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Tiny Owl’s Fairy Tale Campaign begins 

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For thousands of years, people have been telling stories. From this rich global heritage, we can find fairy tales that are strikingly similar but also different. Each culture has their own version of these tales, and, even today, fairy tales have a lasting significance. Children from all over the world still grow-up listening to them.

Our new series, One Story, Many Voices explores well-known fairy tales told from unique perspectives from all over the world. So, with this in mind, we contacted authors, and experts, asking them the same two questions:

1) What versions of well-known tales were you told as a child? Who told them to you? And where did they come from?

2) Fairy tales often come from stories told a long time ago. Do you think these stories are still relevant today? And, if so, why?

We have a wonderful response from Diane Purkiss.

Diane Purkiss: 

Fairy stories speak to universal longings and hatreds

Diane Purkiss

1. My mother had a huge book of Grimm and Anderson fairy stories with beautiful illustrations that she shared with me. In comparison with children now, I had very few books, and at least half had been inherited from my mother. So I read all the stories in this book, though not in sequence. It was a resource when I’d read all my library books. The stories I loved most were Andersons, especially the Snow Queen; because I grew up in Australia, snow was very exciting and exotic, and I empathised with its power.

 

2.Fairy stories are part of us; originally, they were told by wise women, often elderly servants, to offer a package of life’s wisdom to young girls. They warn against predatory and violent men; I can’t think of anything more relevant.

Another way of thinking about fairies and fairy stories is that they are part of our culture’s DNA. They speak to universal longings and hatreds – the desire to rise in society, the love of the trickster and clown, disregarded by everybody but ultimately crowned with success. Above all, and everybody knows this, fairy stories are about love, and about finding our place in the world, and therefore knowing ourselves. We can test their significance by tracking the very many writers that still draw on them – Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, to name only a few.

Diane Purkiss is a Professor of English Literature at Oxford University.

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