A guest blog written by Rachelle Wilber, a freelance writer.
Today, fairy tales may just be something your kids want to hear over and over again before bedtime, but modern stories that are beloved by children like the wildly acclaimed “Frozen” can be traced back thousands of years. Some of the earliest and most recognized fables such as Aesop’s Fables, originated around 550 BC. In times where wisdom, not academia, constituted education, fables were not just a form of entertainment, but a method of teaching. Children were given warnings, taught morals, and introduced to concepts such as enmity, forgiveness and love in a manner that was as memorable as it was entertaining.
Origins of Fables
People told one another stories before language had even been invented. Cave drawings prove that humanity’s oldest ancestors communicated through story-like concepts, and as mankind evolved, symbols scrawled in stone became words that were interwoven to create characters and new worlds, all grounded in a meaningful story.
The best-known Western fables can mostly be attributed to a slave from ancient Greece named Aesop. Fables such as “The Lion and the Mouse” and “The Tortoise and the Hare” that are used today to teach children about the importance of diligence and discernment came from Aesop. The principles that underscored every fable was a formula that spread throughout the Western world and is evident in other famous fables and folklore such as the iconic Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the deeply cherished, unforgettable stories of Hans Christian Andersen.
Folklore vs. Fable
Although the two words are often used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between “folklore” and “fables.” Folklore is a story that has been passed down through generations orally. Folklore usually features people as its main characters and carries a large twist at the end, while fables usually involve animals or mythical creatures as its protagonists and deliver a specific moral.
In one sentence, a fable is a very real lesson taught through fantasy, and folklore is an entertaining story that changes from culture to culture, just like the people within them. You’re never too old for fairy tales, and teaching children the most beloved stories of the past cultivates a love of history that can lead them down wonderful paths both academically and personally. Just like grandpa earned an online history degree, children can pursue their new interests throughout a variety of ways over the course of their lives.
Teaching Children through Fables
Many parents are concerned that reading fantasy to their children might lead them to develop overactive imaginations or skewed perceptions of reality, but what’s wonderful about fables, fairy tales and folklore is that they reach children on a level they’re able to understand. Children possess the magical quality of being able to appreciate both the real and imagined equally. You can pick and choose – or even invent – fables that fit the specific themes in your child’s life right now.
No matter which direction you go in, there is something wonderfully potent about hearing fables and folklore growing up that imbues childhood with a sense of wonder that forever lives in the back of our minds as memories and manifests itself in our choices.