INESSA KALABEKOVA

The world of “fairy tales”

The world of “fairy tales” and similar stories reflects the timeless art of storytelling, a universal method of sharing cultural wisdom and life lessons. As we explore the different terms and traditions, we discover some captivating insights:

In Japan, the magic of storytelling takes on various forms, like “mukashibanashi” (legends from the past), “namidabanashi” (touching and sad stories), and “obakebanashi” (tales of supernatural beings). The stories traveled with itinerant storytellers, including monks known as “Biwa-hoshi,” who used the enchanting sounds of a Japanese lute to weave their tales.

China uses the word “gushi” to embrace the idea of a fairy tale, capturing the essence of “an ancient matter” or “a timeless story.” The storytelling tradition evolved with the creation of “huaben,” a genre of written prose that began as records of spoken performances and transformed into unique, authored works between the 10th and 13th centuries.

  In the English-speaking world, a “fairy tale” is often simply called a “tale,” a term that beautifully captures the essence of a story. Other phrases like “legend,” “nursery tale,” and “nursery rhyme” are used, especially when these tales are meant for children, reflecting the nurturing role of caregivers in passing down these timeless stories.   In Old Russia, the word “fable” or “bakhars” was used to describe the enchanting genre of fairy tales. The term “kazat” eventually came to be associated with “fairy tale,” although it didn’t appear in written records until the 17th century.   In these diverse cultures, storytelling often began as an oral tradition. Itinerant poets, storytellers, and even monks journeyed from place to place, sharing their captivating tales. The addition of musical instruments, like lyres or lutes, in cultures like Ancient Greece and Japan, added a magical touch to these stories, making them a vivid and enchanting experience.  

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