Long ago, in primitive times, stories were passed on by word of mouth. Since the invention of printing, stories have been part of the world's literature. The fairy tales, legends, and fables we know today have often come from far in the past. Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, called stories “love gifts.”
Aesop was a storyteller who lived in ancient Greece. Animals are the main characters in his fables, which show how a problem is solved and a moral or lesson is learned. Aesop's stories include “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “The Tortoise and the Hare.” They were first written down around 300 B.C.
Hans Christian Andersen lived in Denmark in the nineteenth century. He was considered an ugly child and had no friends, so he lived in a dream world, reading about the lives of famous men who had risen from poverty to fame. At age 14, when his father died, he moved to Copenhagen and tried to become an actor. When he was still unsuccessful at 30, he decided to try writing down the tales he had been telling children as he traveled around the countryside. Some of his stories are “The Emperor's New Clothes,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “The Princess and the Pea.”
According to legend, a queen named Scheherazade told these stories to Sultan Schahriah to save her life. Each night she told him tales, stopping at the most exciting part so that he would have to wait until the next night to learn what happened. After 1,001 nights, the sultan granted Scheherazade her life. She became his wife, and her stories were recorded for all the world to read. They include “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” “Sinbad the Sailor,” and “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp.”
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were brothers who lived in Germany. After their parents died, the brothers traveled about the country and gathered stories. When they published these tales in the early 19th century, they became famous. Their collection includes “Hansel and Gretel” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
The story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table was published by Sir Thomas Malory in 1469, while he was in a London jail. These tales had delighted European audiences for centuries before Malory brought them together in one book.
Charles Perrault lived in France in the seventeenth century. When he retired from government service, he began to take popular folk tales and change them into children's fairy tales with morals. He was very successful because he was one of the first French authors to write especially for children. His most famous fairy tales are “Sleeping Beauty,” “Tom Thumb,” and “Puss in Boots.”
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