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Publishing Status of Early Folktales

In early years these folktales were available only to very few people because they used to be preserved only by telling and hearing. They could not be preserved in writing for many years. The following short description gives a glimpse of publishing history of folktales for common man. It is not certainly complete but it shows that publishing of folktales was somewhat aggressively started from the 19th century only. By the way the first printing started from Gutenberg Bible (40 pages) in 1450 - mid-15th century.

Up to 15th Century - Development and recording of folktales up to 15th century has been given on the Introduction page. Till now there was no normal publishing available in the world. Printing Press was invented in 1455 and even the first book was published 20 years later. Printing gave a sudden rise to produce writing and producing the literature, so from the 16th century our Medieval Period starts -


Medieval Period
The two special main characteristics of Medieval Period are writing more aggressively and publishing them quickly. This Period started from 16th century and continued till the end of the 18th century - 300 years. Not many books were written during this period but still they were all published.

16th Century
Publication of folktales starts after 100 years of the invention of printing press in 1455, from the folktales of Italy. The first collection,  "The Facetious Nights of Straparola" / The Pleasant Nights (in Italian: Piacevoli Notti)  was published by Giovanni Francesco Straparola in Italy in 1550. Strarparola was one of the most famous novelist of Italy of his times. This collection passed through 16 editions during the next 20 years after its first publication. It was translated into French and German also. 13 nights were spent listening these 74 stories. They cover 24 stories of little-known origin, 15 stories from French, 6 stories of Oriental origin, remaining 29 stories never appeared before in the literature of Europe.

17th Century
After the publication of this collection there was again a silence again for an almost 100 years. Next publications were a few publications of folktales, such as  “Il Pentamerone” (The Tale of Tales) a collection of 50 Italian  stories written by Giambattista Basile published in 1634 and 1636 narrated by 10 old women in five nights. It was written on the same fashion as the Giovanni Francesco Straparola's collection mentioned above - "The Facetious Nights of Strarparola". It is available on the Web Site World of Folktales with its 32 tales. But its full version was translated by the renowned translator Richard Francis Burton in 1893 in two volumes - after 260 years, in 1893.

18th Century
This period was the period when folktales were written in France and Britain during the years 1690 and 1756. In 1690 A female writer came up to record French folktales. That was Marie-Catherine D'Aulnoy, the foremost fairy tale author of the French Salons, who published four volumes of fairy tales. They were translated into English in 1699.

In 1697 an other very famous French author rose to write fairy tales. That was Charles Perrault who wrote "Histoires ou Contes du temps passe", also known as "Mother Goose Tales". It was published in Paris. The tales enjoyed instant success. Some of the tales included are CinderellaSleeping BeautyLittle Red Riding HoodBluebeard, and Puss in Boots. He ultimately recorded 11 fairy tales, most of which are among the most popular tales today. All of Perrault's tales are available on SurLaLune Website at The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault

In 1740, an other female writer of French folktales Madame Gabrielle de Villeneuve writes the original novella length version of Beauty and the Beast which appears in "La jeune ameriquaine, et les contes marins". This version is not intended for children with its many storylines, length, and subject matter.

Yet in 1756 Madame Le Prince de Beaumont publishes her own considerably shorter version of Beauty and the Beast. This version is the best well-known and most used as the basis for later interpretations of the tale. It is written for a young audience, with didactic messages and a simpler storyline. This is the first example of a literary fairy tale being written specifically for children.

In the meantime, in 1729, Robert Samber of Britain translates into English and publishes Perrault's "Histories", or "Tales of Times Past". They are a hit and become some of the most popular fairy tales of all time.  

The gap of publication of folktales reduced from 100 years to 70 years and after 70 years another publication was published. Arabian Nights was first published in 1706. Its first translation in English from French was from Antoine Galland's Les Mille et Une Nuits (1704-17) by an anonymous 'Grub Street' translator. But Richard Francis Burton's translation still remains the most complete version of One Thousand and One Nights in English published in 1885. It is generally considered one of the finest unexpurgated translations from Calcutta II. After the publication of Arabian Nights there is another large gap in publishing folktales – of 100 years. No more notable publication appeared in this century.


Modern Period
After this period the Modern Period starts - writing and printing and publishing - everything started together.

19th Century
After leaving 18th century blank (or say after the publication of "Arabian Nights"), because even the proper English translation of Arabian Nights was published in 19th century, regular kind of publication of folktales was started in 19th century. Only a couple of books are found in the beginning of this century.

Two German brothers Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm restarted this tradition. The first collection of their 86 fairy tales was published in 1812. Although it was criticized for their inappropriateness for the children. Another edition was published in 1817 with 70 tales. After this several editions were published after subtracting and adding several tales until the last edition, the 7th edition with 211 tales in 1857. These two brothers are well-known by the name of Grimms or Grimm Brothers.  With the exception of the Lutheran Bible, Grimms' "Fairy Tales" is considered to be the most widely distributed literary work of German origin, with translations in more than 160 languages.

