According to a new research done by the researchers from the Durham and Lisbon Universities, some of the most famous fairy tales are thousands of years old. The researchers used techniques used usually by biologists and they traced some of the children stories back to their roots.
What they didn’t expect was to find out that some of them were prehistoric and one was developed back in the Bronze Age. Until these discoveries, the stories were thought to have been developed no later than the 16th or the 17th centuries. According to Dr. Jamie Tehrani, an anthropologist from the Durham University, the Jack and the Beanstalk story was put in a group of stories called The Boy Who Stole Ogre’s Treasure and they were traced back to 5,000 years ago. The Beauty and the Beast was discovered to be 4,5000 years old.
The oldest fairy tale has been proved to be The Smith And The Devil, which is 6,000 years old. The story that was traced back to the Bronze Age is about a blacksmith that sold his soul to a supernatural creature, in exchange for supernatural powers. The stories vary from country to country, some saying that the supernatural creature was the devil, others saying that it was a genie and others that it was death. Some people contest this, like John Lindow from the Berkeley University. He claims that during those times it is very unlikely that the word smith even existed.
For the study, the researchers used phylogenetic methods and a tree of the Indo-European languages. With the help of the phylogenetic methods, relationships between languages, political institutions, culture, music and history have been studied. These methods were borrowed from the evolutionary biology and permitted the researchers to reconstruct the past without having any physical proofs. The history of the Indo-European languages was used in order to see how many tales were shared and how long did they went back in time.
The Grimm Brothers who made famous a lot of the fairy tales, like Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel and Red Riding Hood, believed that they were rooted back when the Indo-European languages were born. Later experts believed that the fairy tales were much more modern than the Grimm brothers believed, tracing them down to the 16th and 17th centuries.
Dr. Tehrani said that the fact that some of the most famous fairy tales are thousands of years old is extremely remarkable, mostly because the stories managed to survive such a long period of time without being written. The researchers believe that the stories were told in some Indo-European languages that no longer exist.
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