This week we've been exploring the history of children's books. Books designed for children's enjoyment—and not just as a tool of instruction or for moral education—date back to the late 1600s. But the fairy tale is even older!
Fairy tales originated as oral folktales, passed down from generation to generation through word of mouth, and they weren't always the family-friendly tales we are familiar with today. They often included bawdy scenes and extreme violence.
Though many modern fairy tales started to be written down in the 17th and 18th century, their origins are actually much, much older. Academic researchers have found that "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Rumpelstiltskin"—first written down in the 17th and 18th centuries respectively—are actually about 2,000 to 4,000 years old!
The earliest known printed version of "Little Red Riding Hood" may be found in Charles Perrault's 1697 book Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals. Tales of Mother Goose (Histoires et contes du temps passé, avec des moralités. Contes de ma mère l'Oye).
"Rumplestiltskin" first appeared on the page in the Brothers Grimm's 1812 edition of Children and Household Tales. The Grimms originally claimed that the stories were a genuine transcriptions from local storytellers, but over the next forty years, they produced seven different editions of their seminal work with Wilhelm, the younger brother, continually reworking the tales to increase their appeal.