British Academy Explores Our Obsession With Fairytales

By Londonist Last edited 36 months ago
British Academy Explores Our Obsession With Fairytales

Images from the 1819 Grimm Brothers' fairy tales.

Londonist is proud to be media partner to the British Academy’s Literature Week.

Fairy tales and folk tales take centre stage at the British Academy’s Literature Week next week. Professor Jack Zipes, a world renowned literary scholar specialising in fairy tales and folk tales is one of the experts on the programme. Along with a panel of other experts, he'll be discussing what it is about tales that makes them able to survive from generation to generation, and why they still interest us into adulthood.

Having translated folk and fairy tales across English, German and Italian, Zipes will also be sharing his expertise on how fairy tales translate across languages and cultures — his latest work, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, is the first translation into English of the first edition of Grimm’s tales, so we reckon he knows his stuff.

Jack Zipes

Londonist had a chat with Zipes ahead of Literature Week to get his take on our obsession with fairy tales. Why does he think we love to tell each other fairy tales?

"Almost all fairy tales, even when they are gruesome, provide a glimpse of social justice that is missing in our lives. Our lives are filled with gaps and unfulfilled desires and wishes. On the other hand, when we read, hear, or watch fairy tales, we are instilled with hope that the gaps and desires may one day be fulfilled."

Despite the German Grimm Brothers and Danish Hans Christian Andersen leading the way in fairy tales, Zipes's work in translating fairy tales has led him to believe that one British academic also played a large part in shaping fairy tales into the stories we know today.

"I had not realised how the first British translation by Edgar Taylor in 1823 had greatly influenced the Brothers Grimm. Taylor's "bestseller" persuaded the Grimms to alter their editorial policy and to endeavor to make their book more accessible for a middle-class reading public."

So where better to explore the world of Fairy Tales than at British Academy?

The British Academy’s Literature Week takes place 11-17 May (Londonist will be at the British Academy’s first ever Late on 14 May). All events are free. To explore the programme and register visit the British Academy’s website. You can also follow #LiteratureWeek on Twitter for updates from @britac_news.

Last Updated 08 May 2015