Achieving Individuation: A Jungian Archetypal Analysis Of ‘Snow White’ And ‘Cinderella’

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Fairy tales are timeless stories. They are an integral part of human tradition. It arose thousands of years ago from a wide variety of tiny tales. They were widespread throughout the world and continue in our own day, though the older forms and contents have changed to reflect new realities. They were originally handed from one generation to the next by storytelling. The oral tradition of storytelling allowed each teller to make adaptations that pertained to the current conditions, or to add different morals depending on the audience.

The most common fairy tales were not originally written for children. It is said that they were told by women, and were often more inventive and nastier than the tales first put into print. As simple, imaginative oral tales that contained magical and miraculous elements, it was originally related to the then belief systems, values, rites and experiences of pagan people. Then it underwent numerous transformations. It shaped and was re-shaped by the interaction of orality and print and other technological innovations like film, radio and so.

Yet, every versions of fairy tale have deep, symbolic meanings that shed light in the culture that originated the tale. Also, there were lots of similarities in these tales. These similarities are those in the meaning conveyed, through certain archetypes (the recurrent patterns) in almost every story. In a nutshell, one can say that fairy tales changed with the cultural needs, demands and ideologies. The symbols and archetypes have remained virtually the same in all versions, though fairy tales changed over time to adapt to the society.


There have been lots of studies and research on fairy tales. Perhaps, Jack Zipes is presently the most popular figure in the field of fairy tale studies. Jack Zipes, in ‘When Dreams Come True’, discusses the history of fairy tales, fairy tales from different countries, and the Grimm Brothers collections. Zipes focuses on “the role the literary fairy tale has assumed in the civilizing process by impairing values, norms and aesthetic tastes to children and adults.”

Bruno Bettelheim, a child psychologist, looked at the psychological meaning of fairy tales for children. In his book ‘The Uses of Enchantment’, Bettelheim explained the symbols found in the classic ‘snow white’ story and interpreted the morals found in the fairy tale. He wrote the book to help the audience “to become fully aware of the importance of fairy tales. ” N. J. Girardot discusses myths and fairy tales in his article ‘Initiation and Meaning in the Tale of Snow White’. He shows the underlying structure of the tale of Snow White and relates it to different phases of a girl’s maturation.


This project will look at the archetypes found in various versions of fairy tales- literary and digital. Different sources are used to gather the various versions of popular fairy tales, especially ‘Snow White’ and ‘Cinderella’. Concentrating on the archetypes, the paper will explore on how the theory of the collective unconscious is related to fairy tales and how it works in the versions till date. Through an analysis, it intends to show that the theory of the collective unconscious is valid for all literature of all time, with the archetypes in them.

Recently, there have been lots of studies and research on fairy tales. Around the world, there is an enhanced interest in fairy tale studies, which has now become one of the most popular research topics in various large universities. This research, relating fairy tales and archetypes, is quite significant if we look into the modern or contemporary literature. Many of the modern fiction include fairy tale elements as well as archetypal elements in them. Thus, the relevance if this study of fairy tales and archetypes lies in almost every branch if literature.


Fairy tale is one of the oldest literary genres. It is a genre of folk literature, representing mythology, folk wisdom, moral lessons and entertainment. They present the social norms of human behavior. Fairy tales are a type of short stories that typically feature such fairy tale characters, as elves, fairies, goblins, dwarfs, giants, trolls or gnomes, and often also magic and spells. However, only a small number of fairy tales refer to fairies. Fairy tales for kids may, nevertheless, be distinguished

from other types of folk narratives such as ballads and legends and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables. Fairy tales are common in oral as well as in literary form. The history of fairy tales is very difficult to trace accurately because only the literary forms can survive in a more or less exact original form. As the transmission of folk tales was particularly oral, many local variants of the tales appeared. Each of them reflected the social and cultural conditions of the story tellers and listeners, and also their expectations and ideals.

Such a variability and modification of the main storyline is one of the characteristics of the fairy tale genre. In certain parts of the world, in which cultures creatures such as demons, wizards and witches were perceived as real, fairy tales may have evolved into legends. Unlike legends and epics, however, fairy tales usually contain only superficial references to religious practices and actual places, events and people. They often take place “once upon a time” and not in actual specified time setting. Fairy tales fall into the basic genre of the oral folk literature.

The term oral ‘folklore’ represents various kinds of orally transmitted literature in the form of narration or verse. It includes folk wisdoms, sayings and proverbs, myths, legends and, fairy tales. Even if we know that many ancient texts similar to our fairy tales existed, the particular name “fairy tale” was first used by the French writer Madame d’Aulnoy, who named her stories “contes de fee”(a fairy tale) on the outset of eighteenth century. A fairy tale is said to be an epic narration that tells a simple, fictional story which may show a similarity with myth.

There are various approaches to the classification of the fairy tale genre. Some are based on their motives, some on their similarities in storylines, characters, linguistic features and content. General classification of fairy tales is based on the similarity of storylines and differentiates into three main classes of tales:

Magic fairy tales, which are characterized as stories with some occurrence of a magic thing or enchantment.
Animal fairy tales, where Animals represent people and have human qualities.
Legendary fairy tales, where biblical characters can appear.

So, as per the above classification, both ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Snow White’ belong to the category of magic fairy tales. Fairy tales of various cultures show different features. They penetrate into other genres as myths or legends, and may accept features of fables, etc. Thus, the classification of fairy tales is broad and not so easy.


a) Oral fairy tales

A fairy tale represents very popular form of folk narration. Since it was handed from one generation to the next by storytelling, fairy tales changed a bit every time it was told.

The teller modifies the storyline and characters to interest his audience. The modifications designed for specific audience are usual in the whole history of every narration. Such an adaptation of a story guarantees its further circulation because the story is kept current and interesting. Also, more plots and additional motives can be added and this will influence the consequent choice of characters. The early history of fairy tales and myths were handed down through generations in the oral tradition by peasants, story tellers, dancers, in feast around the festival fire, or by the various leaders.

