Once upon a time, this story was written down…

With all the media attention on Fairy Tales recently and with several EXCELLENT adaptations out there, I thought I would take a day to focus on some “Authors” of the originals. It’s amazing how many of these stories fit into types that were found around the world, across many different cultures. For a very thorough listing of these types and the stories divided into groups topically & geographically, please visit this site. It’s fun to see how culture/time influenced the story as it moved & grew.

OK- We all know the brothers Grimm, Jakob & Wilhelm, right? Maybe. These two gentlemen were educated as lawyers, and worked as librarians (woo hoo!). They were literary critics, authors of their own tales, and above all academic researchers. Their collection of folk tales originally began as a part of their studies of linguistics and medievalism. (talk about a happy accident for the rest of us!) They collected the stories as a means to get elderly people to speak to them comfortably and colloquially for their linguistics work. The final edition of their stories contained over 200 tales. To read them online, and to find out more about the Grimm brothers’ life and works (beyond the story collection), click HERE.

Probably the next biggest name is Hans Christian Andersen. A contemporary of the Grimms, this Dane began life as a cobbler’s son and attended University via patronage of the Royal Theatre’s director. He was a poet and author well before beginning to write tales, but began writing them in the early 1800’s. That’s right, he WROTE not collected his tales. Not sure it matters, since they’ve all been a part of the public consciousness since then. His was the original Emperor’s New Clothes, Little Mermaid, etc. Perhaps because his stories were original, his name now adorns a very prestigious children’s lit award.

A predecessor to the Grimm Brothers was a Frenchman named Perrault. Many of his tales were re-collected by Jakob & Wilhelm, and he lived about 150 years earlier. Also known as the Mother Goose Tales, his collection included Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Bluebeard, and Puss in Boots in written form for perhaps the first time.

A favorite of mine growing up was Andrew Lang and his rainbow collection of Fairy Books. Again, this Scotsman was a researcher, not an author or translator by trade. His collection of stories began as part of his Anthropology studies in the late 1800’s. Looking back, you can tell that he was fairly obsessed with the “noble savage” and other outmoded (dare I say, racist) ideas, but these are still AMAZING books and have quite the international collection vs. the regional collections of the others. While out of print, I have found some of these free from project Gutenberg or iBooks. 

 For another amazing website devoted to fairy tales around the world, click HERE. These men are just the beginning. Every culture has had their own traditions and their own collectors.  Love of these stories and collections are a large part of why I love books as an adult. Click around, enjoy, and laugh when you realize how often we see these stories in “modern” works. A good story never dies.

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