Two collections of Norwegian tales were published in 1843 and 1852 - "Norwegian Folktales" (1841-1842, 1843) by Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe. The tales were first translated into English by Sir George Webbe Dasent - a British well-known translator. He translated all but a few of the tales from the two series of Norske Folkeeventyr. Dasent's Popular Tales from the Norse (1859), contains all 58 tales from the initial edition of the original collection. Dasent's Tales from the Fjeld: A Second Series of Popular Tales (1874) covers the two tales added to later editions of the original collection and 45 of the tales from the new collection.

The first collection of Russian folktales in English language was published by William Ralston Sheddan Ralston "Russian Folktales" (London, Smith Elder) with 51 tales in 1873. The greatest collection of Russian Folktales, about 600 in number,  was printed by Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev during 1855-1863. From among his many stories 73 stories were translated in English as one book titled "Russian Folk-Tales" by Leonard Arthur Magnus and was published in 1916.

I was very happy to see that a few Collections of Russian folktales were published in Hindi also.
1.  "Roosi Lok Kathayen" by Madan Lal "Madhu" and Om Prakash Sangal with 33 folktales in 1960. 
2.  "Roopvati Vasilisa (Old Russian Folktales in Hindi)"  with 16 folktales - no date.
3.  "Roos Ki Lok Kathayen" by Rajendra Mohun Sastry and Mridula Sharma with 16 folktales in 2006.
4.  "Heere Moti - Soviet Bhoomi Ki Jatiyon Ki Lok Kathayen" by Soviet Stories. 2010. 36 folktales.

A collection of 51 Folktales of Serbia "Serbian Folklore" was published in 1874.

In the mean time a very important and well-known folktales collector of Scotland Andrew Lang started publishing his own works. He is regarded the best and the greatest collector of folktales of the world . He started his publishing from 1878 and continued till 1913. His first book was "Folklore of France" published in 1878. Along with collecting the folktales of various countries, he has published many fairy tales and has translated Arabian Nights also.

A translation of India's "Katha Saritsagar" in English by CH Tawney with the title "The Ocean of Story" was also published during this period in two volumes in 1880 and 1884. After this the same was published again by NM Penzer with an extensive commentary etc in 10 volumes during 1924 and 1928. It has been translation in several languages - one in Hindi by Kedar Nath Sharma Saraswat in several volumes, bilingual (Sanskrit and Hindi), another one was published by Motilal Banarsidas only in Sanskrit in 1970. One more smaller collection of these stories was published as "Katha Sarita", 4th edition, by Dvijendra Nath Mishra was published in 1979.

Later the collection of Portuguuese folktales "Portugese Folk-Tales"  was published in 1880. It was published by Consiglieri Pedroso.

Brother Grimms' "Household Folktales" was translated in English by Margaret Hunt in 1884.

One more collection of Italian folktales "Italian Popular Tales" was published in English by Thomas Frederick Crane in 1885.

20th Century
20th century was full of publications on folktales. It started with "Zanzibar Tales" of Tanzania country (Africa) was published by George W Bateman in 1901. It contains only 10 tales. Many other African folktale books were also published later.

One more collection of Italian folktales was published by Italo Calvino, with the title "Italian Folktales: collected and retold by Italo Calvino" with 200 tales in 1956. Here you may find the titles of his all the 200 tales and links for some of its tales. Its one English translation was published by George Martin in 1980.


A Short Survey and the Need of Translation
A short survey revealed that only a countable books of folktales were available in Hindi therefore if we have to enrich our society with the global information of folktales we must translate as many possible of them in Hindi and provide them with from some platform to our public. Most folktales are available in their own languages to which they belong. Later some bilingual people started making the attempt to translate those foreign language tales in English German France Italian for the benefit of their own society. Now a days as English is considered a kind of universal language that is why if the translation of a non-English material is available in English language it is considered quite a usable literature.

Many people in India either do not know English or do not have access to these books (either the book itself is not available, or not available in the library near them, or they are not available in Hindi - neither physically nor on Internet), thus they are not able to read them. To reach them we need to translate or retranslate them into Hindi and make them available to those people who speak Hindi.

We are in dire need of their translation in Hindi. Foreign language does not mean only that language which is used in other countries, it includes those languages too which are not understood by other people, for example even in India more than 20 languages are spoken. It means the one language is a foreign language to another. Thus for a Hindi speaking person Tamil, Malayalam, Kannad, Bengali etc all languages are foreign languages. Most grassroots people are not able to understand those languages, leave English, so they need to read it in their own language. This is the effort to bring their dream true that they can also know about the outside world.

Here I would like to cite an example of a book written in Italian "Il Decamerone"  in 1353. Now Italian language has several dialects. Since that dialect was only understood in a particular part of Italy it remained unknown even to their own countrymen for a long time. So people speaking other dialects translated that book of 75 tales in four other Italian dialects. This is called to send the literature to grassroots people, that those 75 tales were available then in Italian's five dialects. That is the kind of movement we need. 




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Created by Sushma Gupta on November 27, 2018
Modified on 08/08/23