As tribes wondered around or voyaged to other lands, their tales spread and were shared. Tribes intermarried and, eventually, women passed on what they had known. Although cultures were different, much was the same in the overall experience throughout the mortal world- life, death, love, joy, hate, strife, survival and the cycles of nature. They could all relate to each other’s stories, having very similar themes. Through the centuries, tales, gradually, were tamed down, became more fanciful and noble so as to fit a modern, cultured society.

The history of fairy tales, myths and legends dates back to ancient India, Persia, Egypt as well as some of the Greek and Roman mythology. Various versions of these legends and myths already existed in the old world of Europe and America. Eventually, they were written down and evolved into the so called fairy tales. It is impossible to separate out the changes and variations occurred to fairy tales, and follow their history. In other words, one cannot trace a fairy tale to the place or the culture of its origin certainly. Although a fairy tale can be recorded, in the moment of its record the narration becomes invariable.

The oral transmission of tales does not stabilize by its recording, but the narration develops further. Thus, more and more variants of one fairy tale have been created.

b) Literary fairy tales:

Fairy tales were, originally, not written for children, but for adults. They were not suitable for children at all, in fact, with questionable content and much cruelty and violence. As they were passed down through the centuries, they have been rewritten for the younger generations. Orally transmitted stories attracted attention of collectors of folk production within Europe in the sixteenth century.

The first European collectors of folk tales were the Italian authors Giovanni Francesco Straparola and G. Basile with collections of tales ‘The Facetious Nights’ and ‘Neapolitan Tales’. Charles Perrault, a French collector of seventeenth century, collected common French folktales in ‘Mother Goose Tales’. Perrault’s tales included ‘The Cinderella Story’, ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, ‘The Bluebeard’, etc. He transcribed eleven fairy tales overall, most of which are very popular today. On the turn of the 18th and 19th century, the Brothers Grimm collected the German folktales.

Their first work was published in 1812. It contained tales in more than ten German original dialects. Their first edition contained a record of a Cinderella story, which was told to them by a young French woman named Marie Hassentug. This fairy tale and some others were omitted in the second edition, because the Brothers Grimm considered them French and not originally German. Literary and language changes were also made in the second edition of the fairy tales in 1815 to make the tales more acceptable to the readers. Yet, both of these editions became an inspiration for the next collectors of folk tales.

The name ‘fairy tales’ came long before the time of Brothers Grimm. Madame d’Aulnoy of France was the first to use the term, introducing it to her friends at their parties. They were told to and meant for adults. She used the phrase ‘fairy tale’ in French as ‘contes de fee’, and had her writings published. The word ‘fee’ referred to a woman of magic; ‘feerie’ referred to illusion. As use of these words spread, they came to be known as ‘faerie’ or ‘fairy’ in English speaking countries. The term ‘fairy tales’ first appeared in Oxford Dictionary in 1749.

In the 18th century, the writings of Jean Marie Le Prince de Beaumont (also in France), became popular, especially since her stories were written more for children. She was one of the first to do so. Particularly wide spread was her ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Around the same time frame as the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century, Hans Christian Anderson was collecting and publishing his fairy tales in Denmark. He is known as the father of modern fairy tales. His stories such as ‘Thumbelina’, ‘The Snow White’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, spread far and wide.

Again, they had a certain amount of conflict and sadness, very understandable to the common folk of the time. Many of the fairy tales were not about fairies. They included other creatures like trolls, goblins, elves, dwarfs, giants, gnomes, and also talking beasts such as dragons, unicorns, centaurs, and phoenix birds. There was somehow a knowing that the world beyond the veil was vast and rich, though no human eye ever saw it. So, all fairy tales happened “once upon a time” and not in actual specified setting.


A lot of modern theory on what makes a good story is based on the work of Carl. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell, both of whom were fascinated with mythology and religion. The great psychologist and philosopher, Carl Gustav Jung, influenced the mythological criticism greatly. He believed that there exists a “universal unconscious”. This idea indicates that every individual has access to “a shared set of images, called archetypes, common to all people”. The universal unconscious was expressed in art, literature and myth and Jungian literary criticism focused specifically on the analysis of archetypes in literature and written mythology.

Much of the literary characters that we are most familiar with from legends, fairy tales and mythology are examples of what Jung would classify as archetypes. According to Jung’s notion of the psyche, the human mind can be divided into two- the conscious part and the unconscious part. The unconscious part of the mind covers all the life experience, knowledge, education and social training. It contains aspects of any skill acquired during the life. The skill is later brought into practice consciously, with the awareness of its reason and consequence.

The personal unconscious layer of the mind covers acquired life experience and behavior, of which reasons and origin cannot be easily identified. An example of unconscious experience is fear of a dog. The person is aware of his or her fear because of previous attack. If a dog attacks a small child, and it forgets it, the experience is suppressed and becomes a part of the unconscious. The child then feels uneasy with dogs for the rest of his life, without knowing the reason. Carl Jung believed that beneath these two layers of the conscious and the unconscious, there lies another layer which he called the “collective unconscious”.

In developing his theory of racial memory and archetypes, Jung asserted that beneath the conscious and unconscious layers of mind “is a primeval, collective unconscious shared in the psychic inheritance of all members of the human family”. As Jung himself explains in ‘The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche’, ‘If it were possible to personify the unconscious, we might think of it as a collective human being combining the characteristics of both the sexes, transcending youth and age, birth and death, and from having at its command a human experience of one or two million years, practically immortal.

If such a being existed, it would be exalted over all temporal change; the present would mean neither more nor less to it than any year in the hundredth millennium before Christ; …it would have lived countless times over again the life of the individual, the family, the tribe, and the nation, and it would possess a living sense of the rhythm of growth, flowering and decay. ’(349-50) Thus, the collective unconscious covers the experience of whole humankind, acquired during millions of years of the human evolution. Jung described the content of the collective unconscious more explicitly.

He claims that there are behavioral patterns (that are collective) in every human mind. Just as certain instincts are inherited by the lower Animals (for example, the instinct of the baby chicken to run from a hawk’s Shadow), so more complex psychic predispositions are inherited by human beings. Jung says that “mind is not born as a ‘tabula-rasa’ [a clean slate]. Like the body, it has its pre-established individual definiteness; namely, forms of behavior. They become manifest in the ever-recurring patterns of psychic functions”.

