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Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?

Iains 20 Nov 19 - 11:31 AM
Steve Gardham 19 Nov 19 - 05:26 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 19 Nov 19 - 04:58 PM
Steve Gardham 19 Nov 19 - 02:46 PM
Iains 19 Nov 19 - 02:43 PM
Steve Gardham 19 Nov 19 - 02:14 PM
Iains 19 Nov 19 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 19 Nov 19 - 12:24 PM
Steve Gardham 19 Nov 19 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 19 Nov 19 - 11:47 AM
Steve Gardham 18 Nov 19 - 06:06 PM
EBarnacle 17 Nov 19 - 10:30 PM
Steve Gardham 17 Nov 19 - 02:15 PM
Raedwulf 17 Nov 19 - 01:31 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Nov 19 - 04:55 PM
keberoxu 13 Nov 19 - 03:31 PM
keberoxu 13 Nov 19 - 03:28 PM
Mo the caller 13 Nov 19 - 05:36 AM
Mo the caller 12 Nov 19 - 09:43 AM
GUEST,HiLo 12 Nov 19 - 09:18 AM
Raedwulf 12 Nov 19 - 07:50 AM
Donuel 11 Nov 19 - 06:14 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 11 Nov 19 - 06:09 PM
Steve Gardham 11 Nov 19 - 04:44 PM
Anne Lister 11 Nov 19 - 04:25 PM
Steve Gardham 11 Nov 19 - 04:03 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 11 Nov 19 - 01:28 PM
Raedwulf 10 Nov 19 - 07:19 PM
Steve Gardham 10 Nov 19 - 06:29 PM
Anne Lister 10 Nov 19 - 06:24 PM
Anne Lister 10 Nov 19 - 06:05 PM
Steve Gardham 10 Nov 19 - 04:54 PM
GUEST,HiLo 10 Nov 19 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,HiLo 10 Nov 19 - 12:17 PM
meself 10 Nov 19 - 11:40 AM
Anne Lister 10 Nov 19 - 11:16 AM
GUEST,HiLo 10 Nov 19 - 09:23 AM
Anne Lister 09 Nov 19 - 05:39 PM
GUEST,HiLo 09 Nov 19 - 09:42 AM
Anne Lister 09 Nov 19 - 06:11 AM
Mo the caller 09 Nov 19 - 05:16 AM
Steve Gardham 08 Nov 19 - 06:16 PM
Anne Lister 08 Nov 19 - 05:55 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Nov 19 - 05:46 PM
Anne Lister 08 Nov 19 - 05:18 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Nov 19 - 03:54 PM
GUEST,keberoxu 07 Nov 19 - 06:44 PM
Anne Lister 07 Nov 19 - 06:39 PM
Anne Lister 07 Nov 19 - 06:30 PM
Raedwulf 06 Nov 19 - 02:12 AM
Anne Lister 05 Nov 19 - 06:08 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 05 Nov 19 - 04:10 PM
keberoxu 05 Nov 19 - 02:41 PM
meself 05 Nov 19 - 02:33 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 05 Nov 19 - 02:08 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 05 Nov 19 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 05 Nov 19 - 01:58 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Nov 19 - 06:11 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 04 Nov 19 - 04:23 PM
Anne Lister 04 Nov 19 - 04:20 PM
Nigel Parsons 04 Nov 19 - 10:52 AM
Steve Gardham 03 Nov 19 - 07:12 PM
keberoxu 03 Nov 19 - 03:48 PM
Jack Campin 03 Nov 19 - 10:26 AM
Anne Lister 03 Nov 19 - 06:25 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 02 Nov 19 - 06:05 PM
Jim Carroll 02 Nov 19 - 12:30 PM
Anne Lister 02 Nov 19 - 11:31 AM
Raedwulf 02 Nov 19 - 08:36 AM
Richard Mellish 02 Nov 19 - 08:15 AM
keberoxu 01 Nov 19 - 08:50 PM
Steve Gardham 01 Nov 19 - 07:02 PM
Raedwulf 01 Nov 19 - 06:52 PM
Steve Gardham 01 Nov 19 - 04:57 PM
Mo the caller 01 Nov 19 - 01:37 PM
Steve Gardham 01 Nov 19 - 11:27 AM
Mrrzy 31 Oct 19 - 08:12 PM
GUEST,keberoxu 31 Oct 19 - 07:18 PM
Raedwulf 31 Oct 19 - 07:02 PM
keberoxu 31 Oct 19 - 05:35 PM
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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Iains
Date: 20 Nov 19 - 11:31 AM

It is always useful to apply scientific methods to a study, in fact it is essential. How meaningful it is depends upon not only what questions are asked, but also how they are phrased. My feeling is that for such a phylogenetic study to be valid the data base being consulted would have to be, not only reasonably comprehensive, but also correct. I suspect the study would fail to be meaningful due to a failure on both counts.
I would place it's validity in the same category as polling. Many polls make assumptions, history frequently proves them to be wrong. By the same token predictions by economists on the economy are rarely correct.
( A recent working paper by Zidong An, Joao Tovar Jalles, and Prakash Loungani discovered that of 153 recessions in 63 countries from 1992 to 2014, only five were predicted by a consensus of private-sector economists in April of the preceding year.) I would not discredit such studies, as proposed, but I would take their conclusions with extreme caution.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Nov 19 - 05:26 PM

Studies of genetics, stemmatics and other sciences have been applied to all sorts of literature in the last 20 years, including ballads, stories, mythology etc.

One person who has done this in the States is Bob Waltser (apologies if I spelt this wrong) who occasionally posts on the Indiana Ballad List. I use a primitive evolutionary study system when analysing ballads but all my own invention. I have received no formal training. And hitherto I have not used any computer programmes. But messaging with Bob it would appear what I do is something similar to stemmatics but without the rigid discipline of academia. One of Bob's studies involves the Robin Hood ballad 'The Geste' in all its manifestations. That's what I call dedication.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 19 Nov 19 - 04:58 PM

Going back to the OP:

"The study, which was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, employed phylogenetic methods to investigate the relationships between population histories and cultural phenomena, such as languages, marriage practices, political institutions, material culture and music."

Phylogenetic: online definition: "relating to the evolutionary development and diversification of a species or group of organisms, or of a particular feature of an organism."

So it looks to me as if they have used a computer programme designed to trace genetics and applied it to bits of stories/themes etc.

So how far the somewhat 'sensational' reporting of this really reflects the claims of the study, I don't know. I know that scientists do sometimes critique/complain about the way scientific findings are presented by journalism. But I'm thinking you would have to mount an argument that methods designed for use in one context might produce meaningful results on another?

