A new study
has found that classic fairy tales may be "much older than previously believed," one of the authors, Jamshid Tehrani of the UK's Durham University, said Wednesday. Tehrani wrote the study with Sara Graca da Silva of the New University of Lisbon, in Portugal.
The dating of fairy tales has long been the subject of spirited debate. Wilhelm Grimm -- who together with his brother, Jacob, popularized in the 19th century many fairy tales that remain favorites today -- believed many were probably thousands of years old. But often they were transmitted only orally, which makes tracking their emergence difficult.
Because of that, the authors of the study said, "only a tiny minority can be tracked to before the emergence of the literary fairy tale in the 16th and 17th Centuries."
"This has led to intense debates about the presumed antiquity of traditional tales, with some researchers claiming that many canonical fair tales may actually be relatively recent literary inventions," the study says.
But the study, using the science of linguistic groups and dispersion, has concluded that some stories -- "The Smith and the Devil," for example, in which a blacksmith makes a deal with the devil to gain supernatural powers -- are 5,000 to 6,000 old, Tehrani said in an email to CNN. The same may be true for "Jack and the Beanstalk," he said.
"Rumpelstiltskin" and "Beauty and the Beast" are also very old, Tehrani told Sky News
The folk tales that endure through the millennia are those that "speak to enduing human concerns," Tehrani said. Family relationships, including obligations and conflict, are a recurrent theme, he said.
Pruning the trees to 'remove taxa'
The study, as you wou