Our favourite fairy tales are far older than first thought, according to a new study by cultural anthropologists at Durham University.
The researchers traced the origins of familiar folk and fairy tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood, and explored versions of tales told by different cultures around the world. Dr Jamie Tehrani studied 35 versions of Little Red Riding Hood and found variants of the tale shared a common ancestor dating back more than 2,600 years. It was originally thought that the tale began in 17th century France shortly before Charles Perrault penned the first written copy.
“Over time these folk tales have been subtly changed and evolved like an biological organism,” said Dr Tehrani. “Because many of them were not written down until much later, they have been misremembered or reinvented through hundreds of generations.”
European children are familiar with the tale of the little girl who is tricked by a wolf masquerading as her grandmother, whereas in China it is a tiger rather than a wolf. In Iran, where young girls are not allowed to roam free, Little Red Riding Hood is a boy.
Children can get their teeth into the most recent versions of their favourite fairy tales when Yummy, by Maisy author Lucy Cousins hits the shelves on 5th October. The book features eight of Lucy’s own favourites, including Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Henny Penny.