Just throwing ideas out here, happy to hear objections/thoughts...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Nov 19 - 02:46 PM

On second thoughts the penny probably dropped when the shamans and priests overstepped the mark and became too greedy.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Iains
Date: 19 Nov 19 - 02:43 PM

For the most part their imbibing of "substances" would put Timothy Leary to shame. Somewhat akin to the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Nov 19 - 02:14 PM

>>>>shamans/witchdoctors" were an essential part of ancient societies<<<
Surely that's a massive understatement. They were all powerful, moreso than the leaders who they advised. They were the representatives of the gods. Their later equivalents, the priests, wielded the same sort of power, before learning and literacy diminished it, and some of the leaders realised they were being taken for a ride.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Iains
Date: 19 Nov 19 - 12:28 PM

I think that 'narrative' is perhaps fundamental to being human and using language-based interaction.
To that(at the risk of being ridiculed) I would add that "shamans/witchdoctors" were an essential part of ancient societies, even up to modern times in some places. Worship was another extremely human trait.
    Working some miles south of the Cape of Good Hope, a witchdoctor was brought out by chopper to do his thing on the rig floor prior to spudding a well( A failure I am afraid). I was on another drillship in the mouth of the Congo and another witchdoctor was brought on board to decapitate a chicken over the well head. Yet another shaman? topped a goat in Oman prior to drilling out. I never got as far as Sakalin Island, although several colleagues did, What the Nivkh did to bless exploration I have no idea but I guess it was a success.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 19 Nov 19 - 12:24 PM

We had a lad once who denied being out with his greyhound when supposedly ill in bed. Upon being quizzed by a deputy, he denied being anywhere other than his sick bed, until, eventually, he could not resist correcting his interlocutor and giving himself away: "Sir, it's a lurcher!" . But whether I witnessed this or it was a story told by the deputy, I cannot now remember. Stories and the folk process....?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Nov 19 - 11:52 AM

Talking about 'the dog ate my homework', here's a true story, I took a pile of geography books home to mark like you do, and we had a cat. One of the kids had unfortunately stuck into his book a piece of fish skin, quite valid to the work we were doing. I had to take the kid's exercise book back to school and tell him the cat ate his homework!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 19 Nov 19 - 11:47 AM

I have similar experiences to Steve and if this has not already been done, I'll go further. I think that 'narrative' is perhaps fundamental to being human and using language-based interaction.

Why are you late? Whether the answer is I got attacked by a mammoth, or we found a great source of food, or the dog ate my homework so I had to do it again, whatever, the response will be a narrative, will it not? And it will be more or less full/accurate depending on context etc. So I think framing narratives is something we can all do.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 Nov 19 - 06:06 PM

As a teacher of English for nearly 40 years I often had the pleasure of sitting with those pupils who had for various reasons become alienated towards the establishment (Actually I was at one with them over this and some of them picked this up). The one thing that could be guaranteed to get their attention was telling them stories and encouraging them to tell theirs, not from a book, from our experiences and imagination. You don't need to be a professional to tell stories and hold an audience. I've always been a singer/musician so I've never felt the need to follow in the wake of Taffy Thomas, Mike Rust or Shonaleigh. I suppose I sing my stories.

However, when you are singing a ballad you are more often not constrained by the staightjacket of the tune and structure ready given, whereas when telling a story you can easily make it your own and craft it and adapt it to different situations.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 17 Nov 19 - 10:30 PM

I have just gotten around to this thread and find it interesting that two things are not mentioned: Bobbameissen and actual events. For a few years, I wrote a column in a boating magazine of tall tales. I quit because too many of the tales turned out to have a significant base in reality, usually after the stories were published.

Bobbameissen [grandmother's tales] are still a feature of cultures where the family has not dispersed and where generations still live in proximity. Even when they haven't stayed near, the oldies are a repository of the old materials, including material that came from the Old Country. As a Jew, I am aware that my relatives have traveled, often involuntarily, all over the world, carrying their tales with them. Travelers of all sorts carried their culture with them, both formally/professionally and also as part of their personal traditions.

When I do a story set in a home, I often end up listening to the residents more than I talk. Usually, the staff come to me as I get ready to leave and say "I didn't know that about X."

The stories are out there; they always were. Someone just has to listen.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Nov 19 - 02:15 PM

Sorry RW,
The name Stith stuck in my head. Just checked and it's his first name.
Stith Thompson is what you want.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Raedwulf
Date: 17 Nov 19 - 01:31 PM

Steve - again, precisely. Rehashing my earlier remarks about the Ash Lad, one element names (not one syllable!) are relatively uncommon. Expanding with a couple of examples, Helen (Gk) is generally translated as either 'white' or 'shining', whereas the one syllable John translates to 'Yahweh is gracious'; despite being one syllable in English, it is (apparently) from Hebrew 'yo' + 'chanan' (hence, I presume, the Germanic variants on Johan).

Extending the discussion, my own name is a real name. It's the name you all know me by (let's be honest, no disrespect to Anne, but it's only a bunch of pixels, her birth certificate might equally declare him to be John Doe, if you see what I mean! ;-) ). It's the Germanic original of my given middle name, which is why I adopted it when I began Dark Age (ooops! ;-) ) re-enactment. But it's a name that many people know me by either exclusively or preferentially, online & in real life. So is it not real?

As with most names, it's a multi-element name ræd + wulf. Ræd is the word that become rede - 'counsel'. 'Wolf counsel' - I can actually say "Cunning is my middle name" & it's the truth! ;-) Anne, I am quite sure, is a more scholarly student than I am, so could better comment on this point, but names morph very easily. I am dredging my memory here, but I remember querying Hugh Lupton (sorry, name dropping again!) over this. Apart from the Ash Lad & the Troll, there is another Ash Lad story I know which involves... well, essentially, it's a re-telling of Thor fishing for Jormungandr. and it's that pair of tales that, 20-odd (some of them very odd!) years ago put the thought into my head (there's a lot of room... ;-) ) that 'The Ash Lad' sounded like a deduced & handed down description of someone whose name originally was "Aesc-something"...

So no, as a very complex & extended name, I doubt that Rumpelstiltskin is in any way the 'original', and for that reason alone, never mind many others, I am quite sure there are many other versions. As for motifs, as I said back in my first post, I think it was Bob Silverberg who said there were only 7 stories & any you want can be reduced to one (or more) of those. I've never heard of Stith's Motifs, but thank 'ee. Oi shall naow go orf an' look 'em up! ;-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Nov 19 - 04:55 PM

One reason why you wouldn't find the name Rumplestiltskin is that it is only one version amongst thousands. Just a guess but R is probably a German version published by the Grimms. I don't know enough about the story histories to pronounce, but it might well turn out to be a version of The Smith and the Devil. I would need to look at Stith's Motifs but it might have a title something like 'spiteful creature and guessing name'.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: keberoxu
Date: 13 Nov 19 - 03:31 PM

And regarding that same table / tree from the published study,

conspicuous by its absence is the name Rumpelstiltskin.

But on the list of titles, I do see:
Beauty and the Beast
Cinderella
The Grateful Dead      (!?)
Three Old Spinning Women
Peau d'Âne
Spirit in the Bottle


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: keberoxu
Date: 13 Nov 19 - 03:28 PM

I went a little bit deeper into the link
provided in the OP of this thread.

Click enough times, and you will eventually link to
Royal Society Publishing, and the study referenced in the article at the link.


One of the tables in that study shows that
fifty specific tales were singled out
for "phylogenetic" consideration.
I still don't know what "phylogenetic" means.

The table takes these fifty examples, listed by title and
by assigned numbers for convenience,
and shows a tree of language-types rather than languages as I know them.
There are nine language types in this tree.
Some are connected laterally, like siblings;
some are descended from others.

I looked with interest at the handful of stories
that appear in the language-type
at the very top of the tree, which is to say,
the oldest language-type,
titled "Proto-Indo-European."

