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Some fairy stories could be 'as old as time'

Posted on Friday, 22 January, 2016 | Comment icon 8 comments

'Little Red Riding Hood' is one example of a timeless tale. Image Credit: PD - Carl Larsson
Popular fairy stories such as 'Beauty and the Beast' could actually be thousands of years old.
A new study in to the origins of popular fairy tales has revealed that many of the stories we believe to be modern inventions are in fact ancient, with some even dating back to the Stone Age.

The research, which was published in Royal Society Open Science, suggests that well known tales such as 'Beauty and Beast', 'Little Red Riding Hood' and 'Rumpelstiltskin' have been passed down from generation to generation over thousands of years.

Researchers from Durham University in England and New University of Lisbon in Portugal based their findings on statistical links between the wording used in popular fairy tales and the common languages of the people who lived in ancient Europe and Asia.

The oldest fairy tale that they found, 'The Smith and the Devil', dates back over 6,000 years.

Even the Brothers Grimm, who famously published many of today's best known fairy stories back in the 19th century, had based their work on tales passed down from previous generations.

"These stories are far older than the first literary evidence for them," said study co-author Jamie Tehrani. "We don’t invent culture anew every generation. We inherit a lot of our culture."

Source: Science News | Comments (8)

Tags: Fairy Tales, Stories

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by questionmark on 20 January, 2016, 16:09
Ever since humans left the precarious feeding situation they have been spinning tales. That is the price for being creative.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Kenemet on 20 January, 2016, 18:45
Although the technique is interesting, I'm thinking that the "back to the stone age" date is not supportable.
Comment icon #3 Posted by MissJatti on 22 January, 2016, 12:43
Comment icon #4 Posted by Gingitsune on 23 January, 2016, 17:48
Comment icon #5 Posted by Ell on 24 January, 2016, 11:58
In one or more of my e-books I also concluded that fairy tales, folklore and mythology in some cases date back about four thousand years. Other people have had the same suspicion. What is interesting about this study is that they have applied an empirical method to analyse the fairy tales and they thus provide an independent - and perhaps more accurate - proof of their ancient origins.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Mark56 on 30 January, 2016, 3:17
I've heard it once said that ALL the stories have been told eons ago. And that people keep telling these same stories over an over again, only with their own style and place..
Comment icon #7 Posted by kobolds on 1 February, 2016, 16:31
believe or not , this is how they decide “‘The Smith and the Devil’ is the one we feel absolutely confident as being a Proto-Indo-European tale,” Tehrani says. The story is about a blacksmith who makes a deal with an evil supernatural being for the power to weld any material together. Since the tale is associated with Proto-Indo-European language and includes a character who typically works with metal, the researchers park its origins around 6,000 years ago, in the Bronze Age.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Hawkin on 6 February, 2016, 6:57
Sometimes myth can have a grain of truth to it. Over the centuries when a story is told, it is altered by the generations passed down.

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