So I was browsing through the Folklore Society’s website (fun! exciting! become a scholar so that you, too can spend stimulating evenings this way!) and happened upon this:

“Place, Writing & Voice

School of Humanities, University of Plymouth, and the Cornwall Audio Visual Archive
5-6 September 2008

Speakers include Nick Groom, Tim Fulford, Richard Kerridge, Heike Roms, Mike Pearson, Brycchan Carey, Philip Schwyzer

This conference presents a series of talks about ‘the local’, through consideration of the written and spoken word. It will consider a range of localities in South West Britain, Italy, Alaska, and India, for example, exploring connections between the local, national, and global environment, as well as between the written and oral.”

In and of itself, this is exciting, because there is no better way to keep folk-studies alive than to get together and talk about it! But what really excites me, as a fairy-tale dork, is the connections “between the written and oral” bit. Really, this is what intrigues so many people about fairy-tales. The original Grimm Fairy Tales (that’s Kinder- und Hausmaerchen or KHM to you, buddy) were constructed by piecing together – or contaminating – oral folktales. *Some* scholars (John Ellis, I mean you!) believe that by doing so, the Brothers Grimm corrupted the tales, destroyed them, and – most importantly – stopped their beautiful evolution.

Funny, isn’t it? We all know that fairy-tales, and other stories too, change with each oral telling. Why do we think that, once these stories are set down on paper, that their evolution simply stops? Think about it. How many written retellings of Cinderella, Snow-White, or Sleeping Beauty (to name a few super stars) have there been since the 1800s? How many stories, novels, plays, and movies have been based on this classic tale?

I remember reading Ella Enchanted, that wonderful novel by Gail Carson Levine when I was a little girl. What an imaginative adaptation of Cinderella! Of course, it hardly resembles the Brothers Grimm’s version, but it is – nevertheless – a Cinderella story, part of the continuum of other Cinderella stories that stretch back much, much farther than the Brothers Grimm.

I could go on, and on, and on about literary and oral evolution and revolution, but that would be overkill. Moral of the story: just because we write something down, doesn’t mean its written in stone. And even if we wrote it in stone – someone would come along, tweak our story, and write it on another tablet of stone.

Oh, and if anyone gets to go to that great sounding conference, drop me a line and let me know how it went!