These stories, by title, are:

Boy Steals Ogre's Treasure

The Smith and the Devil

The Animal Bride

The Grateful Animals


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 13 Nov 19 - 05:36 AM

Ah but that's a different story -
It was the will of (51.9% of) the people that Sisyphus should roll a boulder up a hill. Then everyone (??%) wanted him to get it done.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 12 Nov 19 - 09:43 AM

I interested to know how many Ann & Raedwulf would use the term 'most' for. 51.9%, 95%, somewhere in between?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 12 Nov 19 - 09:18 AM

Anne, the last paragraph of your most recent post is an example of the kind of elitism often displayed by newly minted "academics". I must say, I was surprised by it. I seem to be being attacked for being a Guest, for putting my thought into print and for, God forbid, disagreeing with you
I started my correspondence by asking a perfectly reasonable question in what I thought was a respectful fashion.
So, allow me to state a few things, Yes, I have read Chaucer, yes, I do know a fair amount about the crusades, yes I have academic credentials, not that it should matter, yes, I know a fair amount of medieval history!
I do not think, as you seem to, that posting under your own name , affords you the right to dismiss the opinions of those who do not.
I will leave this now, as I think I understand the tenor of your response..too bad, it could have been an interesting discussion.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Raedwulf
Date: 12 Nov 19 - 07:50 AM

Steve - yes, precisely my point & precisely my metaphor. The vast majority of cells in the body are static, but red blood cells get everywhere & transmit stuff... ;-)

Anne - Perhaps you should read what I've written more carefully. I know what you're saying. I've also said we are talking at cross-purposes; congratulations on proving my point. I never said people didn't travel; I said that the majority never did. More than once. My "special few" was an unfortunate choice of words & perhaps that's stuck in your head. There is no "especially in the 12th & 13thC"; you're focused on that perhaps because it's what you're currently looking at. There have always been a proportion of people who move around for whatever reason, some very few over remarkable distances. But for most of human history, the primary employment of most folk has been the acquisition / production of food, or some craft connected with that, and that, for the most part, ties you to a place. Most people (percentage wise in their time obviously, given that population has exploded, more than quadrupled, in the last century, when folk certainly have been very mobile) have not had one or both of the opportunity or the need to travel.

Oh, and one other thing. Don't get snotty & rude about academic qualifications, etc. I'm sure you didn't mean to be, but read back what you wrote to me & imagine how you'd feel if I'd written that to you. I don't think you'd be very happy with it, would you? I've already said, I think, that I'm nothing more than a knowledgeable amateur. But I am a very knowledgeable amateur and yes, the no-longer-so Dark & Middle Ages is my particular area of interest, along with the lead up to & happening of WWI. I have read widely, I am well-informed & I'm also not stupid enough to declare that I am "just as well" or "better" informed than you are! I don't know what you know, after all. ;-)

Steve seems to have understood the point I've been trying to make. Not that no-one ever travelled, but that relatively few ever did until relatively recently (Homo Sap has been around for about 200,000 years, so it is reckoned). You seem to have decided that You Are Right And Therefore I Must Be wrong. But we're not making the same point. If I haven't managed to get this across by now, I think I'd best give up! ;-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Donuel
Date: 11 Nov 19 - 06:14 PM

I am entranced by the very notion of ancient ledgends and folklore.
But not just of Europe or Roman times but of Egypt and her ancestors the Zep Tepi or of pre deluvian times if you will. Its my dirty little secret. To satisfy this thirst I wrote fictional accounts of the rediscovery of scrolls stored in deep underground chambers that had caved in after the burning of the Alexandrian library. Even settings from Malta to Cyprus and Turkey were wonderful backdrops for this kind of science fiction in reverse. Even cats , mice and monkeys have dialog when needed.
I have yet to write about traveling to South America from Egypt but it is stewing. Movies like 10 ,000BC give me a barely adequate fix. If I can't have the real stories I have to make my own. (but I hate the word fantasy)
Forever conflicted Donuel.

Carry on Ann.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 11 Nov 19 - 06:09 PM

Ann, it is amazing just how inter-related the royalty/aristocracy of Europe was/is. John of Gaunt, for example, as portrayed in Shakespeare, but Gaunt is Gwent, and his descendants ruled Spain and if I am right played a part in the 1492 expulsions. And one supposes they might have taken a certain number of court entertainers with them from place to place?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Nov 19 - 04:44 PM

Professional entertainers have never let language barriers stop their eye for where the money was. The great clown Joe Grimaldi massive pop star from c1800 to 1830 came from an Italian family via the French court. He was born in England but his father and grandfather were Italian entertainers and impresarios.

The enclosures
The clearing of the Highlands
Seasonal labourers
The navvies
Uprisings
Marching regiments & followers
Romanies
carters
drovers
pedlars
tinkers
press gangs
the list goes on....


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 11 Nov 19 - 04:25 PM

Raedwulf, and I still hold that you're wrong on the question of travel. A lot of people didn't travel much, but a surprising number of people, especially in the 12th and 13th centuries, did. Which was my point, and has been, all the way through this discussion. Please, if this is confusing, go back and re-read my sentence, particularly the first part of it. I've already listed the reasons for that - trade, work, pilgrimages, crusades, being part of the household of a noble family who moved around, cattle (and other animal) droving. I'm not talking of migrations or fleeing persecution. No amount of telling me that "the vast majority" or "most people" didn't go anywhere, however bold your font, will contradict the evidence from primary medieval source texts (as well as DNA evidence and genetics) that a surprising number of people did. And as we were discussing how stories and songs might travel, that's exactly how. Returning to my friend Gervase of Tilbury, who started in Essex and then worked in Italy, Sicily, France and Germany ...he wrote stories down, when he was living in France, for the man he worked for in Germany. And (while in France) he entertained the king of Aragon. You can, as I have said before, with equal justice say "the vast majority" of people today don't travel, and the big difference is that today we have methods of communication which don't depend on that - unfortunately it doesn't stop a similar level of misunderstandings and misinterpretations from taking place, as witness some of the posts on this thread and many discussions here on MudCat. What I've been trying (and, it seems failing) to do is set right some of the many misconceptions about the medieval period, and one of these is the notion that information and culture didn't travel. Both did, because people did. The manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts of the story I've been working on have turned up in a number of different locations (with linguistic variations suiting each location) across southern Europe. The story itself turns up in the Philippines, in Tagalog, presumably taken there by the Spanish. Storytellers and singers and writers travelled.

As to "the dark ages" - that term hasn't been used for a very long time now among historians or literature scholars. Those old history books contained some quaint notions. Yes, Pseudonymous, the trade routes are indeed full of interest and were indeed important crossroads, which is why I also mentioned Malta, Sicily and Iberia. The extended family of Henry II of England and Alienor of Aquitaine were spread across most of Europe, and then also travelled, taking their households with them.

To gain a full picture of where medieval scholarship is now, I recommend looking at the list of sessions at the Leeds International Medieval Congress, or the even bigger Kalamazoo event.

I'm always happy to follow up actual references to scholarship or primary sources which will give me a different picture. I've had to revise my own preconceptions several times over the past five years. But I'm not prepared to change my point of view on the basis of bald statements in bold print on MudCat when I have no idea at all who is behind the MudCat pseudonym and what their academic credentials are, or any background at all. I post under my own name, and have said what the basis is for my statements.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 11 Nov 19 - 04:03 PM

Okay RW so most of the people didn't move far but it only takes a relative few to actually transmit lore like stories. Looking at the past century alone one doesn't have to think very hard to come up with large numbers being thrown into contact with other cultures. Windrush, Prisoners of war, emigration, French gites owned by foreigners, Brits moving to Spain, European workers moving to Britain, Oriental students in our universities, seamen in foreign ports, mixed crews, Sri Lankans working in Greek hotels, foreign au-pairs. One could come up with similar lists from previous centuries.

Of course print over the last 500 years has had an enormous impact. One has only to mention the Grimms to know that. When I had a large library of folklore books a significant number of them were translations of tales from other languages and cultures.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 11 Nov 19 - 01:28 PM

I think (having quickly looked at Wiki) that it might be a 19th century idea that a certain medieval time in England could reasonably be called 'the dark ages'. But certainly, as a child, the kids history books I had and loved, tended to call the some medieval times that, with a view that the Renaissance ended it. I don't think now this is right, but it does seem that at some point in the past some historians did think this way. Have not read Pryor so cannot comment on how fair he was to other historians.

