fairytales


fairytales
   This is the usual English term for a group of oral narratives centred on magical tests, quests, and transformations, which are found throughout Europe and in many parts of Asia too. They are defined by their plots, which follow standard basic patterns, and have been classified by Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson, The Types of the Folktale (1961); their function is to be oral entertainment for adults as well as children, and telling them well is a skilled art. The term 'fairy tale' only appeared in the 18th century, almost certainly as a translation of the French Contes des Fees, the title of a book by Madame d'Aulnois published in 1698 and translated into English the following year. It is universally understood, but not in fact accurate, since many of the best-loved stories have no fairies in them, though magic abounds; consequently some scholars prefer the terms 'Wonder Tales' or 'Magic Tales'.
   Native English fairytales must once have been abundant, but unfortunately at the very period when someone might have thought of collecting them and transferring them from orality to print, a flood of foreign tales appeared - first the French ones of Charles *Perrault (1697), Madame d'Aulnois (1698), and Madame de Beaumont (1756), then the German ones of the Brothers *Grimm (1812, and subsequent editions), and the Danish ones of Hans *Andersen (at intervals between 1835 and 1872). Selections from these were quickly translated and cheaply printed; by now established favourites such as Cinderella, Bluebeard, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast, The Frog Prince, Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapun-zel, The Tinder Box, and The Little Mermaid are totally absorbed into English culture, together with a few items from the Arabian Nights, notably Aladdin.
   The English fairytales which did get printed in chapbooks were humorous ones (*Jack and the Beanstalk, *Jack the Giant-Killer, *Tom Thumb), except for the more magical *Three Heads in the Well. Later, Victorian collectors found some oral examples, including *Tom Tit Tot and *Cap o' Rushes from Suffolk, the *Small-Tooth Dog from Derbyshire, and the *Rose Tree from Devon. However, the great majority of fairytale texts recorded in Britain were found either in Scotland and Wales or among Gypsy storytellers; the typical English narrative genres are the jocular anecdote, the horrific anecdote (e.g. *Mr Fox), and the *local legend. However, current research among teenage schoolchildren shows that some evolve personal versions of fairytales and tell them orally to their peer group (Wilson, 1997: 255-60).
   The best collection is Philip, 1992, with accurate texts and valuable introduction and comments; see also Briggs, 1970-1: A. i and ii, with some texts summarized; Jacobs, 1890/ 1968, with texts often reworked. All three collections include other genres of folktale besides the fairytales. Baughman 1966 is a catalogue of all versions known at that date, and their sources. Opie and Opie 1974 gives authentic texts of the 24 best-known tales and discusses their sources and histories.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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