He refers to the manifestations as “archetypes” or “motifs” or “primordial images”. Thus, Jung presented the notion of an archetype- a symbolic demonstration of the collective behavioral patterns in every human mind. “These archetypes can be found only in the human’s unconscious and people consciously do not know that they follow a general pattern of behavior. (Jung) This theory suggests that all people have all the possible archetypes in the unconscious part of the mind. The adequate archetype activates and controls our behavior according to various life situations.

Jung detected an intimate relationship between dreams, myths and art in that all three serves as media through which archetypes become accessible to consciousness. In other words, myths are the means by which archetypes, essentially unconscious forms, become manifest and articulate to the conscious mind. The context of character, situation and places can provide a space for a particular archetype to occur. The universal unconscious was expressed in art, literature and myth, and Jungian literary criticism focused specifically on analysis of archetypes in literature and written mythology.

A Jungian literary may simply evaluate the effectiveness as a particular archetype in a novel. While reading literature in Jungian literary criticism, the central character is viewed as real, while most other characters are seen as symbolic representations of aspects of the hero’s unconscious self. The characters all stand for parts of the protagonist’s unconscious desires or parts of the unconscious which the character has yet to access.


According to Carl Gustav Jung, the goal of all humans is to achieve a state where the unconscious is known and integrated into the conscious mind.

In other words, the unconscious aim of all people is to become their own self. This process is called individuation. Individuation is the final stage of the human development that represents the union of the matured individual identity with one of the unconscious archetypes. It is a process that can take the whole life, but it can also be achieved through a particular life situation. Individuation is a reconciliation of a man with his real self, which has to be consciously accepted and requires extra courage and honesty.

The theory of individuation is related to those archetypes designated as the ‘Shadow’, ‘Persona’ and the ‘Anima/Animus’. The Shadow, the Persona, and the Anima/ Animus are the structural components of the psyche that human beings have inherited. We encounter these archetypes throughout the myths and the literatures. Here, the Anima/Animus, the Shadow, and the Persona are projected, respectively, in the character of the heroine, the villain and the hero. The Shadow is the darker side of our conscious self, the inferior and less pleasing aspects of the Personality, which we wish to suppress.

The most common variant of the archetype, when projected, is the Devil. In Jung’s words, the Devil represents the “dangerous aspect of the unrecognized dark half of the Personality”. Shadow contains all the negative tendencies the individual wishes to deny, including our Animal instincts, as well as our undeveloped positive and negative qualities. Its contents include those tendencies, desires and memories that are rejected by the individual and are contrary to the social standards and ideals. The Persona is the appearance we present to the world.

It is the character we assume and that which we relate to others. The Persona includes our social roles, the kind of clothes we choose to wear and our individual styles of expressing ourselves. The term ‘Persona’ comes from the Latin, meaning “mask” or “false-face”, as in the mask worn by an actor on a stage through which he speaks. Jung, in discussing this social mask, explains that, to acheive psychological maturity, the individual must have a flexible, viable Persona that can be brought into harmonious relationship with the other components of his/her psychic make-up.

He states, furthermore, that a Persona that is too artificial and rigid results in such symptoms of neurotic disturbance as irritability and melancholy. The Anima/Animus is perhaps the most complex of Jung’s archetypes. It is the complement of the Persona. The Anima and Animus are the unconscious or true inner self of an individual, as opposed to the Persona or outer aspect of the personality. The Anima is for males and the Animus is for females. It can be identified as the totality of the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a male possess; or the masculine psychological qualities possessed by the female.

The Anima manifests itself by appearing as figures in dreams as well as by influencing a man’s interaction with women and his attitudes towards them, and vice-versa for females and the Animus. The Anima functions as the primary mediator between unconscious and conscious. It is oriented primarily towards inner process, just as the Persona is oriented to the outer. In this project, two of the most popular fairy tales have been selected- Cinderella and Snow White. Both the fairy tales will be analyzed and interpreted based on the Jungian psychology.

Indicating that both the fairy tales are actually a psychological process, I will try to reveal the archetypes in the stories and show how Snow White and Cinderella goes through the process of individuation to achieve their true self. Also, by analyzing both fairy tales from this perspective, I will try to reveal the similarity of archetypes in these independently created fairy tales.


‘Snow White’ is a magic fairy tale. It is the story in which a child is victimized by an adult. Adult anxieties and jealousies cause the adult in the story to act against the children, who are being the objects of adult jealousy.

‘Snow White’ is a classic example of a fairy tale with many characteristic fairy tale elements. There are magical elements, a fictional setting, and characters with supernatural powers, a heroine, a happy ending and themes of adult anxieties. Snow White goes through changes from a girl to a woman by the end of the story. In almost every version of Snow White these elements exists. The most popular and current version of ‘Snow White’ is Disney’s 1937 movie ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. The Disney movie is very similar to the oldest known copy of the tale, the Grimm Brother’s 1857 version of ‘Little Snow White’.

The Grimms collected the fairy tales that they printed from oral tales. The probable beginning of the story of Snow White exists in an oral tale. There are many other versions of ‘Snow White’, mostly found in Italy and all similar to the Grimm Brothers’ version. While some of the details of the story may have been changed to fit each culture, the same themes exist in each story, though each version was independently created. In other words, the story of Snow White can be found with little variations all over the world.

So, it is a fairy tale which has a lot of meanings for many people and, like myth, continues to fascinate.


Although the most famous version of the tale today is Disney’s classic Animated film ‘Snow White and the Seven dwarfs’, it has existed in many versions in the centuries preceding Disney. The Grimm Brothers collected the tale from the two sisters- Jeannette and Amalie Hassenpflug- who lived in the town of Cassel. The tale was well-known before the Grimms’ collection however and appeared with little variation from Ireland to Asia Minor to Central Africa.