The Silk Roads book is full of migrations of one sort or another. And cross-cultural knowledge and scholarship. The trade routes themselves, the author argues where places where ideas and religion travelled, so presumably stories too.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Raedwulf
Date: 10 Nov 19 - 07:19 PM

Steve - Mike Rust still owes me a sweatshirt that he lost. Shonaleigh, I got partnered with her on a storyteller course at The Edge. Which ought to have been totally terrifying, but was actually great fun. Especially when I messed up the story we'd been working on so we had to quickly improvise! ;-) Under Hugh Lupton's tutelage, for whatever that's worth. And he later admitted that he'd given us a horror of a story that he didn't think could be reduced to the time constraints we were supposed to work within ("The Three Deck Ship").

Anne - "I just wanted to knock the old chestnut of "people didn't travel much" on the head." Knock away, you'll still be wrong. I am not in the right frame of mind to argue this in detail right now; I've held off replying to your 7/11 6:30PM for that very reason. You seem to me to be a much more studious storyteller than I ever was & I will happily ask questions, rather than challenge, if I am at odds with whatever you care to declare.

But not on history. Most people, most anywhere, most of the time, did not go anywhere. Occasional migrations, either mass (the presumed waves of tribal migrations out of central Asia / Eastern Europe, which were decades & centuries long in any case) or "personal" such as Huguenots fleeing persecution, are rare & exceptional. I think perhaps you've misunderstood what I was getting at with that. Your own market town comment emphasises my point, not yours. Most people most of the time didn't move around much. They weren't able to (slaves, thralls, peasants tied to their master's needs), or they had no reason to (10 miles is far enough). Until you get to the 17thC as a start (religious upheavals & the beginnings of the industrial revolution), & the mid 19thC especially (mass-migration to urban settings fuelled by the easy medium of railways), most people did NOT move very far from their base point. That's more than ehough time for stories to have percolated without people having had to have move - that's what red blood cells do. If you see what I mean.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Nov 19 - 06:29 PM

When we think of the millions who migrated to America and all of their melting pot of languages and that is just one aspect......


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 10 Nov 19 - 06:24 PM

I've just had an uncomfortable thought - I hope no one reading this thread thinks that when I talk about "travel" I'm talking about leisure, sight-seeing, touristy travel? The travel I'm talking about is necessary, work-related, practical stuff, and I'd never thought before this discussion started that anyone would have questioned the fact that it took place for a wide variety of people.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 10 Nov 19 - 06:05 PM

HiLo - First of all - travel does not - and did not - necessarily mean "to London". There were as many destinations then as there are now, some outside these islands and some remarkably distant. People reached them. Read the history of the Crusades, as one small example. There was certainly no question of "wafting". People had feet. People also knew other people, who might have had access to a horse and cart. There were donkeys, there were oxen. There were rivers. There were boats and ships. People did travel, whether or not you or I understand the practicalities of it. Who said there were no horses owned? Who exactly do you mean by the "labouring classes", and when we're discussing travel, why are they the only "class" you mention? You will know, I'm sure, that at this point in history that concepts of class are anachronistic. Not everyone was free to do as they chose. Have you read any Chaucer? Consider his pilgrims. They were not unusual characters on any kind of unusual mission. The text which was the centre of my PhD thesis was written in Occitan for a King of Aragon, who had married a granddaughter of Henry II of England and Alienor of Aquitaine. In his kingdom there people from many different kingdoms, as well as the three major religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism). Iberia, Sicily and Malta were enormous crosssroads in which all manner of people worked together. I have mentioned Alienor of Aquitaine and her travels took her all across Europe(note - it wasn't just men on the road, therefore). There were networks which allowed this to happen. Yes, she was a ruler, but she had an entourage of people who were not royals, nor all nobility. As I've already said on several occasions, there is no question that not everyone travelled, just as not everyone travels today. But more people travelled than is often assumed, and that was the whole point of my statement in the first place.
I didn't say that Pryor dispelled any myths. Nor do I think he makes any undue assumptions about other historians. He has, on the other hand, been working on practical investigations of agricultural practices and come up with some soundly based conclusions, to do with practices which pre-dated the Romans. Flag Fen is a fascinating site. You're referring to his Britain AD book - there are others, some pre-Roman (Britain BC).
You did make some statements about the relative height of the Saxons and the changes brought about - not quite sure just how - but now you're talking about "assumptions". I've said that we don't know enough, and I stick to that. I'm not making assumptions about periods we don't know enough about, myself, but I am saying that the supposition that people all died younger and were shorter isn't based on substantial evidence. If you can refer me to the academic publications that provide that evidence, I'd be interested to read them. So far you haven't cited any particular references.
My own background is largely in medieval literature. I've had to deal with a quantity of related history as a result of that, and I live with a historian who spends his working life in 1645, but knows a huge amount about social history in varying periods. I don't claim to be an expert, but this whole discussion arose from an area in which I'm fairly well informed. My husband spends a lot of his life trying to inform the visitors to his place of work about facts rather than pre-conceived notions, and it tends to rub off on me.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Nov 19 - 04:54 PM

HiLo
hi
Documented History is of course riddled with distractions, exaggerations, distortions and outright lies. So laziness is just one small facet of this. The rich and powerful have always distorted historical record for obvious reasons. Even contemporary documents are full of bias. Conflict records were mostly written by the winners. Think the Tudors. Even great writers like Shakespeare distorted history to please their patrons, (Richard III, Macbeth) allegedly he added.

Even today university professors and other academics write some right crap in order to please their superiors and keep their jobs (not all of course). You can easily spot this when one professor pulls to pieces another's thesis, even if you know nothing of the subject.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 10 Nov 19 - 01:05 PM

I do not wish to drag on about this but I want to say that I have read Francis Pryor. Here is a brief, very brief observation of some of his thoughts. He makes the assumption that until he came along all historians regarded post Roman Britain as being in the throes of a barbaric "Dark Age". I know of no historian who ever thought that. The idea that Pryor dispelled this "myth" is dodgy at best and at worst it is , historically speaking , a bit intellectually lazy.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 10 Nov 19 - 12:17 PM

Archeology has has contributed much to our knowledge of ancient peoples.. burial sites, tombs, graves etc..do give some credence to "assumptions" about th stature of ancient people, as do the reconstuction of ancient buildings. Most historians are agreed that the Romans were keen students of agricultural methods and farming, as were the greeks. They also had, for that time, much better tools. There are numerous books and Thesis on this subject.
I agree that historical evidence gets revised because new facts come to light, but it also gets revised for other, not so scholarly reasons. So when it does get revised I like to know what the new evidence is.
If there are few roads, no canals, no boats owned, no horses owned and work to be done, people did not pick up and waft up to London unless they had the means to do so, the labouring classes had no such means.
I would like very much to continue chatting with you, but I am not keen to become a member of Mudcat for a number of reasons. So we shall end here. I have enjoyed this discussion very much, thanks.
If a new thread were started it would likely go below the line, as a guest I am not allowed there, so would not be able to continue.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: meself
Date: 10 Nov 19 - 11:40 AM

No - start a new thread, if you must, but I for one am following this exchange with some interest - doubtless others are, too.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 10 Nov 19 - 11:16 AM

