Talking animals and the presence of magic seems to be common in all fairy tales...no wonder I like them! I learned that not every story with a talking animal is a fairy tale, however. Those where the talking animal is really a masked human is called a fable. And as for the magic, the key is transformation for a tale to fit into this genre. Originally, the stories we now think of as fairy tales were not separated out from other genres. The name fairy tale comes from the German word "Märchen" which means little story. The fairy tale, told orally, is a sub-class of folktales.
The Brothers Grimm were among the first to preserve the features of these oral tales. Literary fairy tales and oral fairy tales freely exchange, plots, elements, and motifs with other stories, and even with the stories from other lands. The literary fairy tale became fashionable in the 17th century, developed by an aristocratic woman as a parlor game! The oral tradition of fairy tales, however, came along way before the written versions. Fairy tales often appear, mentioned in writings, as early as 100-200 A.D. Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales have fairy tale elements. Even some of William Shakespeare's greatest works can be considered fairy tales, like King Lear for example. The first, most famous Western fairy tales, if we use the broadest definition of what constitutes these stories, are Aesop's fables (6th century BC) in Greece. In the mid-17th century, a vogue for magical stories began to emerge with the intellectuals who frequented the salons of Paris. The salons of that era were usually hosted by aristocratic women and were an opportunity for both men, and women, to discuss the issues of the day....and to tell a good fairy tale!
Interestingly, the original audience for fairy tale was adults just as often as it was for children. But starting in the 19th century the fairy tale became associated only with children. And the adaptation of the fairy tale continued with Walt Disney's influential Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, intended purely for the children's market.
Did you know that Snow White was inspired by the real life of Margarete von Waldeck, the daughter of 16th-century Count of Waldeck? The area of Germany where the Waldeck's resided was known for mining. Some of the mining tunnels were so small that only children, or small people such as dwarfs, could fit through them and work the mines. Margarete's beauty is well-documented, and she did have a stepmother who sent her away, She fell in love with a handsome prince but mysteriously died before she could live her happily ever after. The modern-day version of the fairy tale classics that we all know and love were "rewritten" to be more suitable for children. The original stories were often too violent and brutal to tell to little ones.
So how do you celebrate Tell a Fairy Tale Day? By telling a fairy tale! Here are some tips on how to best read, or tell, a fairy tale:
Children love to participate so ask them to make the accompanying sounds to help make the story come to life. And give each character its own voice by varying your tone and pitch. Experts say, too, to ask questions as you go along. It helps to keep interest up and is a good way to gauge if the kiddos are listening. Or, make up your very own fairy tale. No one said that there isn't room for new stories! Perhaps it can be a new family tradition...your children will tell their children the story that grandma told them. Of course, you can use #TellAFairtTaleDay on all your social media on Sunday.
Whatever you do this weekend, I hope it's loads of fun. Stay safe and I invite you back here on Monday. As for me, I'm working on my very own froggy fairy tale to share with young Quigley on Sunday. "Once upon a time, on a lily pad far, far away...."