Childhood Death in Modernity: Fairy Tales, Psychoanalysis, and the Neglected Significance of Siblings

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


As Freud’s case of the Wolf Man makes evident through its engagement with the story of ‘The Wolf and the Seven Kids’, the Grimms’ fairytales and psychoanalysis are two interconnected frames that have influenced modern understandings of childhood. However, the significance of both sibling relationships and death has been consistently repressed within psychoanalysis, and this can also be observed in patterns of fairy tale interpretation. Recuperating both death and siblinghood for an analysis of childhood may therefore yield valuable insights. Indeed, the likelihood of losing a sibling due to high childhood mortality rates in premodernity might suggest that children were uniquely positioned to apprehend death, since the death of a sibling—one most similar to and yet different from oneself—arguably constitutes the closest possible encounter with one’s own death. The Grimms’ tales may therefore reflect the history of a more intimate relationship between childhood and death than psychoanalytic frameworks have brought to light.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDeath, Emotion, and Childhood in Premodern Europe
EditorsKatie Barclay, Kimberley Reynolds, Ciara Rawnsley
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781137571991
ISBN (Print)9781137571984
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in the History of Childhood


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