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Entries in #fairytales (2)


Tracking a Tale's Migration

Tehrani's analysis determined that "The Wolf and the Kids" probably originated in the first century, and that the version featuring Little Red Riding Hood branched off about 1,000 years later. "This is rather like a biologist showing that humans and other apes share a common ancestor but have evolved into separate species," Tehrani said.

Love this kind of thing. Makes total sense to me that stories could be traced via their retellings and reproductions and the strange genetic mutations that happen along the way. I'd love to see some sort of visualization juxtaposing linguistic changes, genetic changes, and folktale changes along the Silk Road. I'd put money on some interesting correlations.

The actual study is here. Check it out.


New Blog to Follow in Light of "Cinderfella"

Somewhere in my virtual wanderings, I stumbled across Maria Tatar's blog, Breezes from Wonderland. Tatar is a professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Folklore and Mythology at Harvard, and is the author of huge amounts of approchable scholarship on fairytales and folklore. 

Needless to say, I think she's pretty great. 

Recently, she's been behind the translation of some of the newly rediscovered Bavarian folktales (as I mention below), collected by a scholar back when the Grimms were active, and it's worth a read. We don't often see a prince in distress around these parts, for starters. (Or "Cinderfellas," as she terms them.) The language is also still very close to a direct oral transcription--that and several story elements indicate pretty clearly that this piece hasn't been put through the literary filter that colors most of the stories we think of as fairy tales today. Don't let the awkwardness of reading (vs. listening to) an oral piece keep you from checking this one out.

What I really love about this whole 'rediscovery' thing, despite some of the strange elements to the story (apparently a copy of them, in German, had been in Harvard's Widener Library, among other places, the entire time), is that lack of literary and cultural filter. I'm not yet proficient enough in Swedish to check out their chidren's lit, but I definitely know that male characters in the Anglo-American fairytale canon are almost always female. Tatar theorizes in The New Yorker that this might be due, in part, to the storytellers themselves being female and therefore favoring the stories with female protagonists. I can't help but see another layer on top of that--namely, Disney's particular cultural (and gendered) take on the particular stories that were around for the taking.

All that said, check out Tatar's blog!