Story Time

September 12th, 2009

Geez, isn’t it funny how certain things occur that set off a chain reaction in your mind.

In days gone by, before television and all the other limitless array of electronics, there was word of mouth. I can remember my mother telling my brother and me stories. In time she taught us to read the stories ourselves. Some bedtime stories date back many generations, and many originated in Europe, all passed on to us by our elder family members.

The Grimm brothers of 18th century Germany wrote many of the stories as well as collecting and publishing many from other sources. Not initially written to be children’s stories, they became such after the brothers couldn’t find a market for them as regular stories and essays about life in Germany and Europe. The classic Hansel and Gretel is most likely the basis for every little boy/little girl lost story written since the original. The brothers published several more stories, among them Snow White and Rapunzel.

Not all the stories my mom told us are in print, at least not to my knowledge. I can only imagine that they date back to her dad’s roots in Holland. She tells me that she first heard them from her grandmother. I’m ashamed to admit that the tradition pretty much died with me. Sadly, I’m one of those parents who let television do far to much babysitting for me. My kids are from the Bullwinkle and Rocky generation. Those along with Looney Tunes and the original Disney channel posed no particular threat that I could see.

A great many of the European stories were about witches and goblins and other less than gentle child-like tales. More of a picture of European society and life as viewed by the writers and the population in general, not at all intended to entertain children.

Children’s stories were by no means scarce; they were actually a very lucrative business. The chief ground-breaker in child’s tales got it’s biggest boost in 1697 when French author Charles Perrault titled a collection of children’s stories “Tales of Mother Goose,” a term used in an article in 1650 to refer to France’s Queen Bertha. Perrault’s collection included his own stories as well as many stories that had never been in print prior to his efforts to save them. His most widely known stories are Tom Thumb and Puss and Boots. The version we are most acquainted with came about in 1765. This collection is by English author John Newbery. However, it wasn’t until 1914 that a fully English language version became available.

So why the interest in old fairy tales and bedtime stories, you might ask? I personally feel that such stories form a kind of mental building block that helps prepare us for life. Some more than others, depending on the individual. There are a few that everyone relates to. Wolf at the door, the sky is falling, and crying wolf are all understood by everyone and each is a passage from a childhood story.

Some of the best-known stories are the little short fables by a Greek slave named Aesop. They have survived for many hundreds of years because they hold as true today as they did when Aesop first wrote them. Everyone knows the story of the tortoise and hare, just to name one. Their survival is a testament to their value to society.

Had it not been for the internet a great many of these stories would probably pass into obscurity. When did you last purchase a book or check one out of the library?

My original plan was a piece to avoid the political scene at all costs. Seems like every time I get on the subject, someone gets their feelings hurt. Something like “Al-Obama and His 40 Thieves/Czars.” After figuring out that some readers actually hold Obama in very high esteem, I’ve decided to try a different comparison. How about the old story of The Emperor’s New Clothes? Obama will be the Emperor.

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Categories: Arts, History, Life | Comments (4) | Home

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4 Responses to “Story Time”

  1. doris |

    lol.good one,Larry.I don’t hold him in such high esteem,just not as low as you do.I tell alot of stories to my granddaughter-4,she loves that,as no one else does.I buy and read her lots of books,we are now loving,Where the Wild Things Are.So cute.Thanks for a good article.

  2. larry |

    Wonderful, you are doing something for your grand child that will return dividends that are far in excess of the time and effort you have invested.Take time to love and spoil her, four year old grand daughters are so sweet and love granny better than anything.

  3. Tom |

    Good article, Larry, well-done! I particulary liked that little piece of stiletto work at the end — “Al-Obama and His 40 Thieves/Czars.” I may not agree, but I have to admire the style.

  4. Harvey |


    Interesting history of children’s stories. Always enjoy your insights and your humor!

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