Fairy Tale Beginnings
Fairy tale sprouts show us how these stories about what is right, true, and virtuous change over time to fit the needs of the society in which they are shared. Such flexibility is how these universal ‘story lessons’ stay alive to be told again and again and again.
Have you ever wondered who and what the inspirations were for these tales? And how they might have been altered over time to reflect the culture they exist within?
We know that many of them are rooted in historical events. For example, the "Pied Piper of Hamelin" is set in the German town of Hameln where legend reports that more than 100 children left their homes to follow a piper.
Experts note that the “piper” may have been a figure who was able to lure these youth into the Children’s Crusade. This crusade was a European Christian effort to expel Muslims from the Holy Land in the early 13th century.
Here are few other examples of how fairytales may be linked to real people, places, and events:
Researchers in Bavaria allege that Maria Sophia Von Ertha is this character. She was the daughter an 18th-century landowner and senior administrator of the Prince Elector of Mainz. After his wife’s death he remained a countess said to be quite domineering.
The most fascinating link, of course, is the magic mirror. According to records, an 18th century mirror had been made for Von Ertha household by the Mirror Manufacture of the Electorate of Mainz. Its attributes included acoustical figurines that made noise.
Earlier renditions of this fairy tale have been traced to the Greek historian Strabo in the first century BC. The story itself centers on the historical figure of Rhodopis who is referenced in the 6h-century writings of Herodotus.
According to Herodotus, this slave captured the heart of Sappho’s brother Charaxus. He bought her freedom and, in the end, she lived as a wealthy courtesan.
Strabo’s retelling is a bit closer to the story most of us are familiar with.
With her freedom purchased by Sappho’s brother, Rhodopis one day loses a sandal that is carried off by a bird to Egypt. It lands in the king’s lap and he sets out on a quest to find the shoe’s wearer. In time he finds her and takes her for his bride.
These are only a few examples of how stories may have been altered to suit their geographic and cultural environments.
One can only imagine how future renditions of these fairy tale sprouts.