Last Monday was National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. Fairy tales were often written accounts of folk tales that were told in small villages and towns throughout the world. According to Jens Tismar (who, from what I could find online, is a German scholar) a fairy tale is:
“A story that differs ‘from an oral folk tale,’ written by ‘a single identifiable author,’ which can be characterized as ‘simple and anonymous,’ and exists in a mutable and difficult to define genre with a close relationship to folktales.”
A person could argue (in a stoic way) that the origin of the fairy tale is from Sweden. Collecting folklore began in the 1630s when Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden from 1611 to 1632, told the priests in all of the parishes to collect the folklore of their area. The priests collected customs and beliefs that were not sanctioned by the church, as well as other traditional material and so much of Scandinavian folklore was preserved thanks to the priests’ efforts and Adolphus’ wise call for this collection.
Scandinavian folklore became the favored way to introduce new, Christian beliefs in an otherwise pagan land. Folk tales began to take on a new flavor as early as the 11th century, as trolls became scared of church bells and only people of strong faith could defeat dragons and sea monsters.
Thanks to such collections all over the world, oral histories, legends, and myths that were told around the fire or by traveling or local storytellers, were written down and now known as fairy tales.
One of the most well-known fairy tale writers is Denmark’s Hans Christian Andersen. First published in 1829, Andersen created written versions of the Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid and many more. While Germany’s famous Grimm Brothers original tales were often dark and written with adults in mind, Andersen’s stories are sweet and warm and written for children.
In 1952 Danny Kaye starred in the wonderful movie “Hans Christian Andersen” that is not just about the writer but it features so many of his stories. It is worth finding and watching.
You can find a list of all his stories here.
But don’t limit yourself to Andersen. There are stories from all the Nordic countries to read. Here are a few of them for you to enjoy:
The Forest Bride The Story of a Little Mouse Who Was a Princess by Parker Fillmore (Finnish)
Geirlug the Kings Daughter from Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books (Icelandic)
Jolly Calle by Helena Nyblom (Swedish)
Katie Woodencloak Norwegian Version of Cinderella by Asbjørnsen and Moe (Norwegian)
You can find more Scandinavian folk tales here.
And, of course, visit Ingebretsen’s either online or at the store for great Scandinavian fairy tale books that you can own and share with your family.
Extra: If you love fairy tales you may just love the cartoons that put a new spin on them. Two of my favorites are Fixed Fairy Tales and Fractured Fairy Tales. Here are two of their revised versions of classic tales:
Written by Mary Hirsch