once upon a time there was a little girl: the healing power of fairy tales in the lives of seven women
by Marcella Hannon Shields, Ph.D.
Visit the Order Page
Once Upon a Time There Was a Little Girl shares the moving stories of seven women who as young girls experienced the loss of their mothers through death or physical or emotional abandonment. The women explore their personal traumas through their responses to seven fairy tales in which there was no nurturing maternal presence.
The book is divided into eight Chapters:
I. Spinning Threads That Hold provides a context for the use of the fairy tales and introduces the seven women through the images of the dream that brought them into psychotherapy.
II. In the Name of the Father: The Tale of Rumpelstilskin describes the consequences of believing that we must "get the gold" no matter what the cost and the power of early survival conclusions in our life.
III. Emancipation from Servitude: The Tale of the Handless Maiden focuses on the struggle to reclaim our creative energy in the face of betrayal and the importance of maintaining our personal boundaries and overcoming helplessness.
IV. Rising from the Well of Grief: The Tale of Mother Hulda explores the story of two sisters, one favored and the other rejected by their mother, and examines the shadow-side of life and our relationships with other women.
V. Waking from the Sleep of Ages: The Tale of Briar Rose uncovers the consequences of being denied a spindle for creating the threads of our own destiny by an overprotective father and a negligent mother, and the struggle to awaken our true feminine nature.
VI. Life Under Glass: The Tale of the Raven focuses on the process of recovering self-worth in the face of abandonment and the relationship between trauma and addictions in claiming personal power over our lives.
VII. In Our Mother's Mirror: The Tale of Snow White uncovers the painful dilemma of the child whose mother could not love herself enough to truly love her child, the destructive tyranny of having to be beautiful, and the vital importance of positive mirroring in recognizing our own beauty and goodness.
VIII. The Threads Rewoven reports the reflections of the seven women on the changes in their lives six years after we first worked with the fairy tales in the group. The chapter concludes with a synopsis of their lives nine years later.
Reflection questions at the end of each chapter and in the Appendix invite the reader to personally enter the process.
The poignant life stories and dreams courageously offered by these women show how fairy tales allowed them to understand and refashion themselves, and provide a source of encouragement and hope for other women who have experienced early maternal loss. Mothers. stepmothers, grandmothers, and fathers raising daughters without a consistent maternal presence will also find the reflections valuable.
Psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers and other clinicians interested in the process can contact Dr. Shields through the website.