Fairy Tales in Other Cultures
What do fairy tales in other countries sound like? What kind of fairy tales are told in other cultures, and what inspires them? When it comes to this topic, we certainly have a wealth of information to explore!
Some of the most illustrious tales originated in Asia. In India, fairy or folktales often appear as fables. Originating in the 3rd century AD, Panchatantra is a collection of ancient fables, featuring animals with very human-like qualities, making them easy to relate to, as well as the occasional human. The animals were often used as a metaphor for human qualities; for example a deer might symbolize a gullible, vulnerable or peaceful person who is easily preyed upon by the crocodile, a quietly cunning and cruel creature lying wait under calm, welcoming waters. These tales were framed as moral stories for children to pay attention to, and seem to be the inspiration behind the Greek Aesop’s Fables. The Panchatantra are beloved in the country by children and adults alike! It’s impossible to meet an Indian who does not have a favourite Panchatantra story.
Of course, we must talk about one of the greatest collections of fairy tales ever created - A Thousand and One Nights - stories of mostly Middle Eastern origin that became some of the most popular fairy tales of our time. A Thousand and One Nights is a collection of fictional stories narrated by Scheherazad, wife of Sassanian king Shahryar, in an attempt to avoid being murdered by him in a vengeful plot to rid the land of all women (yep, its pretty intense!). The stories Scheherazad told were loosely based on true events, legends, love stories, and tragedies. They were always tales of great adventure, featuring all kinds of genies, magicians and protagonists, and often included stories within stories.
In Europe, one of the largest collection of tales can be credited to the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, as well as Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. Here, fairy tales were often written reproductions of common folk tales and escalated during the Renaissance, when fairy tales caught the attention of prominent writers of the age. Later, these stories were popularized by written collections like those of author Charles Perrault in the 17th century, and the Grimms that followed in the later years. Recently in 2016 research on the origins of fairy tales suggested that stories like Beauty and the Beast may have originated thousands of years ago, even dating all the way back to the Bronze Age! What an inspiring thought, that some of our favourite stories have such ancient roots.
It is clear that fairy tales have many different interpretations; as long as they exist, they will continue to be adapted and retold in different ways.
By Lianne Oonwalla