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33 votes
Accepted

Is a moral lesson a requirement for fairy tales?

No. Some fairy tales don't have morals, and lots that do have morals that aren't that useful. For instance, the Grimm brothers wrote many amoral stories, and many (not just the Grimm's) are ...
Beastly Gerbil's user avatar
27 votes

In which version of "Snow White" is her name really "Lips Red as Blood, Hair Black as Ebony, Skin White as Snow"?

Here’s the start of the story ‘Sneewittchen’ as given by the brothers Grimm: Es war einmal mitten im Winter und die Schneeflocken fielen wie Federn vom Himmel, da saß eine schöne Königin an einem ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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25 votes

In what Chinese fairy tale does a painter disappear into his own painting?

Seems to be referring to Wu Daozi (680 – c. 760, a Chinese painter of the Tang dynasty), as depicted in the following text: Wu's death was a myth. One story says that after painting a mural about a ...
HeyJude's user avatar
  • 1,584
24 votes

Is a moral lesson a requirement for fairy tales?

No. There's a terminology conflict here. A fairy tale is a fantastical adventure, set in an indistinguishable far-off place and time, in which a good character goes through hardship and comes out ...
ArtOfCode's user avatar
  • 343
22 votes

Why do many Korean folk tales start with "back when tigers smoked"?

That went a lot further down the rabbit-hole than I expected. There doesn't seem to be a lot of agreement on the origin of the phrase. It wouldn't seem like it would be a very old reference, since ...
Sean Duggan's user avatar
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20 votes

In what Chinese fairy tale does a painter disappear into his own painting?

As identified in the answer by HeyJude, this could be the story of the disappearance of Tang dynasty painter Wu Daozi (吴道子; variously transliterated as Wu Tao-tsz’, Wu Tao-Tsu, or Go Doshi). The ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
  • 57.9k
17 votes
Accepted

How familiar would the "Blind men and an elephant" tale be in the West?

The story of the Blind Men and the Elephant is well-known in the West. Perhaps mostly due to the version of the tale written by John Godfrey Saxe, a 19th-century US poet who retold the story as a poem,...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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15 votes
Accepted

What was "Rip Van Winkle" based on?

I'm reasonably certain that Irving's major inspiration for Rip van Winkle was the German folktale Peter Klaus (text here). Almost all the analyses I've read give it precedence over other works (Karl ...
HDE 226868's user avatar
  • 5,972
14 votes

Did Tolkien invent Bilbo saving the Dwarves but forgetting about himself?

I don't think Tolkien invented this idea. I think the idea is so old that we might not be able to tell who invented it, and more than one person could have come up with it independently. Here's a ...
b_jonas's user avatar
  • 1,920
12 votes

Why do many Korean folk tales start with "back when tigers smoked"?

Note As mentioned in the comments, a challenge was posted contesting the content of this answer. I answered the challenge with multiple real-world usages and the alleged origins of the expression. I'm ...
Flater's user avatar
  • 332
8 votes
Accepted

What religion is suggested by the "God" in the Korean sun/moon origin story?

You don't know how funny it is to read this. This requires both cultural knowledge of Korea as well as the language. The "Heavenly Lord" or in this context is formally called Haneulnim (하늘님, ...
North Læraðr's user avatar
8 votes

What was "Rip Van Winkle" based on?

Yes, certainly, but we don't know exactly which one(s). The Wikipedia page for the story lists many possible literary forerunners from both European and Native American folk and fairy tale traditions ...
Kevin Troy's user avatar
  • 2,110
8 votes
Accepted

What's the defining difference between a fairy tale and a fable?

From the dictionary definition of a fable: A short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral Oxford Dictionaries: "Fable" Merriam Webster defines Fairy tale as: a story (...
Edlothiad's user avatar
  • 409
8 votes
Accepted

Are there significant differences across the Nordic countries in the traditional portrayal of trolls?

There are great variations of how trolls are portrayed, but it is not primarily a matter of national literature. I will be focusing on Sweden and Norway, where I know the traditions best. First, we ...
andejons's user avatar
  • 3,485
8 votes
Accepted

What is the original Korean title of "The Tiger and the Persimmon"?

