I heard an old, old story . . .
Yesterday's blog entry mentioned that fairy tales may be much older than previously thought, and today's entry points to:
. . . [a] folk tale called The Smith and the Devil [that] was estimated to date back 6,000 years to the bronze age. The story, which involves a blacksmith selling his soul in a pact with the devil in order to gain supernatural ability, then tricking the evil power, is not so well known today, but its theme of a Faustian pact is familiar to many . . . . The author and academic Marina Warner . . . . said. "In the case of The Smith and the Devil, it's a cunning tale - the trickster tricked, showing a very ancient version of that defiance of difficulty. That capricious chance will play tricks on you, but you, with cunning, will be able to resist that. It's a kind of joke the audience shares to feel a little better." (Alison Flood, "Fairytales much older than previously thought, say researchers," The Guardian, January 20, 2016)I suspect that readers familiar with my Bottomless Bottle of Beer tale will recognize why this tale of a blacksmith tricking the Devil catches my fancy. But how did the researchers determine the dating? Here's how:
The study employed phylogenetic analysis, which was developed to investigate evolutionary relationships between species, and used a tree of Indo-European languages to trace the descent of shared tales on it, to see how far they could be demonstrated to go back in time. (Flood, "Fairy Tales")Alles klar? Well, not entirely . . .
Labels: Literary Criticism