Fairy Tales Are Even Older Than You Think

Fairy tales are some of our oldest and most treasured stories. Now, new evidence suggests that they’re even older than we thought. The oldest go all the way back to the bronze age!

The Guardian reports that the new information comes from a study in which academics employed techniques that are normally used by biologists. They found common “ancestry” by comparing stories from different literary traditions. The resulting data reveals that fairy tales are far, far older than we ever suspected.

For instance, Beauty and the Beast was first written down around 400 years ago. But the story existed in some form between 2,500 and 6,000 years ago, according to researchers. That’s a huge difference. Jack and the Beanstalk, meanwhile, belongs to a group of stories that the study classifies as The Boy Who Stole Ogre’s Treasure. That family of stories date back more than 5,000 years, to a major split in Indo-European languages.

Interestingly, the new study confirms what Wilhelm Grimm – one of the famous Brothers Grimm (pictured above) who wrote down these tales – always thought. Grimm believed that the stories dated back to the genesis of the entire Indo-European language family. That idea was later rejected, but this new study brings fresh support to the theory.

What’s your favorite fairy tale?