In Korean, the story is called 호랑이와 곶감. I would personally go with the translation: “The Tiger and the Dried Persimmons", but this isn't the exact translation. First, I’ll address the food, ...
North Læraðr's user avatar
8 votes

Source for the Stages of Drunkenness resembling sheep, lion, ape, sow?

The original source seems to be ‘Pierce Penilesse, His Supplication to the Divell’ by Thomas Nashe, published in 1592. Nor haue we one or two kinde of drunkards onely, but eight kindes. The first is ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19.1k
8 votes
Accepted

Looking for a modern fairy-tale in which a prince goes on "impossible" quests for a princess, but ends up marrying a witch who helped him

Prince Amilec by Tanith Lee isfdb.org synopsis: Prince Amilec turns to a witch for help in completing the tasks set for him by the princess he wishes to marry. From the Jud's Creative Writing Medley ...
Ayshe's user avatar
  • 5,206
8 votes
Accepted

Significance of trail of pebbles vs breadcrumbs?

Their mother had figured out what he had done. And so (from Andrew Lang's translation): When the old people were asleep Hansel got up, and wanted to go out and pick up pebbles again, as he had done ...
Mary's user avatar
  • 6,055
7 votes
Accepted

How did Mama and Papa bear know someone was sitting in their chairs?

According to the 1839 edition of Robert Southey's The Story of the Three Bears it was because their chairs' cushions were disturbed: "Somebody in my chair has sat!" With voice so gruff and great ...
kimchi lover's user avatar
  • 4,200
7 votes

Why specify Mr. Berry looked into the brass like Snow White's queen in Ellison's "The Black Ball"?

The Brass As for why the author puts so much emphasis on Mr. Berry gazing into the brass in general, I can think of a few purposes. First, it illustrates the basics of Mr. Berry's personality. The ...
MJ713's user avatar
  • 987
5 votes
Accepted

Story about two men walking through the forest

It is, apparently, a German story of the type The Two Travelers: Truth and Falsehood folktale of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 613 Unsurprisingly, the tables are turned by the end of the tale. Quoted ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19.1k
5 votes
Accepted

Audio versions of fairy tales, distinctive "Long ago and far away ..." intro

This appears to be Fabbri Publishing's Once Upon a Time series. From Wikipedia: Fabbri's Once Upon a Time series was based on the popular Story Teller series. It also had a slogan which was "The ...
Mithical's user avatar
  • 25k
4 votes

Why do many Korean folk tales start with "back when tigers smoked"?

When Koreans say "back when tigers smoked," this is kind of the equivalent of Americans saying "long ago, when dinosaurs used to roam the Earth" except that dinosaurs actually ...
wilkvolk's user avatar
4 votes
Accepted

What story is the idea that it's better to pick a small box rather than a large one from?

It's from scores of fairy tales. There is the trope where asking for one means you get given the other, but there is the trope where the less impressive looking thing is the more powerful. The casket ...
Mary's user avatar
  • 6,055
4 votes
Accepted

What is the title of this fable where a mongoose is getting married but takes too long to collect a dowry?

Traveling to Tondo: A Tale of the Nkundo of Zaire On his way to his wedding, with his friends as attendants, a civet cat meets with extraordinary and unexpected delays. Reviews on Goodreads ...
Ayshe's user avatar
  • 5,206
3 votes
Accepted

"This Is Water" David Foster Wallace Commencement Speech Fish Story Reference

Pre-2005 is not hard since it was mentioned in Infinite Jest (1996). A biker from AA group tells the joke/story to Don Gately. It’s not clear if this joke was invented or adapted by Wallace. Infinite ...
b4rtr's user avatar
  • 1,841
3 votes

Significance of trail of pebbles vs breadcrumbs?

There is certainly an explanation in the story! Hansel could see the first trail of pebbles in the moonlight, and so followed them back home, to the stepmother's annoyance. As another poster said ...
Bluestocking's user avatar
3 votes

Fairy One Wing storybook from 1960s

Could the story have been part of a book called Fairyland Treasury, The One Winged Fairy and Other Tales? It has about five stories about fairies by different authors. Luisa Willoughby, Rene Cloke, ...
Sheryl Bloice's user avatar
2 votes
Accepted

Why are so many fairy tales so similar?

Well, let's clear the first misconception: Fairy tales aren't for children. Or at least, not all of them weren't meant to be for children until much later. Most fairy tales originated as folk tales ...
North Læraðr's user avatar

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