A Few Comments on Fairy Tales
- An interesting comment in an American paperback in the early 1970s... Some fairytale characters, notably witches and wizards, have the power to grant wishes, which will then come true. The American author thought this may have something to do with teachers, who arguably can explain to children what to do to change their lives. And it also explains why the witches or wizards cannot grant themselves wishes.
- ... It also suggests that anyone offered a wish should make the first wish an unlimited number of further wishes.
- Some fairy tales deal with giants, who emerge from their castles to terrorise the surrounding populations. A little-known Briton, Thomas Spence, author of a periodical called Pig's Meat, suggested this was a reference to Normans in Britain.
- As far as I remember, the only reference to a fairytale in Bertrand Russell is a remark in Power that powerful people may be more moderate than some revolutionaries predict, 'for fear of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs'.
- Joseph Needham, the Sinologist, said that fairy tales in China all ended with the beautiful girl marrying a Confucian bureaucrat, rather than a handsome prince.
- Malcolm Muggeridge's novel Winter in Moscow, an underpowered description of Jews in the USSR, has an unpleasant female character who ignored famine and general deprivation in the correct sense of Russians, but claimed to be interested in fairy stories as a way to explore the soul of Russians.
- There are plenty of suggestions in The Lord and Language of Schoolchildren that school rhymes, songs, and games echo the past; a typical example is the idea that Ring a Ring o' Roses is a relic of the population drop now described as 'The Black Death'. I found taking the authors seriously a bit difficult when I found they quoted Dr Johnson's Genteel and Ingenious Conversation as thought it were not intended as satire.
- A strange incident that occurred in the daytime was Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes stories) getting himself gulled into the belief in fairies at the bottom of the garden. Two schoolgirls (this is from memory) snipped out some drawings of fairies from a book, put them in their garden, and took photos, no doubt with some black and white Kodak camera. How this became publicised, I don't know; probably the story isn't widely known. Doyle, rather incredibly, fell for this trick.
- 'Crying Wolf' has an interest which maybe hasn't been noticed: the default mode is that the little girl is assumed to tell the truth. It's taken fro granted that people usually tell the truth. This of course reflects general attitudes, presumably in most people: it's the reason why most people are baffled by the Jewish media now; they simply can't believe they have been lied to, until some dramatic refutation makes them rethink.
- Fairy tales and legends and folk songs were presumably first recorded where there were still people living fairly isolated country lives, but also literate people with sufficient leisure to carry out the work. Probably the normal rules of censorship would apply to them.
- ... to be continued ...
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