Tiny Owl’s Fairy Tale Campaign continues
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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 Mike Henson.
Fairy tales are part of our collective language
1. I think the fairy stories I remember best from my child hood are the anglicised, Victorian versions of Brothers Grimm, like Rapunzel or Hansel and Gretel, which seemed to reflect an age that took a relatively harsh view of children and parenting. Then there were the Disney versions of classics like Snow White and Cinderella – virtuous but relatively helpless princesses versus their evil step mothers. I can’t really remember who read them to me. Probably my grandparents, but somehow or other, by means of some form of osmosis, they seem to have found their way into our collective language.
2.I think stories in general are incredibly important. Whilst a person can download facts from lists and encyclopaedias, it is stories that have the power to empathically communicate spiritual qualities such as love, friendship and bravery. They also have the power to connect us all with shared values. So I find it very interesting that so many fairy tales have geographically and historically distant origins. There is something in them that finds resonance across time and cultures – strands that bind us all together. There are obviously certain values that are siphoned out as these stories make their way from one generation to the next, but then there are also others that survive. Fairy stories usually contain an element of magic – a wrestling with mystery. They are often about the unlikely triumph of the underdog and the victory of good over evil – a scent of hope for the underclass. Personally I’d put these themes down to more than just wishful thinking or fanciful daydreaming. I think this longing people have for a better world reveals a reality – that things are supposed to be different. Things are designed to work in harmony. To that extent I think that stories that contain these threads of hope are entirely relevant and necessary today. They remind us to embrace mystery and faith. And if we can recognise the connecting threads that span our planet, then maybe we can find ways to embrace our far flung brothers and sisters. Hope has enabled people to survive unthinkably horrendous situations. Let’s keep passing on stories and deny the power of cynicism or fear.
Mike Henson is a designer, illustrator and children’s author.
- Read more responses here and here
- Read this introduction, by Tiny Owl publisher Delaram Ghanimifard, of our One Story, Many Voices series
- Cinderella of the Nile selected as ‘One to Watch’ by The Bookseller
- Check out Mike Henson sharing his parenting journey and a song he wrote for his daughter Hannah
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