My leanings in academic pursuits, and my interest in mysticism inevitably led me to become acquainted with the ideas of Carl Jung. In the early 20th century, the world of psychoanalysis brought new dimensions to the understanding of fairy tales for the mainstream educated reading public. Freud and Jung -- especially Jung -- declared them to be phenomena arising from that "new" part of the mind they were telling the world about: the subconscious. (As an aside: the subconscious had been known and used as a tool for centuries by the esoteric schools. Buddhism understood it perfectly. Freud just gave it an acceptable "scientific" framework for working it into the Western paradigm.) This put fairy tales in close association with that other expression of the subconscious: dreams. As a matter of fact, Jung said that fairy tales were a product of the collective unconscious, which made them, more or less, the collective dreams of entire cultures, but in fairy tales the archetypes retain clearer, purer expression without the idiosyncratic complexes of individuals' dreams.
On the one hand, it is quite liberating to look at fairy tales as the workings of the human race's collective mind, since it moves beyond a materialist, empirical preoccupation with ethnic, geographical and linguistic origins (i.e. Someone, somewhere thought this story up, and it's been passed on across time and space ever since.) Jung says that fairy tales come from within us: they are an expression of a very deep part of our being.
But on the other hand, as interesting an exercise as Jungian analysis of fairy tales can be (identifying the roles played in them by such archetypes as "The Old Man" who always appears at difficult junctures in the hero's quest, or the talking animals who advise the hero), for an esoteric student, there is something dissatisfying about the fact that it remains psychology. What's this supposed to do for non-psychologists? True, one can use the Jungian system as a framework for aesthetic criticism (of literature, visual art, cinema, etc.), but the question still remains: what does this mean to my quest? It's fine to know what these stories "mean" in some abstract sense, but what are we supposed to do with that knowledge?