Fairytale Genetics

Will Pooley

So by now you’ve seen the story doing the rounds online about how fairytales are much older than researchers thought, as proved by ‘phylogenetic analyses’.

Us humanities scholars should be darn grateful we have those scientists to save us from our misconceptions!

Or not.

This isn’t the first time that folklorists have found their subject matter making a big splash in the international news.

Let’s be clear about this point: folklorists are THE experts on oral narratives, such as fairy tales. They have developed tools and methods for studying this material, but the clickbait stories about ‘myth’ and ‘fairy tales’ often ignore this expertise, preferring dramatic accounts of undiscovered materials.

Um, no, 500 ‘new’ fairytales were not ‘discovered‘ in Germany in 2012. For a start, the materials in question had actually been published before. And this is without taking into account the point that these tales are…

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Using Archaic Words is as Bad as Using Made-Up New Ones


(Aulus Gellius, Attics Nights 11.7)

“One Should Avoid Very Archaic Words That Have Become Antiquated and Fallen Out of Use”

“Using words that are obsolete and worn down seems as affected as using uncustomary or new ones of harsh or unpleasant character. Personally, I find more annoying and offensive those words that are new, unknown, or previously unheard rather than those that are merely colloquial and vulgar. I do insist, however, that phrases seem new when they are unused and abandoned, even if they are really ancient. In truth, it is a common vice of learning late in life, what the Greeks call opsimathia, when there’s something you’ve never said and of which you were ignorant for a while, which, once you have begun to understand it, you manage to work it into any place or into any matter you’re discussing.

For example, at Rome we met an experienced…

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Tolkien‘s ‘immortal four’ meet for the last time

John Garth

One hundred years ago today, four young men convened in an English town, not having seen each other for some time. What makes this trivial event significant is that one of them was J R R Tolkien, and the four comprised what his first ‘fellowship’, the TCBS – a group with a profound impact on his youth and on his legendarium. This reunion, on 25 and 26 September 1915, was the last time the four met before they were separated, permanently, by war.

The reason for today’s article is the discovery of a small archival treasure marking the event. The signatures of two TCBS members, Geoffrey Bache Smith and Robert Quilter Gilson, have been discovered in the guest book at the birthplace of Samuel Johnson, the author and lexicographer. (Tolkien, of course, looked rather further back for his inspirations, to the Middle Ages and beyond; though his Times obituarist did…

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Happy Birthday, Bilbo and Frodo! #HobbitDay

Anna Smol

Bilbo and Frodo happened to have the same birthday, September 22nd. ‘You had better come and live here, Frodo my lad,’ said Bilbo one day; ‘and then we can celebrate our birthday-parties comfortably together.’  (Lord of the Rings, chapter 1).

Listen to Tolkien talking about the original “flash point” for the writing of The Hobbit:

Tolkien also designed the book jacket for the first edition, pictured below. You can take a closer look at this design on the Bodleian Library’s Marks of Genius website.

Here is the book cover of the edition that I first read as a teenager, illustrated with a drawing by Tolkien.

The Hobbit. 1966 The Hobbit book cover, Unwin Books, 1966. TolkienBooks.net

Since its first publication in 1937, The Hobbit has been reprinted many times and translated in 110 editions in 64 languages, according to Tolkien book collector Yvan Strelz. Check out his amazing collection of translations on…

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Bronwe’s Folly

A well crafted piece of fan fiction. #LOTR #LOTRO #Cardolan #Archet #Bree #Tharbad

The Cottage Of Pen And Play

Tale by Mornawen Bayberry

Note: Tolkien never identified the capital city of Cardolan, but it is plausible that it was Tharbad, which was an important settlement between the lands of Arnor and Gondor. See this discussion: http://middle-earth.xenite.org/2011/12/07/what-was-the-capital-of-cardolan/

This is the tale of Prince Bronwe and his Folly.

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Advice of Ja’far al-Sadiq (d. 765) to Musa al-Kadhim (d. 799)


“O my son, verily the one who is satisfied with what he has is the truly wealthy, while the one who covets that which another possesses is truly impoverished…Know also that the one who exposes the sins of another, his own sins will be exposed. It is undoubted that the one who unsheathes the sword of unjust rebellion will be killed with it. Verily, the one who consorts with the foolish will become abased, while the one who affiliates with scholars will be ennobled. O my son, do not interfere in affairs that do not concern you, for therein lies humiliation. Speak the truth whether it is in your favor or against it, consult about matters with your close relatives, constantly recite the Qur’an, be a conveyor of Islam, an enjoiner of the good, a forbidder of evil, and generous to the one who seeks assistance. Always re-establish relations with…

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Chicken Little(s): Are We Romans?

Source: Chicken Little(s): Are We Romans?

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