Giuseppe Pitrè and the Great Collectors of Folk
Tales in the Nineteenth Century
Despite the comprehensive histories of European and American folklore, such as Giuseppe Cocchiara’s The History of Folklore in Europe (1952), Dorson’s The British Folklorists (1968), Simon Bronner’s American Folklore Studies: An Intellectual History (1986), and Rosemary Zumwalt’s American Folklore Scholarship (1988), there are still numerous folklorists and their collections of tales that need more discussion, elaboration, translation, and analysis. The great progress that had been made in folklore studies and ethnography in the twentieth century has reached a standstill in the twenty-first century, even as important projects in the study of folk tales such as the Enzyklopädie des Märchens in Göttingen and the Gutenberg Internet site are ongoing. Folk and fairy tales are still read and taught in universities and the public sphere, but there are few places where serious historical, anthropological, and ethnological work is being maintained as well as supported, and the mass media have basically continued to spread ignorant notions about fairy tales. Universities in Europe and North America are not supporting the humanities as strongly as they used to do, and the significance of folklore as a cultural field has diminished, leading to the reduction and elimination of programs and departments. Yet stories, old and new, continue to breathe, and need to be given space and places to breathe so that unknown voices can be heard and included in history.
Initially, the collecting and study of folk tales was undertaken in the nineteenth century by professionals outside the university until their work was recognized as invaluable for gaining a full sense of history. The acknowledgment of folklore studies as a “legitimate” field of study was slow and difficult in coming. Its value was never firmly established at the university level, and now that the university has become more of a corporation than a place of learning, particularly in the United States and United Kingdom, folklore has moved even more to the margins than ever before. Unfortunately, in my