Once upon time, there was an old woodcutter and his young son. The woodcutter always wanted his son to go to school but they didn't have enough money, and after a few years he had to come home. The son insisted on going to the woods to work with his father, but the father didn't think he could handle the hard work. During a lunch break, instead of resting, he defied his father and went wandering through the forest, where he heard a voice saying it was trapped at the bottom of the tree. There he saw a bottle, but when he opened it a giant demon sprang out and said it would break his neck and kill him. The young woodcutter then challenged that the demon spirit did not have the ability to get back in the bottle. So the spirit, to show that he really could do whatever he wanted, re-entered the bottle to show the boy how strong he was, and the boy stopped the bottle up again. The demon, shocked, began begging the woodcutter's son to open the bottle again, but he refused unless the spirit promised to benefit the boy.
The spirit pleaded with him and offered to make him rich. The boy decided it was worth the risk and released the demon. The spirit gave him a special cloth with one side that would turn any object into pure silver and the other side that would heal any wound. After turning his axe into silver, he tried to cut a tree in front of his father but bent the axe head. The father was extremely disappointed that he would have to replace the axe, which belonged to his neighbor. The boy went to sell the axe head and made 400 times more money than he needed to pay for the broken axe, and finally he told his father the story of the spirit in the bottle.
After that the father recognized that the boy's cleverness had made them rich and was happy. The boy went back to school to become a doctor and became one of the most successful and famous doctors with the help of his magical cloth that healed wounds. (Summary taken from Wikipedia)
My husband Tom and I began coming to Apple Farm as members of the “young people’s group” around 1970. We each began our inner journeys at that time, working on our dreams with the founders of the Farm community at the same time as we were beginning our married life and starting a family.
We decided that we wanted a more focused time of exploring Jungian psychology–exploring our dreams and discovering our inner and outer paths in the world. So, in the fall of 1972, we took our toddler son and went to study at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. We each began analysis.
The woman I was working with in analysis, Jane Walgren, told me that she thought the fairy-tale “The Spirit in the Bottle” ( though the name I remembered was “The Woodcutter’s Son”) - was “my” fairy-tale.
In the tale, a young man and his father have done all they can to launch the young man on his life. But, as in all fairy-tales, as in life, they run into an insurmountable problem – they run out of money - which symbolizes the energy that is needed to live one’s life. So, the young man comes home to help his father with his woodcutting. He becomes tired and wanders off and “magically” finds a bottle with a genie trapped inside. Being kind, and naïve, he frees the genie only to have his life threatened by the angry spirit. Now, what could the boy do? He certainly could not overpower the creature, so he used his wits to trick the genie into returning to his place of entrapment. Of course, then the genie has to bargain for his release and the young man will not free the genie until his is promised a precious gift. It is the gift of wealth – enough for his father and him to live comfortably and for him to pursue his studies to become a doctor – and the gift of the ability to heal.
Now, at age 70, this story still speaks to me and I think it has relevance to all of us in these times. We continue to be called to the task of containing and negotiating with this strong, masculine spirit, in order to protect ourselves from this incredibly powerful, amoral aspect within us, and equally as important, to negotiate with him to obtain his gifts.
Whether we choose to go the route of working on our dreams, or find some other way to do this work, I believe it is imperative for each of us to come to terms with our “shadow” side, which is represented by the genie in the story. This is an essential task, which we are each called to do. We need to free up the creative energy that is hidden within, so that we can minimize the results of being unconscious of our shadow side, and have access to the gifts we have been given so we can use them to help bring some balance to the world around us.