The trouble is, we simply don't know about the life expectancy of ordinary people because it's not recorded anywhere. But if Aliénor was unusual in her life span, that would have been commented on - and the others I referred to in my post weren't "upper class". How do you know about the height of the Anglo Saxons compared to the Romans? How do you know they had grown in stature? Is this based on averages, or one or two examples? And the Romans came before the Saxons - and we don't know whether it was the Romans who introduced more efficient farming methods, either, or continued methods which were already in use by the indigenous population (see Francis Pryor, Britain BC and Britain AD). I'm not sure where your statements are coming from. I'd be interested to read any books you've consulted.
Low ceilings? Where?
Historical evidence gets revised because historians uncover evidence which conflicts with received opinions, so archaeologists such as Francis Pryor have been making many revisions to what is known about Bronze and Iron Age history - especially with regard to agriculture and farming methods.
As to the "vast majority of people" - again, how do you know? I'm not saying that a majority travelled a lot, but certainly more travelled than is often assumed, and this is borne out by DNA sampling as well as place names. But I was particularly objecting to the assumption by a previous poster that "people mostly never travelled", when all the written evidence I'm using (primary sources) show that the people who wrote down the stories I was referring to did, indeed, travel very widely.
If you're not registered with MudCat you can't send me a private message, but if you did register we could indeed continue the discussion somewhere else.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 10 Nov 19 - 09:23 AM

Hi Anne , thank you for your detailed reply. The issue of "average" life span is a thorny one. so called averages can be skewed by a number of things one of which is that the upper classes had a longer life expectancy, hence Elinor of Aquataine living to age 82.
Also, age , like height fluctuated greatly over a thousand years. The Anglo Saxons were much smaller than the Romans who invaded Britain,however, within a generation or two, they had grown in stature. The Romans introduced new foods and more efficient farming methods. And of course there were great fluctuations in climate over the years, this too affected nutrition related health.
I have heard the "sleeping sitting up story" as a reason for short beds. But what would explain short tombs, low doorways, and low cielings. ?
The Armour of Henry V111 survived because there was so much of it. He had many suits of armour made over the years. He even imported Dutch armour makers into England, they set up shop in Greenwich and were constantly employed by Henry.
   I don't think that Historians tend to generalize on the basis of very little knowledge.. We know a great deal about travel in the Middle Ages..who did it , why and how they did it. The vast majority of people did not venture far because they had not the means to do so.
On what basis does historical evidence get revised ?
I have really enjoyed your observations and would enjoy discussing it further, however , this thread is likely not the place to do so.
   Thanks again


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 09 Nov 19 - 05:39 PM

I suppose it all depends on what you read, but even serious historians have been confused about the life span question. I can't point you at any written sources, but common sense (sorry, Mr Rees Mogg) can tell you that infant mortality figures were far higher, childhood diseases more likely to result in death and the statistics for women dying in childbirth were much worse in the days before antibiotics and the understanding we now have about infectious diseases and the importance of clean water. As indeed they are in countries today without those things. I do know that when I was working on retirement ages, many years back as a civil servant, I was introduced to the concept that average statistics were highly misleading when they weren't adjusted to take these factors into account - I also know that many of the writers and important figures that I have been examining in detail in the 12th and 13th centuries were over 75 when they died, and this wasn't commented on as unusual in any way. Queen Aliénor of Aquitaine was 82 when she died, and had been travelling around Europe until just a few years before this, and again, her age wasn't mentioned as anything extraordinary.
Sleeping sitting up - my husband works in a living history museum where it is always 1645, and they point this out. I will check with him what the documentary evidence is, but they do careful research and I doubt if they would mention it without a factual basis. The carvings on bedheads often start surprisingly high, which is because pillows were placed against them up to a greater height than we do today so that people could indeed sleep sitting. This would mostly be people of a higher income and social status, but then again it tends to be their furniture which survives. At the museum they mention a superstition that the Angel of Death will only take people who are found lying down, so sleeping sitting up will fool death!
As to the height - there are plenty of descriptions of people found in historic documents in which their height is mentioned. In the case of where my husband works, they know how tall the owner of the house was (and he was over 6 ft). Mostly we look at evidence such as clothing and armour which has survived, and this is often from children and therefore has survived precisely because it hasn't been worn out (it's been discarded or preserved because the child has grown). The armour of Henry VIII is often mentioned, but again, this was made for when he was an adolescent.
I'm not an expert in all of this, but there is a great tendency for people to generalise on the basis of very little actual knowledge. We know that improved nutrition has made some difference to height overall, and, as I said, improved medical knowledge has helped life span, but without the full statistics from the past we can't be sure just how much difference we have made.
As to travel, as I've said above - of course some people didn't travel, just as some don't travel much today either. And of course it all took longer. But royal courts did not have just one place to settle and in the medieval period were constantly on the move, along with their large number of servants and courtiers. Merchants had to travel. Farmers and drovers had to get their crops and animals to markets. People went off to join armies, to sail ships, to seek their fortunes. Most people needed to work, and to travel to find a position. There were pilgrimages, which were a serious business both economically and spiritually.
Now, don't get me started on the situation of women in the middle ages - that, too, has been substantially revised over the past few decades when people stopped re-quoting past historians and started re-evaluating contemporary textual evidence and other facts. There's often a great confusion between European women in the medieval period and women in the Renaissance and later, when the church had a more controlling influence.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 09 Nov 19 - 09:42 AM

Hi Anne, I am very curious about some of the things you said in your post regarding life span, travel etc in the middle ages. Also, I have never seen any cited reference to the "nobilty" sleeping sitting up because it was safer. Also, all references I can find suggest that people were shorter and had a much shorter life span that we do . Could you point me in the direction of sources for this, I find it intriguing.
Thank you in advance.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 09 Nov 19 - 06:11 AM

Mo, yes, but it's not often you can find the earlier form of the song, or the place name, or the story, and that was my point. In this case, it was written down in the 12th century, located in one place. Whether it was also told at the same time in the other places is something we can never know, and of course it may have been. There are differences in languages and cultures, as well. That's why I'm not suggesting any answers, just saying that the question is fascinating (to me, at least). I'm also interested in the 12th century writers who were "collecting" folklore. We can never know how old a story is, and maybe it doesn't matter, but as a storyteller and a songwriter who loves to use stories, I'm endlessly intrigued to know more about those stories, where they came from, why they were told and how they changed over the passage of time and distance. Who were the tellers, who were the audiences, why that story to that audience - and so on. These are questions we should still be asking ourselves about the stories we're fed from the media and social media. Who tells these stories, why choose these stories, who are they aimed at and why, and how much do they change according to who is targeted? But very few people ask the questions.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 09 Nov 19 - 05:16 AM

Anne said "However what intrigues me most is not that people travel, but that people then locate the story in a new home, so this story is told as if it belongs to France, or Wales, or Ireland, or Scotland, or England - or any number of places."
But haven't we all seen it done. A song that we all know, relocated by the singer on the spot to the place he is singing in. An Irish place name or turn of phrase changed for something more natural to an English mouth. An urban myth told as if it happened to someone the teller knows. The hero of a children's story given the name of the listener.

We make our songs and stories our own.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Nov 19 - 06:16 PM

Failing that we could do what the powerful do and invent our own past.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 08 Nov 19 - 05:55 PM

Hi, Steve - yes, almost certainly. I suppose, going back to my original preoccupation - it's frustrating not to know what the circumstances were when the 12th century writers came across the "folk" stories they have preserved in written form. I would love to know who the source tellers were, and how they told their stories. It's thought that French, Occitan, Castilian and Catalan tellers told their stories in rhyming couplets, for example, but the stories are preserved in prose (and in Latin, sometimes poor Latin at that), so we can't even try to detect any linguistic clues or quirks.
Now, if only someone would come up with a decent method of time travel, I'd like to go and visit a number of people and ask a lot of questions!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Nov 19 - 05:46 PM

Hi Anne,
I've seen Shonaleigh perform many times, both locally in Hull and at festivals where I've MCd concerts where she has performed. Mass migrations of refugees must have contributed greatly to the spread of material as well. Whitby Festival has always been very good at booking storytellers like Mike Rust, Stanley Robertson, Duncan Williamson, Taffy Thomas. Being an MC for a while meant that I got to see most of them perform.