The earliest version of the tale can be found in Giambattista Basile’s ‘Pentameron’. It is believed that Basile’s literary version influenced the versions which followed. Disney based his film on the Grimms’ version of the tale. Disney actually changed some aspects of the tale which had been edited out in the previous versions intended for children, especially the Queen’s demand that Snow White’s heart be delivered to her as proof of the child’s death. In 2012, a Hollywood film ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ based on this tale was released by the Universal Studio.


The tale of Snow white is a very simple one but it still holds much for us that remains deeply buried within its simplicity. Perhaps it was ‘invented’ to show us something of ourselves and perhaps these simple stories are, as C. G. Jung considers myth to be, the ‘unconscious expressions of ourselves’. Like dreams, fairy tales including Snow White and Cinderella, appears to be a product of the human unconscious, that offer a vision that is complementary to the prevailing conscious view.

But instead of a dream that functions from the individual psyche, the fairy tale seems to function from an entire culture. It is effectively a collective fantasy. As it is told and retold, elements of the story added by the individual teller fall away, while the more universal theme remain. So it becomes valid for the group of people in general. In this analysis of ‘Little Snow White’ (as recorded by the Grimm Brothers), I will assume that the whole story describes a state of immature feminine psyche. All the images in the story will be seen as aspects of a feminine.

Based on Jungian literary criticism, the central character, Snow White, is viewed as real while the other characters (evil step-mother, the huntsman, the seven dwarfs, and the Prince) are seen as symbolic representations of the various aspects of the heroine’s unconscious self. These characters all stand for parts of the unconscious which the heroine will eventually access. The story starts out with a Queen sitting alone by a window in mid-winter. While sewing, a needle pricks her finger and three drops of blood falls on the white snow.

Gazing at the drops of blood, the Queen wishes for a girl who is as white as snow, with black hair and cheeks as red as rose. The insistence on whiteness of the girl implies that darker, shadowy aspects are not wished for by the biological mother. They are missing in her child, although the black of the hair hints at deep darkness. ‘Snow White’- the name alone sets the stage and the theme: the story will be about the heroine’s- or a female psyche’s- confrontation with and integration of Shadow aspects. The Queen’s reflection, Jung considers, is a masculine trait within the feminine.

The Animus often uses the silent image to illustrate ‘a painter…or as a cinema-operator…or owner of a picture gallery…’. Snow White’s mother ‘gazed thoughtfully’ on the image and places her future offspring into its structure by visualizing her future child’s attributes. We can find a pure feminine act of imagination as well as Jung’s ‘masculine trait’ of a mother imaging her daughter’s nature prior to birth. At the start of the story, Snow White or the female psyche is far from complete, as she is both innocent and immature. Also, she lacks a caring mother figure within.

In the first paragraph of the fairy tale, we read how the Queen died at the birth of her child and after her death, ‘…the king took another wife’. This is the only time when Snow White’s father is mentioned. He is an indolent father because he utterly fails to protect his child from the murderous hands of his new wife. The ‘absent one’ in a person’s life or the one that is least mentioned, the father, has an enormous contribution to the whole tale. Snow White starts out with an almost non-existent father figure or ‘Animus’ and at this stage the mother is dead.

This state of the psyche is tragic. It lacks a caring mother image and a father who cannot stand up for her. ‘Doing nothing’ is the most expressive form of violence, because the very act of non-doing prevents its cure. Here, the king does not offer any guidance or suggestions on his daughter’s life. He does not even attempt to control the raging forces within her personified as the wicked step-mother. In other words, he does nothing against the opposite raging or the ‘Shadow’. Thus, the father is like a ‘weak Animus’ in the unconscious.

The counter balance to the weak Animus is an inflated negative feminine ‘Shadow’ which is totally unconscious and seems to possess a peculiar wisdom of its own in the form of the evil stepmother Queen. As we explore through the story, there is a growth of the primal female in the form of wicked stepmother Queen. This dominant Shadow tries to dislodge the Ego- the center of consciousness and one of the major archetypes of the personality. The Ego provides a sense of consistency and direction in our lives.

It tends to oppose whatever might threaten this fragile consistency of consciousness and tries to convince us that we must always consciously plan and analyze our experience. The Ego within Snow White is infantile in development and immense. Thus, it is not a surprise that the Shadow is trying to dislodge the Ego. Here, the stepmother Queen is like the Shadow archetype within the unconscious. In many fairy tales, there are two mother figures: one is totally and absolutely good while the other is just as unequivocally dark, sinister or evil.

Our tale shows a split in the mother archetype in the feminine psyche. The wicked Queen is envious of Snow White because the young girl is becoming very beautiful, and, eventually, more beautiful than the Queen herself. Jealousy and envy between a mother and daughter are debatable topics in our society. Our understanding of motherhood heavily emphasizes a completely selfless, self-sacrificing mother. We label that as the ‘positive’ pole of the mother archetype. We simply cannot accept that a mother could possibly be envious and jealous of her daughter.

Only a wicked stepmother is capable of such ‘unnatural impulses’. As said before, the Ego within Snow White is actually under-developed. The Ego began its own development when Snow White was seven years old. It was then we find terrors expressed by the stepmother Queen. This terror can also accommodate jealousy, a lack of love for the child within, which then becomes hateful and murderous that ‘…she would have been ready to tear her heart out of her body. ’ (Grimm) This is the first phase of Snow White’s life- from birth to pre-adolescence.

During the first phase of her life, Snow White lives in her parental castle literally as well as psychologically. A threatening stepmother’s increasingly malevolent energy (suitable image for a powerful negative mother archetype) propels the heroine into the next phase- the transitional phase. During the transitional phase, the young girl is being prepared for her life as an adult, as a married Queen. In order for her to understand fully all aspects of life, she is “dropped” into the woods, at a distance of seven mountains away from the castle. She lives in a different, secret world.

Now, the transitional stage involves the first glimmer of awareness on the part of Ego. It is considered a threat by the Shadow figure in her psyche- the wicked stepmother. So, the first state of male awareness emerges- the huntsman who will do no harm, but will not protect her either. This is a transit stage for Snow White as she finds herself wandering in the wilderness of the wood abandoned by adults. The Shadow within, the Queen, is out to destroy Snow White (the Shadow is trying to integrate into the Ego) and has hired the services of the huntsman as the killer.

