The wonder tales of Once Upon a Time never lose their appeal through generations of retelling. Fascinating characters, images, and scenarios are woven into stories of magic and struggle, love and cruelty, desperation and faith. Curious minds are drawn to unraveling the meaning of things. Passion to find the reason for and meaning of Fairy tales and folklore sparks great literary debates. My interest in symbols flows naturally into the comparative study of Fairy tales, for they are two parts of one whole – one accompanying the other as they infuse themselves into our hearts.
Today a fairy tale is a story typically for children; full of magical creatures, hobgoblins, elves, and sometimes fairies. The phrase has come to mean “something blessed with unusual happiness,” as in a fairy tale ending, or a fairy tale romance. It can also refer to a farfetched story, something unlikely, or a tall tale. At one time in history Fairy tales were told to both adults and children and were considered entertainment, as well as educational stories of cultural tradition and history.
Madame d’Aulnoy first used the term fairy tale in the 17th century, but there is literary evidence that indicates what we call fairy tales have existed for thousands of years. Many folklorists interpret fairy tales as historical documents; some use Grimm’s tales to explain ancient tradition, believing the stories to have been preserved from ancient times, by a long forgotten culture. It is my opinion that these wonder tales are remnants of the Fair Folk culture, now known as Fairies.
There are two theories which attempt to explain the existence of the many common elements in Fairy tales, elements found in stories all over the world. One credits common human experience manifesting the same stories in many areas separately. This is unlikely, as the possibility of exactly the same stories being thought up in vastly different cultures separated geographically is very small. The other is based on a single point of origin, with stories spreading globally over the centuries. This suggests that stories migrated with people and were used in new settlements, and shared with new cultures. This is true of symbols, and like symbols, Fairy tales traveled with the people who told them, and were adopted and adapted by new listeners. A third perspective on the commonality of stories is held by Jungian analysts, who believe Fairy tales and folklore to be expressions of common psychic conditions connecting all humanity together through the unconscious.
In the 1600’s, Charles Perrault wrote and published Fairy stories built on existing lore. Andrew Lang also published a collection of Fairy tales and Hans Christian Anderson wrote many of his own Fairy tales in the 1800’s. Also in the 1800’s the Grimm brothers were the first collectors to try and preserve both plot and writing style of the ancient version of tales. They began gathering folklore and stories from Germany, and published both popular and obscure tales. Author Valerie Paradiz researched the brothers Grimm, and in her book Clever Maids: The Secret History of Grimm Fairy Tales writes that most stories were collected by and from women and girls, handed down by mothers and grandmothers for generations.
Fairy tales were originally considered little stories from long-ago when the world was still magic; interestingly, Fairy tales are about all manner of imaginative creatures and do not require Fairies.
About Michelle Paula Snyder
Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids
Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder-Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon