The Wooden Shell: The Legend as Representative of the Early Stage of Development

Iris Manor*, Michel Granek, Sam Tyano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Legends serve as an important means of expressing fears, wishes, and fantasies. One of the best known and beloved legends worldwide is the nineteenth-century tale of Pinocchio, the wooden puppet who becomes a "real boy," or, as eventually becomes apparent, the boy enclosed in a wooden shell. This protective shell is an extremely interesting symbol and may be the reason the story holds a special place in the human experience. This paper discusses the significance of the wooden shell in the early protection of the developing psyche against invasive stimuli. In cases of normal development., this rigid enclosure is eventually discarded as the psyche matures. However, in pathological situations, it may remain a static, inhibitive shield. We describe the case of O., whose shell prevented his healthy interaction with the environment, and discuss how his problem was managed in the context of the legend. We also discuss related theories of the envelope of the ego.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-219
Number of pages18
JournalPsychoanalytic Study of the Child
StatePublished - 2000


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