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Leicester Special Collections


The Fairy Tale through Time

The fairy stories that are popular today have undergone a number of changes, and have become increasingly sanitised as the stories have become geared towards children. In their original form many of these stories were both gruesome and horrific.

‘It has generally been assumed that fairy tales were first created for children and are largely the domain of children. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the very beginning, thousands of years ago, when tales were told to create communal bonds in the face of inexplicable forces of nature…mature men and women have been the creators and cultivators of the fairy-tale tradition.’
Jack Zipes, When Dreams Came True Classic Fairy Tales and Their Tradition (New York, 1999), p. 1 [398.2109 ZIP]

The north European works of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson have produced many well-known stories. However, these stories were themselves based on earlier stories that were told and re-told by traders and travellers.

The majority of the fairy stories held in Special Collections are European, although we do possess some beautiful Japanese books, printed for the British market.

The timeline that we are using is not definitive and the dates for some of the texts are debateable, as evidenced by the discrepancies from different sources. The selection of books has also been determined by what is held by Special Collections.

Fairy stories have their roots in the mythical and heroic stories that stretch back into time.

Once upon a time…