A BRIEF HISTORY OF FAIRY TALES
For your enjoyment ... a brief history of fairy tales!
Myth, Legend & Fairy Tale
The differences between myth, legend, fairy tale & fable can be can simply described as:
narratives about immortal or supernatural protagonists
narratives about extraordinary protagonists
narratives about ordinary protagonists
narratives with animal protagonists which convey a moral
History of Fairy Tales
Fairy Tales have their roots in ancient oral storytelling traditions.
All cultures have their own myths & legends. Many fairy tales wear ‘the easy doublet’ of myth.
A.D. 100-200, Ancient Greece – “Cupid and Psyche” written by Apuleius
A.D. 850-860, China - The first known version of “Cinderella” is written
C. 1300 – Troubadours and travelling storytellers spread tales throughout medieval Europe
C. 1500 - One Thousand and One Arabian Nights is first recorded
1550 & 1553, Italy - Gianfrancesco Straparola publishes The Pleasant Nights - he has been called the 'grandfather of fairy tales'
1600s, Italy - Giambattista Basile writes The Tale of Tales – published posthumously in 1634. This contains 'Petrosinella', the earliest known version of 'Rapunzel'
1690-1710 - The French Salons invented and played with fairy tales - Marie-Catherine D'Aulnoy invented the term 'conte de fées'
1697 France - Charles Perrault's Mother Goose Tales is published in Paris
1697 – Charlotte-Rose de la Force publishes her collection which includes the tale we now know of as “Rapunzel”
1740 France - Gabrielle de Villeneuve writes a 362 page version of “Beauty and the Beast”
1756 France – Jean-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont publishes much shorter version of “Beauty and the Beast” - first tale written specifically for children.
1812 Germany - Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm publish Vol 1 of Childhood and Household Tales
1823 Great Britain - Edgar Taylor publishes the first English translation of the Grimms' tales in German Popular Stories. The book is illustrated by George Cruikshank
1825 Germany – Grimms’ first edition for children - known as The Small Edition - illustrated by Ludwig Grimm
1835 Denmark - Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales Told for Children
1889 England - Andrew Lang publishes The Blue Fairy Book - the first multicultural fairy tale collection
1890 Russia - Tchaikovsky's “The Sleeping Beauty” premieres in St Petersburg
1893 Great Britain - Marian Roalfe Cox publishes her book, Cinderella: Three Hundred and Forty-five Variants of Cinderella, Catskin, and Cap O' Rushes’- the first fairy tale scholarship
1910 Finland - Antti Aarne publishes ‘The Types of the Folktale’.
Later, Stith Thompson translates and expands it into English in 1961
1937 United States - Walt Disney's first feature length animated film is released, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Now – fairy tales have never been hotter! They dominate our TV and movie screens, and influence advertising, music, and fashion. Plus of course ... fairy tale retellings ...
Fairy Tale Tropes
Pure distillation of plot
Setting is anywhere and nowhere
Traditional sentences & archaic language: Once upon a time ... Long long ago … Once, twice, thrice ….
‘Abstract style’ - dark forest, brave youth, golden bird
Fairy tale numbers and patterns: the numbers 3 & 7 & 13 i.e. the third sister, the thirteenth fairy
Magic & metamorphosis – talking mirror, prince into frog, girl into bear
Binary oppositions i.e. good & evil, rich & poor, beautiful & ugly, strong & weak
Memorable language i.e. rhythm, rhyme, repetition, alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia
Motifs & metaphors: ‘the language of the night’
Structure – a series of trials & tribulations (often three)
The Fairy Tale ‘happy ending’ ..
(Though not all fairy tales end happily. Many of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales are very sad, for example)