My own perception of what levels of storytellers there were at other times and in other cultures is that it can't have been much different to what it is today, a whole range of different levels. Surely such wide-ranging and simple stories can't just have been the province of just a few specialists. But at the top of the tree were those who did specialise.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 08 Nov 19 - 05:18 PM

Thank you, Steve - This could easily turn into a whole study section on medieval entertainers, and I'm up for that (!), but returning to the question of story/folk tale and the transmission of all manner of oral literature and music - we simply don't know enough about what happened in less formal settings. Shonaleigh Cumbers is able to tell us about the drut'syla tradition from her own Netherlands Jewish family background, where an enormous body of tales, organised into cycles and sub-cycles, were passed down from grandmother to granddaughter (and she's engaged in telling the stories to audiences and recording them orally, as they were never written down), and she and her husband Simon Heywood keep coming across variants of these stories in different places, sometimes within the Torah or other sacred books. I highly recommend going to hear Shonaleigh, by the way. We don't know whether there were similar tradition bearers in other cultures, but it seems reasonable to suppose there were. These were trained storytellers, but not necessarily professionals (in the sense of being paid). So whether in any given community there was "the storyteller" who would be the only one to remember and re-tell the stories or whether the stories were remembered by several within the community, and how this connected with the stories which found their way into written form we will never know. Possibly a suitable comparison would be between professional stand up comedians and that person in the pub who has a stock of jokes.
I just wanted to knock the old chestnut of "people didn't travel much" on the head - it's about as accurate as that old rubbish that people all died much younger, or were much shorter, in past generations. [in case you didn't know, the "dying young" stuff is based mostly on "the average age" for dying, which is skewed by infant mortality rates, death in childbirth for women and death from diseases which are now preventable or curable. And the height question is often based on surviving suits of armour, which survived because the young person in question grew out of them, or short beds, which was because the nobility at times including the 17th century thought it was safer to sleep sitting up!]


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Nov 19 - 03:54 PM

Entertainers have always moved around all over the world in every era, particularly professional ones. It may be difficult to believe in our age when a message can be passed from one end of the earth to the other in seconds, that before modern technology this was so. Even before print stories, poetry and other forms of literature were greedily translated from one language to another and then endlessly recopied by professional scribes.
Each wealthy household had its own minstrel, or other master of revels, and their performances were open to servants and other workers. The word minstrel is nowadays misleading conjuring up a ballad singer with a lute, but these people in reality had a wide range of talents, organising plays, dances, story-telling. When other forms of travelling entertainment began to displace the retained minstrels during the 16th century the minstrels themselves became itinerant moving from town to town to earn a crust. This is quite without adding in Ann's Sailors and soldiers and a whole host of other probabilities.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,keberoxu
Date: 07 Nov 19 - 06:44 PM

"Ne'ertheless", "forsooth" ...

at least he didn't say
"irregardless" . . .


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 07 Nov 19 - 06:39 PM

I've just been reminded by my husband that market towns in England were generally 10-15 miles apart, because that was a suitable distance for farmers to travel with their produce. Welsh drovers would take their cattle from Wales to London. Potters would carry their wares all around the country. Sailors and soldiers would travel all around the world, going back hundreds of years. And that's just for starters.
Sorry. Just fed up with generalisations!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 07 Nov 19 - 06:30 PM

Raedwulf - what's all this about "I'm sure you already know"? And "people mostly never have travelled"? There is abundant evidence from all manner of sources that people have indeed travelled, and traded, and transmitted all manner of items, songs, stories, musical instruments and genes. I gave a specific example of a specific story written down by a specific 12th century writer, whose travels and written notes covered most of Europe. That doesn't, however, explain why the same story turns up as local folklore in lots of other places.
Lots of work has been done on motifs and there are various motif-index collections, with various specialisms. There is one, for example, specific to medieval romances. Finding motifs is one thing. Finding the full story is another. Even if you locate the motif, that doesn't explain what it's doing in the full story or how it came to be there.
The main point I was trying (obviously pointlessly) to make is that if a tale turns up as early as the 12th century, it's clearly older than often supposed. And if a story told in southern France - and it's not about stupid people, and it's not a story to explain a natural phenomenon - also turns up "collected" by folklorists in the 19th and 20th centuries in rural Ireland, and Brittany, and England, then it's fascinating to think of how it must have been passed along.
Just for consideration - my father's family in recent generations travelled from Yorkshire to London, and then to Wales. The origins of the family line seem to have been in Saxony, in Germany, in the medieval period. My father had a blood disorder towards the end of his life which is normally only found in Ashkenazy Jews, although we have gone back four hundred years on the family tree without spotting where it might have come into the bloodline. So please - yes, some people (not necessarily "a special few") travelled more than ten miles, more than 150 years ago. Some didn't. Some did. My family is rather unusual in that most of my forebears were actually English. My husband's family tree (extending beyond 150 years) includes English, Welsh and Choctaw, and one chap was transported to Tasmania.

By the way, I know a great number of storytellers, but none who use language like "forsooth" or "ne'ertheless".


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Raedwulf
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 02:12 AM

Pseudonymous - thanks for the mention of Todorov. I did look up his narrative theory. As far as I can see from what's immediately (& perhaps superficially) available on the net, no it doesn't meet the "Silverberg Question". Todorov's theory is about the structure of how a story moves (& seems very reasonable to me); Silverberg's comments were about how there are only so many stories / motifs and, if you trouble to look at tales, you can reduce them all down to a small number of basic themes. But 'twas interesting ne'ertheless, forsooth!

Oh, heavens! did I just go Storyteller? *ahem*

Anne - I'm sure you already know, but just in case... People mostly never have travelled, only a special few. Until relatively recently (last 150 years or so), 10 miles away was a foreign country, more or less, for most folk even if they spoke the same language. I suspect that the few that travel have been as red blood cells to the 'fixed' other cells; carrying something with them, if you see what I mean.

Thus you have the Coggeshall stories - they tried to fish the moon out of a pond, to hedge in the cuckoo so that Spring would also not depart, fixed hurdles in a river bed to change its course... They're all classic "village of idiots" tales that are told of more than one place. There's a village on the Isle of Wight whose name I forget. There's Gotham in Notts, whose name I don't forget. In the case of Gotham, it's alleged that the idiocy was deliberate on their part (trying to avoid the imposition of a royal visit is the most common claim), but the point is that exactly the same tales are told, only the name of the village is different.

