Fairy Tales Are Much Older Than Previoulsy Thought, Says Study

Posted: Jan 22 2016, 3:12pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


Fairy Tales are Much Older than Previoulsy Thought, Says Study
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast goes back to 4000 years ago while another popular tale "Smith and the Devil" possibly dates to the Bronze Age.

Fairy tales are popular across the globe. Kids never get bored reading and listening classic fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk, or Rumpelstiltskin.

A new study has found that many classic fairy tales are much older than what we have initially thought. For instance, Jack and the Beanstalk goes back to 5,000 years ago when Eastern and Western Indo-European languages split. Another tale Smith and the Devil appears to be originated 6,000 years ago in Bronze Age while Beauty and the Beast” and “Rumpelstiltskin” date back to 4,000 years ago.

In 19th century, Wilhelm Grimm, alongside his brother Jacob, collected fairy tales but the origin of these beloved fairy tales always remained disputed. 

To determine the origin of fairy tales, researchers from Durham University and New University of Lisbon investigated 275 indo-European fairy tales and narrowed them down to 76 basic stories, those who have crossed over multiple societies. 

Then, researchers built a ‘family tree’ of Indo-European languages to see how far these shared stories can be traced back, using the same techniques which has been used by biologists to reconstruct the evolution of genetically inherited traits.  They tried to find out whether the sharing of tales is determined by geographical proximity of the populations or the similarity of the languages. 

Researchers found that many fairy tales originated not only hundred, but thousands of years ago. There is even a possibility that some of them may have influenced the Bible, Roman and Greek mythological writing and other religious work.

“Versions of 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'Rumplestiltskin' and 'Jack and the Beanstalk' have probably been around since before the existence of many modern European languages like English, German, Russian and French and would have originally been told in a now extinct ancestral language from which those tongues evolved.” Co-author Jamshid Tehrani of Durham University told Discovery News.

“It’s difficult to put precise dates on such things, but we’re looking in the region of 4-6,000 years old.”

The study was published in Royal Society Open Science.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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