Thus enters the second male figure in the tale. The hunter is unable to kill Snow White, as he is taken by her beauty and innocent pleas, and instead tells her to run. (Grimm) It is suggested that the huntsman is an unconscious representation of the father since he is first taken by the Queen’s command and then succumbs to the child. Nevertheless, he is not as violent as the first in that he does do something and he refuses to harm her, but also fails to protect her, letting her go into unknown dangers in the woods. At least, he deceives the Shadow figure and takes back the heart of a deer as a pretense.

The Ego at this stage is under the spell of unknown forces within and is restricted in freedom, ‘…being alienated from normal life’ (Jung) where she continues ‘hiding in the woods’ It is forced to run away from the normal life by the Shadow which is yet unknown. Snow White now wanders through the dark, deep forest and, finally, meets the seven dwarfs. This marks the beginning of the third phase in Snow White’s life. It is a more matured stage. Here, Snow White meets the common man- the seven dwarfs. N. J. Girardot calls this as the liminal period in his article ‘Initiation and Meaning in the Tale of Snow White’.

In many tales the dwarfs are malevolent and destructive beings, but as in this case, they can also be the creative agents of growth and rebirth. Indeed, in this story, the dwarfs can be taken as the divine ancestors, teachers, refiners, guardians, or helpers necessary for a successful initiation. (Girardot, 290) Snow White stays with them and “keeps house” for the first time and thus, in a way, she starts to learn the lore of adult life that will be expected of her. The dwarfs teach her adult tasks, such as cleaning and cooking.

They work all day and expect everyone to do so. Thus, Snow White enters a tentative agreement based on mutual help. The dwarfs warn her against the stepmother Queen. Girardot says that they are like protective agents in the passage of Snow White’s life. (Girardot, 291). The dwarfs are helpful and also a positive force. Carl Jung thought of the dwarfs as a representation of the natural wisdom. They are clarifications of teachers and foster parents. At this point, in her process of individuation, Snow White is introduced to the “masculine creative energy” (Buchholtz, 9).

Her past understanding of the masculine was limited to an absentee father and an encounter with the huntsman. In other words, Snow White did not really have an encounter with the Animus yet. Now, she meets the Animus in the form of many which is ‘undifferentiated’. ‘The Animus also embodies helpful figure…’ as the dwarfs proved to be, and thus starts the Ego’s road back to recovery (Jung). Here, the Animus is the helper who brings the Ego out of its forced, restricted life and, thus, Snow White is once again on her way to success, to achieve individuation.

In this stage, the Shadow becomes aware of the budding Ego. Thus, it takes up a disguise. While she is living with the dwarfs, Snow White is tempted thrice by her stepmother who disguises herself as an old woman selling lace, comb and apples, respectively. “As the dwarfs might be said to represent the creative and positive dimensions of the chaotic condition, the stepmother now directly embodies the negative and destructive dimension of death and decay” (Girardot, 291). The life with the dwarfs has made Snow White more responsible and also free to be herself again.

Thus, the Ego is not under any restrains and begins to develop. The Shadow, the negative aspect, is warned (by the mirror) against this development of the Ego. The stepmother first attempts to kill Snow White with poisoned laces (Grimm). Being tempted by the beautiful laces, Snow White lets her disguised stepmother into the dwarfs’ house. She is now an adolescent tempted by beauty and this temptation leads her to near death. The second time, Snow White is tempted by the comb which also results in her almost death.

The dwarfs manage to save Snow White both the times, but could not save her the third time when she was tempted by the apples. Snow White fails to listen to the dwarfs thrice. Therefore, in the third phase, what we see is a conflict between the Ego and the Shadow. As said before, the Shadow is trying to somehow dislodge the Ego and, in the third attempt, it succeeds. Also, the Ego was actually succumbing to the negative energy of the Shadow. In this state, Sow White is unable to get in touch with her feelings. The split (between the Ego and the Shadow) within herself becomes evident.

She is actually witnessing the hatred expressed by her own negative mother. Here, the Shadow is actually trying to overthrow the Ego and gain control over the female psyche. The Ego, here, is hiding herself and, thereby, grows slowly, making up for the lack of Animus in the psyche. For Snow White’s personal growth, her transcendence is dependent on the process of building up the inadequate masculine father through the help of the dwarfs. In a gist, we can say that in the third phase the Ego is more matured and is on its way to achieve individuation.

It is frequently restrained by the Shadow within the unconscious. Nevertheless, it develops with the help of Animus which it lacked in the first two phases. The fourth and the final phase is when Snow White falls down almost dead and is, later, saved by the Prince. The dwarfs had found Snow White, who had eaten the poisonous apple, dead and they decide to place her in a glass coffin. Later, a Prince is given the coffin by the dwarfs who pity him. The Prince comes into her world only when Snow White is unconscious. Now the Ego is in a comatose stage which is a special kind of sleep.

In this state, the Shadow stops to attack the Ego and does not try to control it. The Ego now has a chance to return to life and at the same time unite with the Animus (the Prince). Thus, in the tale, Snow White is married to the Prince. United in marriage, they return to put the villainous character, the Shadow, in her proper place. In the fourth phase, the Ego recognizes the Shadow, overthrows it and unites with the Animus, thereby, finding its true self. For the first time in the story, the wicked stepmother is ‘invited’ by the Ego. She joins in with what Snow White is doing.

Here, the Shadow is recognized. This is the final process where the Shadow is invited by the Ego to integrate with it. Snow White had suffered so much in her life. She was robbed of her rights as a Princess; she was not allowed to live a normal life. Despite this, she does not show any sort of rage or grief. As Jung says, this can happen only when the Prince or the Animus has established itself in the feminine psyche. Thus the wicked Queen, who was invited to the wedding of Snow White and the Prince, was “forced to put on the red-hot shoes, and dance until she dropped down dead. ” (Grimm).

The wedding is taking place at the same time when the Shadow is defeated. This indicates the unifying of the feminine and the masculine, and also the death of the Shadow within the unconscious. The Ego unites with the Animus, thereby, attaining the true self. The Ego is completely developed now. Therefore, the fourth phase is symbol of the completion of individuation.