I don't doubt that you could find exactly the same tales in other parts of the UK & Northern Europe at least (everywhere has somewhere that is the butt of all the Stupids jokes!). As I said in my first post in the thread, stories get adapted to local colour. There's a class of folk tales known as wonder tales; there, perhaps, a storyteller would keep them foreign & exotic (although even that's not true, since you can find tales with exactly the same motifs & motives right across Europe & into Russia). But with most tales, it's the most natural thing in the world for a storyteller to make them more, if not entirely, local if for no other reason than it helps to interest the audience!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 06:08 PM

It is a rash and foolhardy endeavour to attempt to date a story, or even trace its journey. As most folk tales, by their very nature, are oral in nature and not all get recorded in written form (still less in other recorded media), and as a component of many tales is to claim some form of authority for it (as in: I heard it from my father's father/found it in an old book/always heard it told in this village)it is very difficult to even attempt to sort out origins and derivations. I've been dealing with this issue repeatedly with my PhD research. However, my examples were not intended to suggest a dating or an origin for the stories, simply to point out that they were indeed recorded in written form far earlier than I might have expected. Just how the "fairy midwife" story might have started life, and where, will remain a mystery. Yes indeed, there will be superstitions around ships becalmed for no apparent reason, but again this particular iteration of the story is recorded in a different context to where I have heard it before (as in: this is more of a historic chronicle and not a ballad). It fuels my curiosity - did these stories spontaneously evolve in similar form in different geographic areas, or were they carried by traders, or family members, or some other way and then rooted themselves somewhere else, to be told as local stories in their new homes?
In the case of the Fairy Midwife story, Gervase of Tilbury (who wrote it down in the mid to late 12th century) travelled extensively in Europe, starting with the court of Henry II in England and France, and then in Sicily at the court of William II, and then in Arles, attached to the Archbishop's palace, where he was known to entertain Alfonso II, king of Aragon. People did indeed travel, rather more than we might think. However what intrigues me most is not that people travel, but that people then locate the story in a new home, so this story is told as if it belongs to France, or Wales, or Ireland, or Scotland, or England - or any number of places.
And thank you, Pseudonymous, for your kind comments.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 04:10 PM

On this occasion, the cultural gap has not enabled cross-cultural understanding, as I don't know of either Carlyle or the TV series! Sorry. I am aware, on the other hand, of some of Ann Lister's work via these threads and elsewhere and admire all of it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: keberoxu
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 02:41 PM

... which is probably why the television series
cast Robert Carlyle in the role --
to this day people imitate his high-pitched giggle.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: meself
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 02:33 PM

Rumpelstiltskin was one scary little dude ... !


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 02:08 PM

The history book I was reading was called 'The Silk Roads'. It is long and detailed but well-written and fascinating. Much about migrations, trade, cultural interchange, war, war and more war …. etc. I can recommend it if you had time to spend.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 02:00 PM

I remember having Rumpelstiltskin as a kid with horrid pictures and I did not like it at all. Must have been a snowflake even then!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 01:58 PM

Well English is linked with 'Danish' twice over, via the Angles and via the Vikings.

http://bakerdesign.com/bakerhistory/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Saxons-and-Vikings-map.jpg

Haven't dipped into Crystal on the English Language recently, but I believe that Old Norse and Old English have a lot in common.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Nov 19 - 06:11 PM

You need to distinguish between motifs and developed narratives that contain several motifs. Once you have 2 narratives that contain 2 or more of the same motifs you start to think a linear connection likely.

There are all sorts of ways stories can move from one language to another in relatively short periods of time. The most obvious is perhaps direct translation by sophisticated bilingual people. Another is trading nations such as Britain and Scandinavia over long periods of time. In fairly recent times it's said that East Yorkshire dialect had so much in common with Danish that East Riding farmers meeting the Danish fishermen in the inn could hold a conversation.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 04 Nov 19 - 04:23 PM

Forgive me for being a bit tangential, but some of the books I have been looking into recently bring home the idea that the sort of 'history' I was taught as a child sort of missed out so much accomplishment and culture from the whole world, in addition to perceptions generally being that the West (descended from Greeks, Romans, Jesus) was good and advanced and the rest of the world primitive, lacking civilisation etc.

So when last night I encountered info about scholars within Islam undertaking translations from Sanscrit I thought about this thread though the time I was reading about was later that the dates in f,.

We think of India as so far away, but there was trade through to it way, way back. The Indus Valley civilisation is one of the big three.

However, structural similarities and repeated motifs do not necessarily mean lines of descent.

For example, for various reasons I can easily imagine stories about people being thrown off ships on superstitious grounds etc arising simultaneously in a host of different cultures. Human sacrifice in general seems to have been widespread. Does this seem reasonable? So while it might be reasonable to say 'stories like that' have existed for x thousand years, it might be a bigger leap and less considered to assert that a particular story is x years old. Not sure how one would define any abstract lines here, or what sort of evidence one would require to demonstrate or argue for a clear link. Have encountered this sort of problem of argument and evidence quite a lot in musical history one way or another.

I suppose bilingualism, allowing for 'translation' might arise when conditions were stable enough for traders from one group to live and raise children in another place?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 04 Nov 19 - 04:20 PM

Nigel - it's not a sailor, but a very badly behaved nobleman in this instance. There's not a lot of parallels with Jonah, but the Biblical story may have given rise to the superstition, which in turn would influence the story. The Ancient Mariner poem of course is 600 or so years later than the reference I was looking at!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 04 Nov 19 - 10:52 AM

Anne, The story of the sailor put off a ship when it is becalmed seems to be echoed (in parts) in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but also, itself, seems to hark back to Jonah & The Whale (big fish). So that puts it at 2000 years+


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Nov 19 - 07:12 PM

Nimmy Nimmy Not, my name's Tom Tit Tot!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: keberoxu
Date: 03 Nov 19 - 03:48 PM

On Rumpelstiltskin:
that particular name is from German,
Rumpelstiltzchen,
having nought to do with skin anyplace --

"stiltzchen" is little stilts or poles.
There is also a "rumpelgeist," close to a "poltergeist."


And as was made evident when
Once Upon A Time was broadcast internationally,
Rumpelstiltzchen goes by a wide and wild variety of names.

Tremotino    --    Italy
Tracassin    --    France


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Nov 19 - 10:26 AM

I can't find the article now, but I posted a while back about the story "The Butter-Blinded Brahmin" in the Panchatantra, which is the same story as "Marrow Bones". Stories from that seem to have got around - though perhaps via written transmission rather than orally.

Panchatantra on Wikipedia


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 03 Nov 19 - 06:25 AM

Those ballads in which a ship is carrying someone who has done something wrong and is becalmed until the guilty party is put off the ship ... just found an account by William of Newburgh in which this happens to a badly behaved nobleman, who is of course subsequently drowned when the small boat he's put into is engulfed in the waves. From mid 12th century.
Sorry - of course this is only centuries old, rather than thousands. But I find it fascinating.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 02 Nov 19 - 06:05 PM

I think Raedwulf that you might be interested in the work of Todorov on narrative theory. He is used for all sorts of purposes including media studies. It might even be where Silverberg got his ideas.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Nov 19 - 12:30 PM

Surely this is old news
I've recently traced the ballad Get Up and Bar the Door as far back as ancient Egypt, Hind Horn is linked to the Odyssey myth, Lord Gregory to Chaucer, Lord Bateman to Thomas Becket's merchant adventurer father...
When it comes to songs and lore there is nothing new under the sun   
Part of the fun of research
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 02 Nov 19 - 11:31 AM

I'm currently exploring some British 12th century writers (Walter Map, Gervase of Tilbury) who made collections of information for courtiers and who both included tales which are found today as well-travelled folk tales. I've come across several of these stories in other contexts, and it would be fascinating to know how widespread they were in the 12th century, and how that came to be. The problem, as we all know, with documenting folklore of any kind is that we're dependent on written sources, and not everything was written down.
To give you examples - Walter Map gives at least three different variants on the story I know as the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach (young man marries beautiful woman from a lake, must not strike her three times - but he does). Gervase of Tilbury tells the tale of the midwife to the fairies (midwife called at dead of night to assist a birth but can't see who she's working for - is asked to put an ointment on the baby's eyes and rubs some into her own by accident - then recognises the father of the child at a market who is furious that she can see him and causes her to go blind), but Gervase localises the story in Italy. There are more.
So any dating question is fraught with difficulties, but yes, the stories are old. Both authors, incidentally, also talk of werewolves, vampires and ghosts.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Raedwulf
Date: 02 Nov 19 - 08:36 AM

Well, Rumpel was collected by the Brothers Grimm back in 1812 & he wouldn't have been anything other than very traditional then. So why anyone would think he was 'only' a couple of centuries old is beyond me!

