Tuesday, 08 Sep, 2009 Offbeat
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Researchers Found Fairy Tales to Have Ancient Roots

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Recently biologists discovered that the popular fairy tales as well as folk stories are much older than scientists previously thought. Anthropologists carried out a study in which they analyzed the roots of folk tales and draw the relationships between different variants of tales narrated by cultures from around the world.

For their research scientists decided to use the techniques that are usually applied by biologists to make the taxonomic tree of life that illustrates how each species derives from one common ancestor. The cultural anthropologist from the Durham University, Dr. Jamie Tehrani, analyzed 35 variants of the Little Red Riding Hood, told in different parts of the world.

It was discovered that the European version of the tale tells about a girl, who is deceived by a wolf dressed as her granny, while in the Chinese variant a tiger plays the role of the wolf. The Iranian variant features a little boy, because it would be considered odd if the little girl travels alone.

Although it is believed that the tale was written by Charles Perrault in the 17th century in France, the researcher traced the roots of the tale back more than 2,600 years. According to Dr. Tehrani these folk tales registered some changes over time, showing an evolution just like biological organisms. He explains that due to the fact that the tales were not written down for centuries, different generation interpreted stories in their own way, changing the information or adding something new.

"By looking at how these folk tales have spread and changed it tells us something about human psychology and what sort of things we find memorable," says the researcher. Dr. Tehrani mentioned that up till now the oldest tales they found is an Aesopic fable that dates back to the 6th century BC. He managed to find 70 variables in plot and characters among various versions of Little Red Riding Hood. It is believed that the original precursor of the tale is similar to the tale The Wolf and the Kids. In the story a wolf tries to trick young goats by pretending to be a nanny goat to be able to enter their house. You can find more interesting facts here at www.InfoNIAC.com - please check the links at the bottom of the story.

The closest variants to the European version of the tale are those told in Iran and Nigeria. Professor Jack Zipes, a former professor of German at the University of Minnesota who is also a specialist in fairy tales and their origins, considers that folk tales might have helped people convey tips for survival to other generations, reports The Telegraph.

"Little Red Riding Hood is about violation or rape, and I suspect that humans were just as violent in 600BC as they are today, so they will have exchanged tales about all types of violent acts," he said. Professor Zipes also mentioned that he attempted to show that stories appropriate to our adaptation to the environment are persist in our brains and that time after time people use these tales for all sorts of reference points.

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