They have been told as bedtime stories by generations of parents, but fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood may be even older than was previously thought.
Dr Jamie Tehrani, a cultural anthropologist at Durham University, studied 35 versions of Little Red Riding Hood from around the world
A study by anthropologists has explored the origins of folk tales and traced the relationship between varients of the stories recounted by cultures around the world.
The researchers adopted techniques used by biologists to create the taxonomic tree of life, which shows how every species comes from a common ancestor.
Dr Jamie Tehrani, a cultural anthropologist at Durham University, studied 35 versions of Little Red Riding Hood from around the world.
Whilst the European version tells the story of a little girl who is tricked by a wolf masquerading as her grandmother, in the Chinese version a tiger replaces the wolf.
In Iran, where it would be considered odd for a young girl to roam alone, the story features a little boy.
Contrary to the view that the tale originated in France shortly before Charles Perrault produced the first written version in the 17th century, Dr Tehrani found that the varients shared a common ancestor dating back more than 2,600 years.
He said: “Over time these folk tales have been subtly changed and have evolved just like an biological organism. Because many of them were not written down until much later, they have been misremembered or reinvented through hundreds of generations.
“By looking at how these folk tales have spread and changed it tells us something about human psychology and what sort of things we find memorable.
“The oldest tale we found was an Aesopic fable that dated from about the sixth century BC, so the last common ancestor of all these tales certainly predated this. We are looking at a very ancient tale that evolved over time.”
Dr Tehrani, who will present his work on Tuesday at the British Science Festival in Guildford, Surrey, identified 70 variables in plot and characters between different versions of Little Red Riding Hood.
He found that the stories could be grouped into distinct families according to how they evolved over time.
The original ancestor is thought to be similar to another tale, The Wolf and the Kids, in which a wolf pretends to be a nanny goat to gain entry to a house full of young goats.
Stories in Africa are closely related to this original tale, whilst stories from Japan, Korea, China and Burma form a sister group. Tales told in Iran and Nigeria were the closest relations of the modern European version.
Perrault’s French version was retold by the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century. Dr Tehrani said: “We don’t know very much about the processes of transmission of these stories from culture to culture, but it is possible that they may being passed along trade routes or with the movement of people.”
Professor Jack Zipes, a retired professor of German at the University of Minnesota who is an expert on fairy tales and their origins, described the work as “exciting”. He believes folk tales may have helped people to pass on tips for survival to new generations.
He said: “Little Red Riding Hood is about violation or rape, and I suspect that humans were just as violent in 600BC as they are today, so they will have exchanged tales about all types of violent acts.
“I have tried to show that tales relevant to our adaptation to the environment and survival are stored in our brains and we consistently use them for all kinds of reference points.”
As with any diet, a vegan diet requires planning. However, when properly planned, a vegan diet can be considerably healthier than the traditional American diet. In its 1996 position paper on vegetarian diets, the American Dietetic Association reported that vegan and vegetarian diets can significantly reduce one’s risk of contracting heart disease, colon and lung cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, obesity, and a number of other debilitating conditions. Cows’ milk contains ideal amounts of fat and protein for young calves, but far too much for humans. And eggs are higher in cholesterol than any other food, making them a leading contributor to cardiovascular disease. Vegan foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans, are low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are rich in fiber and nutrients. Vegans can get all the protein they need from legumes (e.g., beans, tofu, peanuts) and grains (e.g., rice, corn, whole wheat breads and pastas); calcium from broccoli, kale, collard greens, tofu, fortified juices and soymilks; iron from chickpeas, spinach, pinto beans, and soy products; and B12 from fortified foods or supplements. With planning, a vegan diet can provide all the nutrients we were taught as schoolchildren came only from animal products.
Will I get enough protein?
Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, and Mark Messina, PhD, recommend that vegans receive 0.4 grams of protein per day for every pound of healthy body weight. If a vegan consumes adequate calories and eats a variety of foods, it is very difficult not to get enough protein. This is true for athletes as well. One need not combine foods at each meal to get “complete protein. “ The most important plant sources of protein are legumes, soy foods, and nuts. Grains and vegetables also contain significant amounts of protein. Eat a variety of protein sources throughout the day: e.g, a legume (such as beans, tofu, or peanuts) combined with a grain (such as rice, corn, or whole wheat breads or pastas). For more information, visit Veganhealth.org
How about B12?
There has been much debate as to what plant foods supply an adequate source of B-12. Many products that were once thought to be adequate, such as tempeh, are no longer considered so. Fortunately, there are easy solutions for vegans. Vegetarian B-12 vitamin pills are available at most drug stores; the ‘sublingual’ form is preferable. In addition, some foods are fortified with B-12, including Red Star Nutritional Yeast. It is essential to include a B12 supplement in your diet or eat foods that are fortified with B12 to insure that you receive the proper amount of B-12. For more information, read What Every Vegan Should Know about Vitamin B12
How about calcium?
Adequate intakes of calcium vary according to one’s age: 1200 mg for age 50 or above, 1000 mg for ages 19-49, 800 mg for ages 4-8, 500 mg for ages 1-3. A number of vegan foods contain high levels of calcium per serving: calcium-set tofu (120-200mg per 0.5 cup), fortified soymilk (200-300 mg per cup dried figs (50 mg per fig), fortified orange juice (250 mg per cup), collard greens (180 mg per 0.5 cup), sesame seeds (180 mg per 2 Tbsp), baked beans (130 mg per cup), broccoli (90 mg per 0.5 cup) , almonds (50 mg per 2 Tbsp), kale (50 mg per 0.5 cup) For more information read Bones, Vitamin D, and Calcium
Is nationalism in China rising? If so, how does it influence Beijing’s external behavior? As tensions with the US increase, will nationalism become an important force shaping Chinese policymaking? Please join Freeman Chair in China Studies Jude Blanchette for a discussion on the role of Chinese nationalism in the 21st century with Jessica Chen Weiss, Associate Professor of Government at Cornell University and Senior Associate (Non-resident) at the Freeman Chair.
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