Steve - I just did a quick google. I am surprised to find that Half A Blanket is another one that was collected by the Grimms (not under that title)! It's sort of half & half between the Irish & Germanic versions I gave above. Again, that dates it to much older than 1812. It might well have gone round the world before multi-national ship crews did!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 02 Nov 19 - 08:15 AM

I tell one tale myself that I heard on a TV programme yonks ago. It comes from Tibet and the hero is a young yak; but it includes the basic themes of both The Boy Who Cried Wolf and Marrowbones.

(Thread drift warning) A few years ago Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine ran several re-tellings of well known tales from new angles. I keep meaning to try to find them in my pile of old magazines in random order.

One that I remember a bit of is Rumpelstiltskin, where I think he isn't really a baddy (though I forget why not) and his name is something to do with foreskin. The other that I remember a bit of is Snow White, where the stepmother is a nice young girl that the king takes a fancy to, and Snow White, the daughter of the old queen, is a thoroughly nasty piece of work.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: keberoxu
Date: 01 Nov 19 - 08:50 PM

United States network television recently enjoyed
a seven-year run of a show called "Once Upon A Time,"
which messed around merrily with well-known fairy tales.

Rumpelstiltskin, the chief mischief-maker of the show,
was supposed to be a couple of centuries old.
Now it seems the showrunners had no idea ...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Nov 19 - 07:02 PM

I use the phrase 'very quickly' in folkloric terms, decades rather than centuries, millennia. Multinational ship crews can soon spread the word.

I'm sure I've come across something similar recently concerning granny being put into an old people's home. I might have dreamt it!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Raedwulf
Date: 01 Nov 19 - 06:52 PM

Steve - Bear in mind that "very quickly" is a relative term. 'Very quickly' now is milliseconds; two centuries ago, 6 months might not be "very quickly", depending on the to & from, eh? ;-)

I quibble with Mo as much as you do. What jars for me is "a common problem". Is it? Most cultures tend to revere their elders, not dispose of them. So "Half a Blanket" is an odd tale on more than one level. I've given the example; I'm not scholar enough to be able to give any further clues. All I can do is invite you to enjoy the untrammelled space...

Which is just what a story is for. Isn't it? ;-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Nov 19 - 04:57 PM

Hi Mo
Possible but unlikely. It's a very strong motif and a strong plot, and of course very brief. The use of different utensils to make the same point is typical of the movement of a motif from one culture to another.
A clever little story like this with a very pointed moral can move very quickly across the world.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 01 Nov 19 - 01:37 PM

I like the Half Blanket story. But there is another possible explanation - the story describes a common problem so could have been invented independently in various communities.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Nov 19 - 11:27 AM

Likewise the ballads per se may not be that old, perhaps only in any numbers 15th century, but many of their stories are many centuries older.

It's not that difficult to conceive of them being translated from one language to another in great numbers pre-print and pre-mass entertainment. They would have been a highly valued commodity.

I've seen examples even of a ballad from Germany being translated westwards and being found in great numbers in Brazil within half a century.

A good example of story into ballad is the Bramble Briar. Decameron 'Isabella and the Pot of Basil' (without the pot) as a story translated into English 17th century, used as the basis for a ballad in Bristol c1750, enters oral tradition all over English-speaking world, 19th century onwards.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 31 Oct 19 - 08:12 PM

Very interesting even if not surprising. Fascinating.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: GUEST,keberoxu
Date: 31 Oct 19 - 07:18 PM

I love it, Raedwulf !


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
From: Raedwulf
Date: 31 Oct 19 - 07:02 PM

*shrug* I can only say this is "olds", not news, in the sense of "what did you expect?"

The whole basis of a folk tale is that it is a thread that has been handed down. If a thread gets broken occasionally, it gets knotted up again & continues at some point. I used to be something of a storyteller i.e. out loud to an audience. Believe me, I've read / heard plenty of stories, and there's this version in England, that version in Scotland & Ireland, in Germany it's such & such, in Japan something else...

You didn't really think they got lost, did you, Keb? Not if you actually stop to think about it?

I cannot remember where I read it; probably as an intro to a collection of SF short's; but it was Robert Silverberg (I am fairly sure) who wrote that there are only 7 stories in the world. I don't recall that he actually listed the 7 basic themes (and I don't suppose he originated the notion either), but the premise is that any & every story you ever read can be reduced to one of, or a combination of, those 7 basic themes. If that is a reasonable theory, of course you're going to be able to trace the theme back, and the detail as well, if you're willing to "interpret" a bit.

Off the top of my (slightly inebriated) head, I'll give you two examples. I think I've mentioned "Half a Blanket" before on Mudcat; that's the Irish version. Grandad is old & useless, contributes nothing, so son & wife decide to put him out on the road to fend for himself. They're going to give him a blanket, but grandson pipes up, "No, don't give him a whole blanket, only give him half a blanket. I'll need the other half for when you get old..." Grandad gets brought back into the family.

The Scand / German version is Grandad is old & wobbly, spills his food, etc, which annoys son's wife. Then he drops the pottery bowl, which breaks. So wife in future gives him a wooden bowl & makes him eat at the fire away from the family so they don't have to see him slobbering. Grandson is sat playing in the yard with several bits of wood which he can't make stand up together; son i.e. his dad "Son, son, what are you trying to make?" Grandson: "I'm trying to make a wooden bowl for when you get old". Grandad is brought back to the family table, etc. The Japanese version, closer to the Irish, is that Grandad is to be taken away to the place where old people die; Grandson: "Don't forget to bring the wheelbarrow back"; Son: "Why?"; Grandson: "Because I'll need it when you're old..."

Now, either that is a tale that resonated around the world in a relatively few centuries & been adapted to local 'colour' or, given the massive divergence in language between inflected & non-inflected languages (Japanese vs European, in other words), that's a story that goes way back into a pre-history. It's a bit of both, I suspect.

The second example is The Ash Lad. The Ash Lad is mostly a Scand hero. As so often in folk tales (common thread already), he's the more fortunate, better looking third son (hey! I'm a third son... Gods help the other two is all I can say! ;-) ). And he gets out of various familiar scrapes that his elders are caught or frightened off by by means of his wits and/or a certain amount of luck. More than one of the tales explains his name as being because he sits very close the fire i.e. with his feet in the ashes, telling tell tales that no-one believes.

Here's the linguistic twist. Ash is the name of the æ diphthong that has fallen out of use in most Germanic languages (I think Icelandic still has it, at the least). Æsc (the original spelling; sc was originally "sh" rather than "sk"; scip would be ship or sheep depending how long the I vowel was!) is a name element. This is a purely personal theory, but I think the The Ash Lad isn't The Ash Lad because he sits with his feet in the ashes; that's a later explanation / obfuscation; but because originally his name would have been something built on the Æsc syllable, Æscwine, Æscbert, etc. And if I'm right, then those tales automatically go back to the Proto-Germanic BCE era...


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Subject: Folklore: fairy tales thousands of years old?
From: keberoxu
Date: 31 Oct 19 - 05:35 PM

Did anyone else see this news?
It's from three and a half years ago,
and I just now learned of it.

Fairy tale origins thousands of years old, researches say (BBC)


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