‘Cinderella’ is one of the most popular stories in the world. Like almost every fairy tale, the true origin of the story is unknown. There are various versions of ‘Cinderella’, originated from various countries and cultures.

Yet, the themes of the stories are similar in all versions. Every version of ‘Cinderella’ centers on a kind, young girl who is tortured and ill-treated by her own family, after her mother’s death. Her father is either absent or neglectful, depending on the version of the story. The girl is helped by someone to triumph over her family and achieve a wealthy marriage. Like ‘Snow White’, ‘Cinderella’ is also a magic fairy tale. It consists of many fairy tale elements. There are magical elements, opposing characters, a heroine, a happy ending and themes of adult anxieties. Cinderella goes

through changes from a girl to a woman by the end of the story. In almost every version, these elements exist. Currently, the most popular version of ‘Cinderella’ is that of the Disney’s Film in 1950. This film is based on the version by the Grimm Brothers. They had collected their version of ‘Cinderella’ from oral tales. There are also many other versions of the tale found in many parts of the world. The Charles Perrault’s version is also quite famous. While some of the details of the story may have been changed to fit each culture, the same themes exist in each story, though each was independently created.

Thus, born centuries ago, the fairy tale still continues to live and fascinate people.


The story of Cinderella had been around the world long before the Disney or Grimm version. It is said that there are over a hundred versions of this fairy tale. The story was first recorded by Tuan Ch’eng-shih of China in the middle of the 19th century. Long before he recorded the tale in writing, the people of his day probably knew oral telling of it. In this version, however, Yeh-shin, the heroine, is helped by a magical fish, and not a fairy Godmother.

In 1697, Charles Perrault recorded ‘Cinderella, or The Glass Slipper’ in his collection ‘Tales of Mother Goose. ’ This version included the fairy Godmother. Also, in the end, Cinderella finds husbands for her stepsisters. During the 19th century, the Grimm Brothers from Germany changed many elements in this tale and it was called ‘Aschenputtel’ or ‘Ash Girl’. In modern times, the tale of Cinderella has inspired countless picture books, musicals, novels, etc. It is the 12th animated feature film in the Disney Animated feature canon. It was released in 1950.


We usually take the story of Cinderella, like other fairy tales, for the sole purpose of entertainment. But it is interesting to know that this is a wise story infused with different meanings and symbols. Perhaps, it shows something of us as Carl Jung considers myth to be ‘unconscious expression of ourselves’. As mentioned about ‘Snow White’, ‘Cinderella’, too, seems to be like a product of human unconscious and offers a vision that is quite opposed to the prevailing conscious view. In this analysis of ‘Cinderella’ (as recorded by Charles Perrault), I will assume that the whole story

describes a state of immature feminine psyche. All the images in the story will be seen as aspects of a feminine. Based on Jungian literary criticism, the central character, Cinderella, is viewed as real while the other characters (stepmother, stepsister, father, fairy Godmother, the Prince, etc. ) are seen as symbolic representations of the various aspects of the heroine’s unconscious self. These characters all stand for parts of the unconscious which the heroine will eventually access. The story begins by describing the background of the fairy tale.

We come to know that after the death of the heroine’s mother, her father took in another wife who had a daughter. The stepmother and stepsister were “the proudest and the haughtiest that were ever seen” (Perrault, 1889). They did not like Cinderella, nor did they tolerate her good nature. The initial part of the story shows Cinderella’s way of life after her father’s death. The introduction presents obvious facts known to Cinderella. For her, this represents the conscious. The main contrast between the conscious and the unconscious is represented by the known and the unknown situations.

By the death of the father, there is a threesome in the story- the stepmother, stepsister and Cinderella. This indicates an incomplete cycle. Only when we reach number four will the cycle be complete. Cinderella, the stepmother, the stepsister and, eventually, the Prince is one example of a quaternary. At the start of the story, Cinderella or the female psyche is far from complete. She is very innocent, naive and immature. This immature female psyche lacks a caring mother figure within. In the first part of the story, we learn that the father took in another wife and he was completely dominated by her.

We notice that this is the only time Cinderella’s father is mentioned in the story. He is an indolent father because he fails to save his daughter from the torturing hands of his wife. The father is an “absent-one” in Cinderella’s life. Yet, he does a great contribution to the whole story. The female psyche starts out with an almost non-existent father figure or Animus and, at this stage, the mother is dead. This state of the psyche is tragic. It lacks a caring mother image and a father who cannot stand up for her. ‘Doing nothing’ is the most expressive form of violence.

The father does not offer any guidance in his daughter’s life. He does not even attempt to control the raging forces within her, personified as the cruel stepmother. He does nothing against the Shadow within the female psyche. In other words, the father represents a weak Animus in the psyche. As mentioned before, after the death of the father, a women-threesome is formed. The stepmother is a total negative character. She represents the negative power of the psyche. The stepsister, although being a passive character in the tale, also is connected with the mother and intensifies her negative power.

Cinderella is the only positive power of the psyche in the threesome. From the beginning of the story, we notice that the Shadow s dominant in the female psyche. It has a control over the Animus and is, at the same time, trying to overthrow the Ego, which is young and under-developed. The stepmother, representing the Shadow archetype, is jealous of the young girl for her beauty, kindness and good nature. Thus, she is an active wrecker. The woman-threesome represents the principals of the woman’s psyche, the essential self of women. Every woman is born with this essential self.

Cinderella, the positive character in the threesome, is the real essence of the woman’s self. According to Jung, the features of the dark side of the woman’s soul are expressed by instability, anger or hatred. The beginning of the story shows an unbalanced psyche. There is a dominance of the Shadow and a lack of the Animus in this psyche. The Animus is the man’s power of the psyche; it is a masculine principle that appears in the woman’s psyche. Typical attributes of the Animus are, for example, rationality, power, action or reasonableness.

