The Fairy Tellers
by Nicholas Jubber
Fairy-Tales are not just fairy tales: they are records of historical phenomena, telling us something about how Western civilization was formed. In The Fairy-Tellers’ Trail, award-winning travel writer Nick Jubber explores the secret history of fairy tales: the people who told them, the landscapes that forged them, and the cultures that formed them.
While there are certain names inextricably entwined with the concept of a fairy-tale, such as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, the most significant tellers are long buried under the more celebrated figures who have taken the credit for their stories – people like the Syrian storyteller Youhenna Diab and the Wild Sisters of Cassel. Without them, we would never have heard of Aladdin, his Magic Lamp, or the adventures of Hansel and Gretel.
Tracking these stories to their sources carries us through the steaming cities of Southern Italy and across the Mediterranean to the dust-clogged alleys of the Maghreb, under the fretting leaves of the Black Forest, deep into the tundra of Siberia, and across the snowy hills of Lapland.
From North Africa and Siberia, this book illuminates the complicated relationship between Western civilization and the ‘Eastern’ cultures it borrowed from, and the strange lives of our long-lost fairy-tellers.
I recently DNF’d a book about the history of fairies. It didn’t go into the history of fairy stories the way I thought it would– I’d thought it would cover the ancient origins of fairy stories, but it was more concerned with documenting people’s reported encounters with fairies from about 1600 and on. I’m still interested in the history of fairy stories, but I want more “here are where these stories came from” and less “here’s what I found about people who say they saw fairies in 1730”.
So I’m hoping that The Fairy Tellers will be more about the origins of these stories. It comes out in a few weeks (May 3rd, 2022), so we shall see.