The Origin Of Fairy Tales


The origin of fairy tales dates back thousands of years.  Everyone knows that.  

They are very old!  but where do they come from? 

There are many different names for these tales.  They have a large variety of creatures some that have magical abilities.  They come from every country both ancient and new.  They come from different cultures in the same country and they each have their own tales.

So...... can an oral folklore tale be called a fairy tale?  Do all fairy fairy tales come from oral folklore?  When does an oral story become a fairy tale?  Is it when a person writes down an oral folk tale that he heard?  Were these first tales for children or adults?   Then there are original stories written that are meant to be fairy tales that seem to have no basis in folklore.

The origin of fairy tales dates back thousands of years.  The history of fairy tales or fairy stories have fantasy creatures such as faeries, fey, goblins, elves, trolls, witches, giants, and or talking animals. It is not necessary for these tales to be about fairies. Enchantments and far-fetched events are also usually part of the plot. Unlike legends and folklore tales, they seldom contain any references to religion, actual places, persons or events. The term "once upon a time" is used rather than an actual reference to date.


Open Access

Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales

Sara Graça da SilvaJamshid J. Tehrani

Published 20 January 2016.DOI: 10.1098/rsos.150645

Ancient population expansions and dispersals often leave enduring signatures in the cultural traditions of their descendants, as well as in their genes and languages. The international folktale record has long been regarded as a rich context in which to explore these legacies. 
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When we discuss the origin of fairy tales, It would appear that one of the oldest ""The Smith and the Devel" dates back to before the Bronze Age. Other FairyTales go back thousands of years as reported in Royal Society Open Science.  This report states that many of the famous fairy tales thought to published from well known authors are actually very old. folktales for adults.  “Rumpelstiltskin” and “Beauty and the Beast” are not recent inventions says coauthor Jamie Tehrani, an anthropologist at Durham University in England. 

Early oral fairy tales and folklore were for adults as much as for children. The early written fairy tales text of the literary type were intended for adults. They became more kid's fairy tales in the 19th and 20th centuries. Grimm and Andersen have kept many, many children entertained with their tales of winged fairies.


Theories On The Origin Of Fairy Tales

The Two theories that have attempted to explain the common elements in the text of the different fairytales found spread over many continents. One theory is that a tale comes from a single source and spreads from culture to culture over time. The other theory is that these tales reference common human experience. That the many cultures over time, tell similar tales of similar human experiences. The first written fairy tales are from ancient Egypt and occurred around 1300 BC.



Both long and short Fairy tales, folklore, legends and myths have been passed from generation to generation since before recorded history. The origin of fairy tales such as these types of oral stories is impossible to determine. All ancient cultures from all over the globe have fairy tales. It is amazing to me to find very similar fairy tale plots that occur in the folklore from different countries at different times and in totally different cultures.

For Example  the Fairy Tale "Little Red Riding Hood":
The early European version is about a little girl that is tricked by a wolf that has already eaten her grandmother, then disguises himself as her grandmother crawls in bed and tricks Little Red Riding Hood to come close to the bed so that he can grab her and eat her.

The Chinese story is very different.  It is a tiger instead of a wolf that is the villain and gets the girl.


Aesop's Fables
Aesop was a Greek author from the 6th century BC. There have been many translations since then. A Roman named Phoedrus's  did one of of the earliest translations into Latin around 320 BC. Aesop's fables were among  the first fairy tales that became  famous in the Western world.