The History of Fairytales
Fairytales are really old. Some even lead back to the bronze age! Check out this article from The Guardian for more.
Back in 500BC, Aesop told stories. Remember The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing? That’s a story from Aesop’s Fables. Most of the Fables were moral stories; a reminder on how to behave. Personally, I always found them a little boring, partly because they never have any romance, and they were pretty light on important things, like clothes and fashion.
Early fairytales were presented as framing stories: One Thousand and One Nights. (Also known as The Arabian Nights). Each story in the Nights is tale told by the main character, Schezerade. She’ll have her head cut off if she bores her husband. Each story is another night of survival.
The Arabian Nights is one of my favourite original collections, partly because it’s just so bawdy. Check out my earlier post here for a recount of Abu-Hassan and His Tremendous Fart.
Brothers Grimm (et al)
But the fairytales we know best are from rural mid-west Europe. This is because in the mid 1600s – 1800s collectors, like the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, travelled back-country regions of Germany, France and Austria, collecting and curating legends.
A recent source of fairytales was discovered last year: The Turnip Princess and other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales is a translation from a just-discovered box of manuscripts from a seventeenth century collector. Hold onto your hats, fairytale lovers: this new collection is (apparently) even more violent than those of Grimm.
In the 1800s, there was a rush of romantic fairytale-like stories (probably because of Hans Christian Anderson). I’ve never been a massive fan of Anderson. A lot of his stories are so bleak! I prefer Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince.
And then came moving images. In the 1930s Disney produced AMAZING movies. Here’s a clip from the 1937 edition of Cinderella:
The Present Day
My favourite TV retelling is Once Upon a Time : a whole town of fairytale characters, miraculously transferred to Middle America.
I love this programme. The hair! The clothes! The make-up! And of course, the miraculously perfectly good-looking characters.
All of which goes to show: fairytales, born in the Bronze Age, are as current as ever. In fact, in our new days of social media, they’re even MORE relevant.
Check out this Tale of Tinderella for a truly modern take on an ancient classic!
Fairytales definitely aren’t getting old anytime soon.
Over to you – do you have a favourite retake on a classic fairytale? Feel free to share in the comments!