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Most classic fairy tales have origins in the oral tradition when stories were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth, but the fact that many survive today is down to the efforts of a few individuals. Whilst some well known tales can be dated back to Greek and Roman times, we have to be thankful to the people that retold the stories over the generations and especially to those that later wrote and published the works when printing evolved.
Amongst the earliest published works of children's stories was a book written by Frenchman Charles Perrault (1628 - 1703), Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals which is today still widely known today by its subtitle Tales of Mother Goose. Published in 1697 it records the earliest known written accounts of such classics as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Puss in Boots and Sleeping Beauty.
These and many more tales were later collected and republished by two German academics who had devoted their studies to linguistics but also collected and published children's stories. Jacob (1785 - 1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786 - 1859) are better known as the Brothers Grimm. They retold many of the tales of Perrault, and more. Their stories include Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretal, Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin.
Unlike Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson (1805 - 1875) originated many of the tales with which he is fondly remembered. Amongst Anderson's works are The Litle Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor's New Clothes, Thumbelina and The Ugly Duckling. Anderson admired the works of Charles Dickens and met him on several occasions, at one time making an extended visit for several weeks at Dickens' home. Dickens alledgedly found the Dane to be a bore and based the character Uriah Heap in David Copperfield on him!
Regardless of character, we have much to thank these and many other early story collectors and tellers for. They have gone on to inspire not only generations of children and learning, but also great artists such as Gustav Doré, Tchaikovsky, Rossini, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Walt Disney.
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