The Animus and the Self complement each other. Finally, in the harmonized psyche, they are integrated into one another, thereby achieving individuation. Cinderella is passive in the beginning of the story. She suffers a lot but does not protest against the atrocities towards her. She simply waits for her destiny to get better. At this stage, the Self, the essence of the woman’s psyche, is suppressed under the dominance of the Shadow in the unconscious. Also, in the stage Cinderella does not have any friends. She is not sharing her grief with anyone until the fairy Godmother appears.

The fairy Godmother appears when Cinderella was alone in the house, her stepmother and stepsister having left for the royal party at the king’s palace. The Godmother is the only friend Cinderella has, who compensates her love, friendship and the feeling of loneliness. Jung describes the fairy as the “soul-mate” and “the incarnation of inspiration and spiritual fulfillments”. The fairy Godmother comes to Cinderella from some unknown place. This symbolizes the unconscious. Now, Cinderella shares all her sorrows, wishes and grieves with her, and, finally, finds relief in a friend.

This relief was very essential for her existence. The fairy Godmother from her unconscious is her own thought, her desire and hope for the change of the current situation. Talking with the fairy, Cinderella pursues her hope for a better life. Here, the Ego is trying to find a way for its integration with the Animus, in the absence of the Shadow. The Shadow finds Cinderella as a threat and hence, does not allow her to attend the royal party. Our heroine is left alone at home when, for the first time, she speaks out her wish. Thus, at this stage, there is a first glimmer of awareness on the part of Cinderella.

She is considered a threat by the Shadow figure in her psyche. The Ego is restricted in freedom. It is ‘alienated from normal life’ (Jung). It continues to ‘hide’ in the house and is forced to retreat from the normal life it wishes to live. The appearance of the Godmother meant the revelation of Cinderella’s wishes. Later, the fairy disappears. This means that her hopes are revealed and must be suppressed. It must be hidden deep in the unconscious. Hence the fairy god mother disappears, never to return in the story. But her magic and magical powers do not disappear completely.

It remains with Cinderella till she wears the glass slippers and turns into beautiful Princess. Cinderella is blessed by the fairy Godmother. She is enchanted, gets new, beautiful dress, jewels, and a pair of glass slippers. This magic symbolizes her taking on a social mask. She presents herself the way she wants to be seen by other people. Here, the archetype of Persona has come to the fore. The Persona is the character we assume and that which we relate to others. It includes our social roles, the kind of clothes we choose to wear and our individual styles of expressing ourselves.

Jung explains that Persona is important to achieve psychological maturity. The moment of the Cinderella’s decision to attend the royal party indicates the rise of Animus in the psyche. She uses the magical powers enchanted upon her and this stands for the rebirth of Animus, the man’s psyche in her mind. Even though she stays a passive victim under the pressure of the external circumstances, on the level of conscious, Cinderella struggles with it. She is aware of her desires and the power to reach them. This awareness of the inner power is the first sight of the Animus.

The Animus principle represents straightness, rationality, power and action (Jung). Cinderella is warned by her godmother to return from the party “before the clock strikes 12”. During the party, as soon as the clock strikes 12, Cinderella runs away from the palace. Jungian scholars interpret this as the test of the power of the Animus in Cinderella. She does not have any experience with the way the Animus behaves as she has never been exposed to it. She has never tried to be straight or follow her aims, rather submitting to the negative forces, without protest.

She wants to listen to the Animus, but she is afraid of the people’s reaction to her new attitude to life (her Persona). Although she believes that she deserves to be there, she runs away, frightened that she would be recognized. Thus, the twelve-O-clock striking and Cinderella’s run away can be interpreted as the female psyche’s defense mechanism. She is, once again, trying to hide herself and escape from the risk of exposing her true self. On her way home, Cinderella loses her glass slippers. A psychological explanation is that “a slipper or a shoe symbolizes the person’s attitude to the particular situation”.

Here, Cinderella loses her attitude to the man’s principle (Animus) and retires into the unconscious, again suppressed. She failed the test of power, and is not able to encourage herself to fulfill her true desires. At this point, new characters appear in the story- the king’s men who go around the country to find the Princess. This represents a link that is important for the further movement of the story. After Cinderella left her slippers behind, the king’s men found it and brought it to the Prince. The Prince “proclaimed, by sound of trumpet, that he would marry her whose foot the slipper would just fit” (Perrault).

He employed few men to find out the Princess. Thus, they began to try it on every young lady in the country and, eventually, find Cinderella. These men, who are employed by the Prince, may represent the part of Cinderella’s mind, which has an impact on her self-evaluation. She is trying to regain her strength. She concludes that she wants to raise her social status. This implies that she is taking a positive attitude towards the newly-found Animus in her psyche. She is trying to integrate with it. When the Prince’s proclamation is made, the stepsister “burst out laughing and began to banter her”.

She tried to stop Cinderella from trying the glass slippers. This implies that the Shadow and the Anima (the female power) are still more dominant in the psyche. Cinderella does not try the slipper on outright. The woman’s principle in her discourages her from trying to change her attitude towards life. These are the defense mechanisms in her psyche. It symbolizes her doubts- whether she would be accepted in this new attitude; whether she would be hurt again. The men were ordered to let everyone try the glass slippers. Hence, Cinderella was obliged to try it.

In a sense, she was taking her slippers back. The decision to try the slippers symbolizes the rise of the Animus. As it was mentioned before, a shoe (or slipper) represents the attitude towards life. Cinderella took her shoe back which means that she was again overtaken by the attitude of the Animus. Cinderella has to become conscious of her power first, to change her terrible circumstances. When she realizes her powers, the Shadow loses its dominance in her psyche and the Animus takes over the power. This was the final test of the power of the Animus and she succeeds.

The moment Cinderella wears the shoes, she is transformed into a beautiful Princess. This symbolizes the moment of victory of the Animus. Our heroine has taken the attitude to the Animus principle. She has accepted the Animus in the unconscious and is accepted by the society, too. By transforming into a Princess, Cinderella intensifies her new life attitude. Also, the Prince and his men symbolize protection so that the Shadow does not once again dominate the psyche. The story ends with Cinderella’s union with the Prince. The Prince represents the Animus.

