On Fairy Tale Stories Being Older Than Writing Itself

Fairy tales have an oral tradition that goes far back than we ever knew. A new study suggests that some stories written in the 17th and 18th century such as Beauty and the Beast and Rumplestiltskin, can be traced back to tales that appeared between 2,500 and 6,000 years ago.

Dr Jamie Tehrani, one of the authors behind the study says:

“Some of these stories go back much further than the earliest literary record and indeed further back than classical mythology – some versions of these stories appear in Latin and Greek texts – but our findings suggest they are much older than that.”

Beauty and the Beast. Walter Crane (British, Liverpool 1845–1915 Horsham)

Beauty and the Beast. Walter Crane (British, Liverpool 1845–1915 Horsham) via http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/348106

The importance of this finding is the notion of how important stories have been through human history, and how powerful some plots can be. This idea of fundamental story structures is also expressed by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

The author and academic Marina Warner, who has written a history of fairytales, called the paper “fascinating”. “What’s interesting to me is it shows how deeply this creative power of the imagination lies in the human being, how it’s about making sense of your world by inventing narratives that resist its difficulties,” —Fairytales much older than previously thought, say researchers

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