Miller takes Tom to the King because of the soup incident. Notice Arthur’s reaction:

"The king was so ENRAGED when he heard this, that he ordered Tom to be seized and tried for high treason; and there being no person who dared to plead for him, he was condemned to be beheaded immediately."

Only a person whose SHADOW impulses could rise to the surface would immediately condemn to death his own favourite. This is almost schizophrenic behaviour. In fact, whilst the King was dominated by the Shadow we notice, ‘no person … DARED to plead’ for Tom. What an extreme charge, ‘High Treason,’ and what an extreme penalty the King imposes ‘Beheading’.

Perhaps because in this story, the King is presented as an ABSOLUTE MONARCH the SHADOW can rise to the surface without any check.

Eventually, the SHADOW retreats and the King once more surfaces the other side of his nature. King Arthur pardons Tom, restores him to his favour and gives him a knighthood.

Soon, Tom is taken to Fairyland and on his return all who knew him previously have died. The Queen of the Fairies has him suitably dressed and sends him on his way. Now, he finds himself in the Court of King Thunstone and his Queen. Once more the SHADOW surfaces.



I shall dwell only on Thunstone’s Queen, for it seems, as we shall see, that the King himself reacts only to the urgings of his JEALOUS Queen. We have no evidence that Thunstone manifests the SHADOW except that Tom ‘fears the Royal Anger.’ Whether or not such anger would be expressed when Tom is called into his presence is another matter.

When he arrives at King Thunstone’s Court , all the Courtiers ‘flocked round to see him’. Tom is taken to the King, who seems a good-natured, benevolent sort. When Tom tells the King:

   "My name is Tom Thumb,
   From the fairies I've come.
   When King Arthur shone,
   His court was my home.
   In me he delighted,
   By him I was knighted;
   Did you never hear of Sir Thomas Thumb?"

The king was so delighted with the way the tiny man presented himself that ‘he ordered a little chair to be made, in order that Tom might sit upon his table’ He also had constructed ‘a palace of gold, a span high, with a door an inch wide, to live in.’ But the benevolent King had not finished. ‘He also gave him a coach, drawn by six small mice.’

But now Tom was in real danger as the SHADOW motivated the Queen to act. The deep down vibration of JEALOUSY  ‘so enraged’ the Queen because of ‘the honor paid to Sir Thomas that she resolved to ruin him’ Like the Cook she LIED to the King, insinuating that ‘the little knight had been saucy to her.’ Immediately nudged into it by his Queen, Thunstone ‘sent for Tom in great haste’. We are not told whether this was simply to validate the Queen’s accusation or not. Even so, Tom was afraid that he might fall victim to  the ‘royal anger’. As a result he eventually attempts to flee on a butterfly. But his flight falters and once more he is brought into the King’s Court.



The Queen has not changed her attitude towards Tom at all. ‘When she saw him she was in a RAGE’ and manages to maneuver events so that Tom is once more awaiting possible execution. However, as things turn out the ‘king received Tom again into favor.’ Unfortunately as we know, he was killed by the Spider soon afterwards.

There you have it. The SHADOW ARCHETYPE in ‘Tom Thumb’

My exposition has been a PERSONAL interpretation based on my application of Jung’s ideas. It is in no sense intended to be anything other than a stimulus to your own reading of this or any other work of literature.

Whilst you are pondering upon it, ask yourself which of the following ARCHETYPAL THEMES does it emphasise. Is it a story of 1. Rags to Riches  2. Voyage and Return. 3. Death and Rebirth or perhaps other themes? There are generally considered to be only about SEVEN ARCHETYPAL THEMES throughout all literature. When we examine ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ in a later post I shall isolate others.

I intend to give you a break from ARCHETYPES IN FAIRY TALES and return later to discuss ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ So, in the next Post I shalll return to “The Paranormal in Victorian Literature” in which I shall discuss, ‘The Lifted Veil’ by George Eliot.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed the discussion on the Fairy Tale Archetypes thus far. In this connection I am quite sure my regular commentators will have some observations to make.

Any Comments?

Picture Credits Wikipedia Commons.



  1. I have learned that it is perhaps important to discriminate between The Shadow itself and actions fueled by The Shadow.

    There is a quick-loading version of "The Lifted Veil" in a very legible type-face on which prints out in only 38 pages.

  2. You have a unique ability to notice the slightest details contained within a story and bring these details to life. For example, when Merlin is visiting the ploughman and his wife you write:

    "She rapidly ‘brought him some milk in a wooden bowl, and some coarse brown bread on a platter.’ Incidentally, the mention of ‘coarse brown bread’ reveals THEIR LOWLY SOCIAL LEVEL."
    (Capitalization is mine)

    Also, your grouping of Merlin, the ploughman and his wife, and the fairies all together is quite profound.

    All of these characters allude to Good Spirits.
    Good Spirits, whether elemental beings, angelic creatures, or human beings, all have one common thread. They provide favors and blessings for the betterment of another well deserving soul. And they do these things happily and graciously; with "no strings attached".

    The rewards which good spirits receive are in seeing the happiness they create within others.

    This separates them, quite dramatically, from those who only offer services as part of a Pact,
    or contract, which come with all sort of uncomfortable "strings attached".

    All of us who enjoy the enchantments contained within Fairy Tales admire the superior qualities of these Good Spirits.

    I'm looking forward to your next posting.

    Joe Panek

  3. Did you know you can shorten your long urls with AdFly and earn cash for every visitor to your short links.