Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Evolution of Fairy Tales

When you hear the words "fairy tale", you probably associate them with names like The Brothers Grimm, Han Christian Andersen, or Charles Perrault. They're some of the best-known writers of fairy tales. But fairy tales have been around probably since before the beginning of time. Fairy tales are timeless! 

Ancient Fairy Tales
The earliest version of Cinderella that anyone has found is called Rhodopis and dates back to 1 BC in Greece. There's also Ye Xian which dates back to 860 China. I could probably spend hours going on and on about dozens of different fairy tales and how old they are, but honestly, I'm too lazy (but if you want to know, go to Wikipedia. It knows everything.) The point is that fairy tales have always been around. 

Charles Perrault (1628-1703)
Charles Perrault is kind of known for introducing fairy tales as we know them today, but even most of his stuff is derived from folk tales, other fairy tales and such. He wrote quite a few of the "big ones" like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. As you can see above, there were already many versions of Cinderella floating around. As for Sleeping Beauty, there was already an Italian tale called Sun, Moon, and Talia which Perrault used as his inspiration. These stories have always been around, but he's known for writing them the way we know and love them. In addition to these, he also wrote Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Toads and Diamonds and many more. 

The Brothers Grimm (1785-1863 & 1786-1859)
By now, fairy tales were growing more common, thanks to Charles Perrault. Fairy tales were everywhere, and the Brothers Grimm decided that they were going to collect all these fairy tales and publish them in a book. They started collecting fairy and folk tales around 1806, and published their book in 1812. It included 210 tales, including Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, The Six Swans, The Goose Girl, Snow White, and so many more. They also included their own versions of Perrault's tales. Thanks to that book, Grimm is a household name.

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
He is one of my favorite fairy tale writers, and that's because he actually wrote his own fairy tales, instead of just retelling someone elses. His are unique. He wrote many stories, but his most memorable ones will always be the fairy tales.  Among them are The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, The Ugly Ducking, The Princess and the Pea, and so many more! 

Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
Andrew Lang kind of did the same thing as the Brothers Grimm, but on a larger scale. He started with the Blue Fairy Book, which contains some of the most well known and beloved fairy tales. It was soon followed by 11 additional volumes containing fairy tales from around the world. This, once again, increased popularity in fairy tales. 

Walt Disney Company
Everyone knows Disney. If you haven't seen a Disney movie, then you must've been living under a pretty big rock. Disney is probably known best for their princess movies. It all started with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. This movie made history. It was the first full-length animated movie ever! And it was a fairy tale! After that basically every movie they made was based on some kind of story, most frequently fairy tales. 
Everyone complains that Disney sucks because they turn fairy tales into sappy, sparkly movies and cut out all the gruesome details of the original fairy tales, but I still love the Disney movies. They're simply another interpretation of the fairy tale made to appeal to a different audience. Plus, the originals don't have musical numbers! HA!

Separation From Fantasy
Up until whenever, there weren't really a whole lot of genres. It was real life stuff, and fairy tales. Not much in between. But when fantasy such as Narnia and Lord of the Rings became popular, it grew into the fantasy genre that we’re more familiar with today, with fairy tales earning their own spot among them.

Retellings
Now it’s time for the best part! Retellings! Retellings come in all shapes and sizes. I think the first real retelling was Beauty by Robin McKinley. That isn’t to say that they weren’t around before—they’ve always been around. I just think this was the first solid retelling that really was the model for the rest of the retellings we have today.
Since then, and especially in the past decade, fairy tale retellings have become super popular. Now there are hundreds that readers everywhere love. That’s the magic of fairy tales. They really are timeless. Every time a fairy tale is retold it adds new depth to the original. 

Have you signed up for the Fairy Tales Retold Challenge?

1 comment:

  1. I did not know anything about Charles Perrault. Toads and Diamonds sounds fascinating! I'll have to look it up.

    Andrew Lang is one of those classic authors that are on my to-read list, but one I've never gotten around to...

    Hans Christian Anderson is by far my favorite. I adore Little Mermaid and the Snow Queen :)

    Great post!
    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

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