Most of us know a few fairy and folk tales, and have grown up seeing multiple renditions and retellings of these stories. But less of us are familiar with the collections that popularised them, or the writers that penned the versions we know today. So I thought I’d have a look at 6 fairy tale collectors and writers that have given us some of our most beloved fairy tales:
(I’m concentrating on versions of tales that are well known to native English speakers because that’s my personal background, and as a result the collectors and writers I list are mostly European. For more information about non-European collections and collectors, see the links at the end.)
1. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
(a.k.a. The Brothers Grimm)
These German scholars, who were indeed brothers, are perhaps the most famous fairy tale collectors out there (although collecting fairy tales was just one small part of the academic work they did in their lifetimes). In the 1800s they collected various folk and fairy tales from around Germany, and the first version of their Kinder- und Hausmärchen collection was published in 1812. Subsequent versions of the collection added many more tales, as well as modifying many to embellish them or sanitise the more violent elements.
Many popular tales reached a wider audience through this collection, including:
- Little Red Riding Hood
- Hansel and Gretel
- Snow White
- Sleeping Beauty
- The Frog Prince
- Rapunzel (note, this is believed to have been adapted from the original tale ‘Persinette’ by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force)
2. Charles Perrault
Charles Perrault was a French writer who lived in the 1600s and wrote stories inspired by folk tales. He is sometimes dubbed the father of fairy tales, and his collection Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye (Stories of Mother Goose) was very influential – his version of Cinderella, for example, is the one English speakers are most familiar with (with the fairy godmother and the pumpkin carriage etc.) and it is very different from the Brothers Grimm version.
Some tales he is best known for include:
- Little Red Riding Hood
- Sleeping Beauty
- Puss in Boots
3. Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy
Madame d’Aulnoy was a French countess/baroness and writer who published two fairy tale collections, and who, by dubbing her 1697 collection Les Contes des Fées (Fairy Tales), coined the term “fairy tales” that we now use for the genre. While her fairy tales don’t tend to be the versions most popular today, she was an influential figure in the history of the genre.
Some tales from the Aulnoy’s collection:
- Finette Cendron (a similar tale to Cinderella)
- Graciosa and Percinet (a similar tale to Snow White)
- The White Cat
4. Hans Christian Andersen
Andersen was a Danish fairy tale writer active in the 1800s. His collections of Eventyr (Fairy Tales) contain many beloved and popular fairy tales that have since inspired many adaptations and retellings, and his name is one synonymous with fairy tales.
Famous tales include:
- The Little Mermaid
- The Snow Queen
- The Ugly Duckling
- The Princess and the Pea
- The Steadfast Tin Soldier
- The Nightingale
5. Joseph Jacobs
Joseph Jacobs was an Australian folklorist who published several collections of classic English fairy tales. His collections English Fairy Tales (1890) and More English Fairy Tales (1894) contain what are now some of the best known versions of famous tales, and were very influential. He also collected fairy tales from Jewish, Indian and Celtic cultures and edited journals and books on folklore.
Some well-known fairy tales from Jacobs’s Collection:
- The Three Little Pigs
- Jack and the Bean Stalk
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- Jack the Giant Killer
- The History of Tom Thumb
6. Andrew Lang
Andrew Lang was a Scottish poet and novelist who published 25 illustrated collections of fairy tales between 1889 and 1913, the first one being The Blue Fairy Tale Book. He is famous for gathering a vast and broad collection of tales from a variety of cultures, and for publishing many of these tales in English for the first time. His Arabian Nights – a version of the Arabic 1001 Nights collection (a very old collection assembled over centuries by multiple translators and authors) was particularly influential. His wife Leonore Blanche Alleyne helped with the translation and retelling of many of the tales.
Some popular tales featured in Lang’s collections:
- The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor
- Beauty and the Beast (a tale originally written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve)
- The Forty Thieves
- The Rat Catcher, a.k.a. Pied Piper of Hamelin (a German tale that also appeared in the writings of Goethe and the Brothers Grimm)
Worth a Mention
Some other fairy tale writers and translators worth a mention are:
- Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve – the French novelist who wrote the original Beauty and the Beast story.
- Antoine Galland – who translated the 1001 Nights collection into French from the original Arabic, and is believed to have invented the popular stories Aladdin and Ali Baba, because they do not appear in original Arabic versions.
- Ludwig Bechstein – who released a collection of fairy tales in 1845 – the Deutsches Märchenbuch – that rivalled the Brother’s Grimm for popularity at the time.
Of course, there have been many more collections and collectors of fairy tales than I mentioned above. If you’re keen to know about more fairy tale collectors from around the world, here are some links where you can take a further look:
- Fairytalez.com list of Fairy Tale authors and collections
- Wikipedia List of Collectors of Fairy Tales
- Fairy tale collectors: it’s more than just the Brothers Grimm
Do you have a favourite fairy tale collector, writer or collection I haven’t listed? If so, feel free to mention them in the comments.