A Companion to the Fairy Tale

A Companion to the Fairy Tale

A Companion to the Fairy Tale

A Companion to the Fairy Tale


Introduction by Derek Brewer.The aim of this book is to discuss the characteristics of the traditional fairy tale in Europe and North America, and various theories of its development and interpretation. The book deals with the main collections - the Grimm brothers, Hans Andersen, Perrault and Afanes'ev - and with the development of tales in various regions of Europe, including Ireland, Wales, Scandinavia, Germany and Russia, as well as India, where it was once claimed that they originated.The subject of the fairy tale is a controversial one: problems discussed here include the relationship between tales recorded from story-tellers and literary works, the importance of printed works for the spread of the tales, the growth of recent examples with a feminine approach, the spread of popular tales like Cinderella, special types like the cumulative tales, possible effects of TV, and the nature of traditional plots and characters. Above all, we have been concerned with the distribution and long survival of these tales, and the nature of their appeal.SHORTLISTED FOR THE KATHARINE BRIGGS FOLKLORE AWARD 2004.Contributors: GRAHAM ANDERSON, DAVID BLAMIRES, RUTH BOTTIGHEIMER, DEREK BREWER, MARY BROCKINGTON, ANNA CHAUDHRI, HILDA ELLIS DAVIDSON, ROBIN GWYNDAF, BENGT HOLBEK, DAVID HUNT, REIMUND KVIDELAND, PATRICIA LYSAGHT, NEIL PHILIP, JAMES RIORDAN, PAT SCHAEFER, TOM SHIPPEY, JOYCE THOMAS.


First we tell tales to children. And surely they are as a whole, false, though there are true things in them too.

(Plato, The Republic, trans. A. Bloom)

What is a fairy tale? Anyone who ventures to write on this rich and complex subject must begin with a definition ofthe term. This is because it is commonly used so loosely and inconsistently, as Holbek pointed out in his Interpretation of Fairy Tales (1987: 23), that 'one must sometimes doubt whether the various authors have the same material in mind'. A distinction must be made between the oral fairy tale, recorded with various degrees of accuracy, as delivered by a storyteller to an audience, and the literary fairy tale, the individual creative work ofa writer. However, there is no clear-cut division between these two types, which constantly overlap. The Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen, composed many memorable fairy tales, four of which appear to be popular tales which he heard narrated and retold in his own style (Chapter Nine below). On the other hand, there is no doubt that many features in his own tales were brought in from popular oral tradition. We are fortunate to be able to include here an article by Bengt Holbek, published in 1990, on this aspect ofAndersen's work. This study deserves to be more widely known because ofthe influence of Andersen on the development ofthe fairy tale and his contribution to its enduring popularity.

Scholars continue to argue as to how far the tales in the Grimm brothers' collection can fairly be called oral, since they were frequently told directly to them from memory by educated people from varying backgrounds, not narrated by storytellers for entertainment. Moreover, the collection of the Grimms was edited no less than seven times and the differences between these editions are marked, with notable omissions and adaptations to accord better with popular nineteenth-century taste. This material has been studied in detail by Maria Tatar (1987). In Chapter Four David Blamires examines the contribution ofthe Grimms to making fairy tales accessible to both children and scholars. He points out that the fact that the Grimms 'imposed their own ideas and views on the fairy tales they published is no different from what happens with storytellers ofany period' (see p. 82 below).

Ruth Bottigheimer, who is firmly ofthe opinion that the fairy tale is a literary phenomenon, stresses a factor which she feels has been seriously . . .

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