Some Fairy Tales Are More Than A Thousand Years Old, Study Claims

By Charissa Echavez | Jan 21, 2016 07:34 AM EST

Beauty and the Beast's theme song "tale as old as time" nonetheless speaks of the recent research, stating that childhood fairy tales are much older than previously thought, dating back to thousands of years to prehistoric times. This includes some of our favorite childhood bedtime stories like "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Rumpelstiltskin" and "Beauty and the Beast."

During the 19th century, Wilhelm Grim together with Jacob, his brother, popularized many of the classic fairy tales we read and hear today. He believed that these stories were actually thousands of years old and were only spread verbally, thus making them difficult to trace.

In line with that, researchers Jamshid Tehrani from Durham University and Sara Graca da Silva of the New University of Lisbon, said that "Only a tiny minority can be tracked to before the emergence of the literary fairy tale in the 16th and 17th Centuries." This brought scholars to a heated debate of the presumed archaism of these renowned tales, with several experts believing that a number of canonical fairy tales may actually be modern literature.

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However, researchers utilized linguistic groups and dispersion science to study common links among the stories. The research arrived at a conclusion that some stories such as "The Smith and the Devil," which tells the story of a blacksmith who sold his soul to the devil to acquire supernatural powers, dated back between 6,000 years ago to the Bronze Age.

"Jack and the Beanstalk" is also some 5,000 years old, at a time when splitting between Eastern and Western Indo-European languages took place. Some said it is part of a group of classified stories known as The Boy Who Stole Ogre's Treasure.

Disney fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" dates back back 4,000 years. While famous German story Rumpelstiltskin is also from the same era.

Dr. Tehrani claimed that these stories were so old they have probably existed even before languages such as English, Italian and French were first introduced. However, he found it remarkable how these literatures survived without actually being written.

He believes that they were never forgotten as they speak to endue human concerns, with themes circled around those common to humans like betrayal, survival, violence, family and love.

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