Thus, finally, the Ego is united with the Animus to form the true self. The evil characters in the story are not mentioned again. This indicates the death of the negative power in the psyche. The female psyche is now completely developed and, therefore, the process of individuation is complete.


In this project, I have tried to show how the theory of collective unconscious propounded by Carl. G. Jung is working in fairy tales, taking the examples of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (Grimm) and ‘Cinderella’ (Perrault).

I have tried to outline the various archetypes in both the stories. Though these stories have changed over time to adapt to the society, the archetypes have remained the same. I have done a psychological analysis on both ‘Snow White’ and ‘Cinderella’. With a look into its history, it is shown that these stories were independently created in different parts of the world. They are from different cultures, tribes or nations. Yet, there are a lot of similarities between these stories. Both stories are of the development of an immature female psyche.

It is concerned with the psychological process of individuation. Through an archetypal interpretation of both these fairy tales, it is concluded that individuation was successfully achieved. Also, the fairy tales describe the importance of the Animus archetype in the woman’s psyche. Both our heroine’s, Snow White and Cinderella, in their respective stories are unable to understand what is useful from the conscious and had little idea of their own dark side, at the beginning of the story. The Ego in these female psyches is not aware of the existing, dominant Shadow.

Then, as it develops, there are conflicts between the Ego and the Shadow. The Ego undergoes many stages in this stage as it gathers knowledge from the depths of the unconscious. In the end of both the stories, the Ego finds a way to escape from the clutches of the negative energy. Thus, it triumphs over the Shadow by integrating itself with the Animus. Thereby, both the heroines achieve individuation. In other words, the development of the female psyche is complete. From a psychological perspective we can say that both the heroines undergo similar emotions and personal experiences.

Both are hated and tortured by their stepmothers; they start out without an Animus and lack an image of a loving mother. Both wish to be free from the clutches of the Shadow. Finally, through struggles, sufferings and conflicts, they find their Princes, thus, uniting with the Animus. The behavior and motives of the female psyche is also quite similar. Thus this psychological analysis clearly shows that there exists a similarity of archetypes that appear in these fairy tales which were created by independent cultures. This psychological analysis is not only applicable to fairy tales but also to the contemporary literature.

Questions would arise as to what is its relevance in the present day literature and what effect does it have on children and adults. We can find the answer if we observe and compare the experience of children and adults engaging in fairy tales. As Walter Odajynk, in his article ‘The Archetypal Interpretation of Fairy Tales: Bluebeard’, argues, through archetypal interpretation, the psyche is engaged. While reading a fairy tale or any serious literature, an adult, with his/her matured intellect, may either interpret it in relation to critical theory, personal identification or, ideally, an archetypal interpretation.

However, a child does not have the context for critical theory, or the developed Ego for complex identification. In other words, a child does not have a mature intellect. The fairy tale serves as a method of emotional and psychological instruction. A child would be able to recognize the difference between good and evil, positive and negative, masculine and feminine, which are certain concepts propagated in all the fairy tales, with the help of archetypes. Thus, for the child, a fairy tale is like an early education in archetypal structures.

This education begins with simple representations that are depicted in cartoon form, such as Pokemon and many Disney films, and then extends to more complex fantasy genre, such as the wizard tales of ‘Harry Potter’ (J. K. Rowling), ‘Twilight’ (Stephanie Meyer), ‘Lord of the Rings’ (J. R. R. Tolkien), etc. These days, children are more familiar with Disney Films and not with the Grimm Brothers and Charles Perrault. Disney has obviously taken the archetypes represented in the fairy tales. The various archetypes appear in the Disney films, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and many other modern fictions.

Observing the plot of these fictions, we would find the common archetypes- the righteous warrior, the villain who must be overcome, the humble birth and the prophesied journey of the hero. Disney’s heroines are all pure, beautiful, innocent and sweet, whereas heroes are all noble, heroic and are on some quest or adventurous journey. In the Disney Fairy Tale Films, the fairy Godmother, like the one who gets Cinderella ready for the Ball, serves as the archetype of ‘Wise Old Woman/Man’. This archetype serves the purpose of being the mentor (helper). In ‘Lord of the Rings’, it is Gandalf who is like the archetype of ‘Wise Old Man’.

In ‘Harry Potter’, it is Albus Dumbledore. Also, Hermione Granger (Harry Potter’s friend) is an Anima. In ‘Lord of the Rings’, we find Sam as Frodo’s Anima, though they are both males. Speaking of the Shadow archetypes, the famous villains nicely personify the Shadow. So, Lord Voldemort and the Deatheaters are the Shadow in ‘Harry Potter’. The villain is what the hero could become if he fails in his quest. This fact is repeated several times in the ‘Harry Potter’ series. Harry, who has equal powers as Voldemort, is invited many times to join him as a Deatheaters.

Likewise, the evil Queen in Disney’s ‘Snow White’ is corrupted by the Shadow quality of envy, placing her in stark contrast to Snow White’s purity and beauty; while Cinderella’s wicked stepmother could be said to represent a contrast to Cinderella’s gentle kindness and ability to take joy in small things. Thus, we can conclude that even in modern fiction, the archetypes do work to express the collective unconscious. This project focused mainly on fairy tales, rather than modern fiction because, as Marie von Franz says, “fairy tales are the purest and simplest expression of collective unconscious psychic process.

Therefore, their value for the scientific investigation of the unconscious exceeds that of all other materials. ” Fairy tales allow the unconscious to be observed more specifically. The characters in fairy tales represent archetypes, not human being, and thus, the unconscious is more easily accessible. In other words, the unconscious elements become more conscious in fairy tales. In conclusion, we can say that the archetypal nature of fairy tales make them appealing to children and adults, and transcend cultural boundaries.

The theory of collective unconscious is not limited to a certain culture, place or nation. It is valid in comparison of independently created stories of all times, be it ancient or modern. We must not miss to notice that in stories, the archetypes are always fragmented into individual characters, but in real life, each of us carries qualities of each archetype in us. If not, we would not be able to relate the characters and archetypes, and accept them. You have an Anima or Animus. Likewise, you have a Shadow and a wise part that knows the best answer. It is just that you must learn to listen to it.

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