As children, we have all heard to ever popular “Once upon a time….” beginning to many favorite tales. Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Three Little Pigs and even Pinnochio, all have humble beginnings in history. The problem is, there is much debate as to when and where these beginnings are located. To understand fairy tales and their origins, one must first look way back into history at the very beginnings of storytelling itself. We can see early attempts through cave paintings from primitive man, as the evolutionary process was in full swing. Depictions of large beasts and even supposed mythological creatures, are hand-drawn in a series of events when languages were still disorganized. Once languages were developed through written form, we see a huge change in the way stories were presented.
Each culture has contributed to these throughout the centuries. In the B.C. era, the tales of ancient Egypt, Roman and Greek myths and biblical creations began to be penned and stored for future generations. Over the years, the stories were tweaked to meet the growing demands of the time. For example, mythology saw great gods reduced in rank to demi-gods then to mortal heroes. Many scholars believe this is how fairy tales began. Characters were made to be just like mortal men and women, only with certain godly qualities that point to the original origins. Demons and lesser gods were also thrown into the mix as witches, warlocks and trolls.
Over the years, physical sites have been claimed to be the real locations of each fairy tale. For example, in Wales, there stands a tower, commonly covered by brush but seen during the fall months. This tower is called “Rapunzel’s Tower” and said to be the location of the real Rapunzel legend. Another site that is of interest to many fairy tale enthusiasts is the supposed site of Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Germany. The problem with this is that the story of Sleeping Beauty has actually been traced back to an old Italian legend, not German.
Possibly one of the most followed and studied of fairy tales, follows the Arthurian legends of Europe. King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table are characters that portray chivalry and love in an uncertain time in Europe’s history. While many contend that they are simply fictional characters, others hold staunch beliefs that these individuals truly existed. There are a handful of supposed sites of Camelot, the home of the Lady of the Lake, the stone that help Excalibur and even the magical land of Avalon. There are many interesting claims to back up such locations, but no solid evidence. During the reign of King Henry VIII, a 14th century round table was repainted by the king’s request to serve as a reminder of Arthurian equality. Some claim this was the original round table of King Arthur, and much older than it is said to be. The table in question is now on display in the Great Hall, located in Winchester, England.
Fairy tales are believed to be primitive human’s way of coping with the struggles of early life and providing hope for the masses. Popular fairy tales have been rewritten and retold several times over. One notable grouping of retold fairy tales comes from the Grimm brothers. The Grimm brothers compiled fairy tales from all over the world, retelling them in the words we know today. They are charged with having stated that fairy tales came from a background of crude, ugly and very violent times, but evolving into a thing of external beauty for those who held then dear. Shakespaere is another notable reteller of fairy tales. Retelling as in using key characters such as fairies and nymphs in his works. “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” is one such example of these works.
While the mystery of fairy tales legitimicy may remain in question, its hard to dispute the joy and wonderment these tales in all versions bring to young and old alike.