Why we need to keep ancient stories alive
A good story deserves a great introduction and, for me, there can be no better beginning than: “Once upon a time…”
It’s magical, it’s exciting – it’s a password that will grant you entry to ancient lands inhabited by heroes and villains, wicked witches, dragons, giants and genies. Extraordinary scenarios will unfold before you as you witness the characters’ experiences and adventures. And all of this is certain because of those four simple words.
The shared art of storytelling
Folk and fairy tales are found in all cultures across the globe and they all seem to start and end with very particular phrases. Many introductions refer to an ancient, unspecified time, for example, ‘on an old day, in the old times’, ‘at the beginning of time’ or ‘at a time already long past’. Others refer to distant, dream-like locations such as ‘behind seven lands and seas’ or ‘beyond seven mountains and seven forests.’
Some familiar favourites, such as Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rumpelstiltskin are believed to date back thousands of years to a time before many modern languages even existed. And different versions of the same root story can be found all over the world.
The timeless appeal of fairy tales
So why are these stories so widespread and why are they still so important to us?
- Is it because they examine the universal and timeless topic of what it is to be human – our hopes and fears, our faults and virtues? Probably.
- Is it because they can stretch our imaginations way beyond our everyday experiences? Definitely.
- Is it because they are our link to ancient times; a time when the world really was more magical. The eternal child inside me would love to think so!
Albert Einstein was certainly a fan of the fairy tale. He once said: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
I think he was right.
Fairy tales link us to our past and future
I think fairy tales bring us together. They’re a shared experience that links us to our past and future. Our ancestors have told and retold them for thousands of years and I believe we have a duty to keep these tales alive. We must ensure that we pass them on to our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews and encourage them to do the same – or they may be lost forever, languishing unread in forgotten old books.
Look out for these books
Here are a few of the folk and fairy tale books that I have found online, in bookstores and in charity shops. Packed with beautiful illustrations, these books will reunite you with familiar favourites or take you on a completely new adventure:
- 100 Classic Stories, Edited by Vic Parker – a treasury of tales from around the world, aimed at children aged between four and nine.
- Hansel and Gretel – Award-winning author and illustrator Rachel Isadora’s version of the classic fairy tale, set deep in an African forest.
- Jim and the Beanstalk – a laugh-aloud modern re-telling of one of our most ancient fairy tales by author and illustrator Raymond Briggs.
- Once Upon a World Collection: Snow White; Cinderella; Rapunzel; The Princess and the Pea – four classic tales retold by Chloe Perkins and set in Japan, Mexico, India and Russia.
- Under the Storyteller’s Spell: Folk-Tales from the Caribbean, edited by Faustin Charles – a collection of 18 stories, each told by a writer from each country, featuring a whole host of wonderful characters including Anancy the trickster spider, La Diablesse and Mascalili.
- Indian Tales and Legends, retold by J.E.B. Gray – an anthology of spellbinding stories featuring gods, demons, fairies and animals.
So why not give them a try and let me know some of your favourites too. I’d love to hear from you.
Isn’t it a wonderful thought that, just by opening a book, you can find yourself on a journey … to a time already long passed, over seven rivers and seven oceans? I’m ready to go – are you?