Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

20 fantastic fairy tale facts

The Belfast Telegraph is giving away a free Ladybird book this Friday. There are six titles: The Three Little Pigs, The Gingerbread Man, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack And The Beanstalk and Goldilocks And The Three Bears. Linda Stewart delves into the magical world of children's classics

Jack And The Beanstalk

1 More than 700 versions of Cinderella have been collected from around the world and it has appeared in almost every language. It is also the most popular pantomime on the British stage.

2 Early versions of the Goldilocks And The Three Bears story had three good-natured and trusting male bears, but over the years these have changed to a father bear, a mother bear and a baby bear.

3 The best-known version of Three Little Pigs is a 1933 Silly Symphony cartoon (above) produced by Walt Disney, starring Fifer Pig, Fiddler Pig and Practical Pig. The first two pigs get their houses blown down but escape from the wolf.

4 In some versions of Little Red Riding Hood the heroine is bringing grape juice and banana bread to her grandmother – in other words she is carrying wine and cake.

5 Folk tales about runaway food have been found in Germany, the UK and Russia, but the first version of The Gingerbread Man appeared in the American St Nicholas Magazine, with a childless old woman who bakes a gingerbread man. He leaps from her oven and outruns all the farm workers and farm animals before being devoured by a fox.

6 In pantomime versions of Cinderella the ugly sisters started off being called Clorinda and Thisbe, but their names have constantly changed down the years to reflect the fashions of time, including Buttercup and Daisy, Euthanasia and Asphyxia, Alexis and Krystle and even Posh and Scary.

7 One of the earliest versions of Goldilocks And The Three Bears features a foul-mouthed old woman rather than a golden-haired young girl. In another, she ends up impaled on the steeple of St Paul's Cathedral.

8 Older versions of Jack The Giant Killer didn't feature the beanstalk, reflecting the medieval belief that giants were real and lived among men on Earth.

9 The version of Little Red Riding Hood by the Brothers Grimm has the wolf devouring the heroine and her grandmother. The huntsman rescues them by disembowelling the wolf and then sews rocks into its belly.

10 The Goldilocks Zone is the habitable region round a star where orbiting planets similar to the Earth can support liquid water – neither too hot, nor too cold. In 2010 astronomers found a 'Goldilocks planet' (Gliese 581g), which is about three times the size of Earth and lies in the habitable zone of its star.

11 Some early versions of Cinderella have one of the Ugly Sisters hacking her toes off to make the glass slipper fit her foot.

12 A wolf was not always the villain in early versions of Little Red Riding Hood – sometimes it was an ogre or werewolf.

13 The world's biggest gingerbread man was made in 2006 by the Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce in Texas at the town's annual Festival of Lights celebration. It weighed in at 1,308lb 8oz and stood at over 20ft in height.

14 Charles Dickens mentions a similar story to Goldilocks And The Three Bears in Our Mutual Friend published in 1865, but the house belongs to three hobgoblins rather than three bears.

15 In 2012 The Guardian ran an ad relating the tale of The Three Little Pigs in the style of modern news coverage, revealing that pigs had falsely accused the asthmatic wolf of blowing the house down when they were actually attempting insurance fraud.

16 Gingerbread dates back to the 15th century. The first documented instance of figure-shaped gingerbread biscuits was at the court of Elizabeth I of England.

17 The red hood in Little Red Riding Hood was introduced by Charles Perrault in Tales Of Mother Goose (1697), who said the moral of the story was that children "do very wrong to listen to strangers".

18 The 1992 song Three Little Pigs by cartoon band Green Jelly sets the story in LA, with the three pigs featured as an aspiring guitarist, a dumpster-diving evangelist and a Harvard architecture graduate, with the wolf driving a Harley Davidson motorcycle. At the end the third pig calls 911 and the wolf is machine-gunned down by John Rambo.

19 The first play of Jack And The Beanstalk was produced by David Garrick in 1773 at Drury Lane, taking its theme from an 19th century fairy tale. The first pantomime version was in 1819 and was marked by the appearance of the first ever female principal boy, Eliza Povey, playing Jack.

20 The earliest dateable version of the Cinderella story appears in a Chinese book written about 850-860AD. The earliest European version was published in Italy in 1634, and in 1697 Perrault introduced 'Cinderella, Or The Tale Of The Little Glass Slipper'.

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