Sweetly by Jackson Pearce is now only 19 days away … so while we wait, we thought we’d explore classic fairy tales a bit. After all, part of the genius to Jackson’s books Sisters Red and the upcoming Sweetly is the way she takes classic fairy tales and twists them to fit the modern world. So what better way to understand and appreciate what she’s done by looking back at the work that inspired her?
Once Upon A Time
It’s hard to trace the true origins of fairy tales, as they first began as an oral tradition — in which the stories were told out loud, and passed on person to person in this manner. In fact, it’s because of this narrative origin that many fairy tales have different versions. In the process of retelling the story, facets were changed — and until a story was written down, they continued to morph. In fact, many of today’s best-known fairy tales not only have different versions — but they are rooted in different cultures!
In the most classic definition of a fairy tale, they are stories that contain “folkloric” qualities — such as magic, enchantments, fairies, witches, goblins, etc.
Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm first published their collection of fairy tales in 1812, with additional volumes coming out in the following years. They gathered most of their stories by collecting oral folk tales. Nineteen of their best-loved stories are credited with coming from storyteller Dorothee Viehman.
Though many of their stories are now beloved by children, the Grimms were originally criticized for publishing their book under the title “Children’s and Household Tales,” because many believed the stories were inappropriate for kids. Many of the stories were subsequently revised in future editions to appease these critics. (For example, the wicked stepmother in Snow White was originally her actual mother.)
Some of the Grimms’ best-known stories today include Rapunzel, Hansel & Gretel, Cinderella, The Elves & the Shoemaker, and Snow White.
Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen published his first fairy tale in 1835, with more coming out in 1836 and 1837. At the time, they were received poorly and did not sell very well. However, these days his stories are very well known — many having been adapted into longer retellings, movies or TV specials. Andersen’s stories, unlike the Grimms’ stories, are known for often having darker, less “happily ever after” endings.
Some of Andersen’s best-known stories today include The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, The Little Match Girl, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Ugly Duckling, and The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Most fans of fairy tales may not know Charles Perrault’s name off the top of their head, but they should know some of his best-loved stories: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Puss in Boots.
Like most fairy tales, Perrault’s stories were largely derived from pre-existing folk tales. His beloved stories were published in 1695 under the title Tales of Mother Goose. (Actually, Tales of Mother Goose was, at the time, a subtitle for the book’s original name: Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals.) The publication of Perrault’s book is largely considered the true beginnings of the “fairy tale genre” as we know it today.
Other Fairy Tale Auteurs Of Note:
Joseph Jacobs is best-known for writing Aesop’s Fables, he also produced a series of popular anthologies of children’s fairy tales.
Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve is credited as the author of the original version of Beauty & the Beast, though the version most well-known today was adapted by another French novelist, Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont.
Benajamin Tamart published his collection of fairy tales in 1807, and included the first print edition of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Of course, fairy tales continue to be told and retold in various versions. They’ve been adapted into novels, both for adults & YA readers … they’ve been turned into movies, varying from the Disney classics to darker versions more akin to the earliest folk versions. There are even two new versions of Snow White in production for the big screen, one a more classic retelling with Lily Collins and another, more adventuresome twist with Kristen Stewart. Some fairy tales have even been turned into ballets!
The beauty of fairy tales is that they are universally appealing stories, with seemingly endless possibilities available for retellings and adaptation. In fact, it’s in the very nature of their origins as oral stories that makes them so perfect for being adapted, modernized, and retold … over and over again.
For the comments: What are your favorite fairy tales? Tell us below!