History Of The Written Word

For thousands of years, stories were passed on by word of mouth. Learn the history of the written word and how it enabled treasured tales to become available to the world and generations of children.

Long before the written word, in primitive times, stories were passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. Many of the fables and fairytales we know today were based on those old stories. Since the invention of the printing press, these stories have become an integral part of the childhood of generations.

Aesop was a storyteller and philosopher who lived in ancient Greece. His stories featured animals as the main characters, facing the same situations we face everyday. His stories showed how a problem can be solved or how a lesson is learned, dealing with emotions such as jealousy, laziness, and lying. Since his stories were written down in 300 BC, they have been reprinted and replayed for thousands of years.

Hans Christian Anderson was a man who lived in Denmark in the 19th century. As a child, he was considered ugly and had very few friends. This caused him to read quite a bit and daydream even more. When he was 14 his father died, leaving Hans with no means of support. As such, he decided to move to Copenhagen and tried to become an actor. When he found himself still unsuccessful at the age of 30, he decided to write down the stories he had been concocting and telling to children across the countryside to pay for his travels. These stories, such as "The Princess and the Pea" "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "The Ugly Duckling" have become treasures classics told to children the world over.

Legend has it that there was a queen named Scheherazade who had been captured and sentenced to death by the Sultan Schahriah of Arabia. In order to save her life she told him tales of intrigue and adventure, stopping at the most exciting part, so he would have to keep her alive for one more night to hear the ending of the story. After 1,001 nights, the sultan granted her freedom and she became his wife. She then recorded the stories so all could enjoy them. These stories included "Sinbad the Sailor" "Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves" and "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp"

The Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have been enjoyed and retold for years. The stories were originally published by Sir Thomas Mallory while he was incarcerated in 1469. Prior to their publication, the stories had delighted European audiences for centuries and continue to delight to this day.

Charles Perrault was a government serviceman who lived in France in the 17th century. After retiring, he began to gather popular local folk tales and weave them into stories with morals directed at children. He was one of the first French authors to write for children and his stories, such as "Tom Thumb" "Sleeping Beauty" and "Puss in Boots" are loved to this day.

Perhaps the most famous fairy tales are those recorded by the brothers Grimm. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were brothers who lived in Germany in the 19th century. After their parents died, the brothers traveled around the country and gathered stories from the local folk. Upon the publication of the tales they had gathered, the brothers became famous. Included in their collection of stories are "Hansel and Gretel" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves"

These storytellers have enriched and enhanced all of our lives with their entertaining tales and lessons. The stories of these peoples have become so intertwined into our culture, that we cannot imagine a childhood without them.

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