There are so many collections of fairy tales and folktales. Who were the men and women who collected all these stories?
How did they live? Were they wild creatives or a-bit-boring academics?
Here I tell you about the collectors, the men and women who did not primarily write their own fairy tales or edited collections of others but recorded them from the oral tradition.
P.S.: The well-known Brothers Grimm are in here too, but the other ones are maybe even more interesting!
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1. Alexander Afanasyev (Russia)
Alexander Afanasyev collected and published almost 600 fairy tales and folktales; that’s one of the largest collections of folklore in the world. Most of them he did not collect himself, though. He ended up being called the Russian counterpart of the Brothers Grimm.
Fun fact: He secretly published a collection of more obscene and anticlerical Russian folktales and fairy tales in Switzerland: Russian Forbidden Tales.
2. Peter Christen Asbjørnsen (Norway)
Peter Christen Asbjørnsen was a collector of folktales and fairy tales from Norway. He is most known for the collections (translated as Norwegian Folktales) he published with his lifelong friend and colleague Jørgen Moe. He worked as a forest master and zoologist.
Fun fact: He started collecting and writing down fairy tales and legends when he was twenty! He is one of the collectors who really traveled around on foot to capture the stories being told.
3. Giambattista Basile (Italy)
Giambattista Basile collected and wrote down some of the oldest versions of many well-known European fairy tales, for which Perrault and the Grimm Brothers praised him. These fairy tales include early versions of Cinderella, even an old Chinese version. He rewrote many of these tales.
Fun fact: He published his first collection under a pseudonym. It was called The Pentamerone, subtitled with the grand words ‘The Tale of Tales.’ Boccaccio’s Decameron inspired the structure.
4. Fletcher Stewart Bassett (USA)
Fletcher Stewart Bassett was a soldier, seafarer, and collector of folktales, legends, and fairy tales. Legends and Superstitions of the Sea was his first collection. His work brought him to many countries worldwide, which helped him develop his views on how to collect folklore.
Fun fact: Most of the collectors of fairy tales had other jobs. These jobs allowed them to travel or gave them access to vast libraries or people.
5. John Bierhorst (USA)
John Bierhorst was a collector working tirelessly to translate and publish many Native American tales. Many of them had not been published in English before. Later he collected many stories of Latin American origin in Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions.
6. John Gregorson Campbell (Scotland)
John Gregorson Campbell was a minister and collector of folktales and fairy tales from Scotland. He was fluent in English and Gaelic and had great respect for the illiterate Gaelic storytellers. He strived to collect the stories exactly as he heard them.
Fun fact: There is also a collector of folktales and fairy tales called John Francis Campbell. To make matters even more confusing: they corresponded and, at one point, worked together.
7. Harold Courlander (USA)
Harold Courlander was an anthropologist and collector of folktales, mainly from Caribbean, African, and Native American cultures. He traveled a lot while working a regular job and published more than 30 volumes of local lore, folktales, and fairy tales.
Fun fact: When Harold’s father became sick, he would gather Harold and his siblings around his bed, sharing his love of stories by telling them stories for hours.
8. Jacob Grimm & 9. Wilhelm Grimm (Germany)
Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm were two brothers who collected and published German fairy tales. Together we know them as The Brothers Grimm. Their collection of ‘Children and Household Tales’ contains some of the most famous fairy tales known in the Western world.
Fun fact: Wilhelm Grimm married a storyteller, Dorothea Wild, who contributed more than 20 fairy tales to their collection. (More fun facts about the Grimm Brothers)
10. Grace James (Japan)
Grace Edith Marion James was an English writer born in Tokyo. She collected and retold Japanese folktales and fairy tales. The main book she published with these tales is called Japanese Fairy Tales. She returned in her teens from Japan to live in Europe.
Fun fact: Grace James collected and translated her tales from many sources. Some came from the Ko-ji-ki, or Record of Ancient Matters (impressive name!), which contains the mythology of Japan.
11. Jørgen Moe (Norway)
Jørgen Moe was a Norse bishop and avid collector of folktales and fairy tales. He traveled through the southern parts of Norway to collect stories. Together with his friend Peter Christen Asbjørnsen he published now-famous collections of Norwegian fairy tales.
Fun fact: Moe was not only a collector of stories and a bishop. He also wrote poetry and produced quite a few original stories.
12. Sophia Morrison (Isle of Man)
Sophia Morrison was a folklore collector and author from the Isle of Man. She was well educated, traveled widely, but dedicated her life to the Manx culture. She traveled herself to collect many Manx folktales and worked tirelessly to preserve the Manx culture.
Fun fact: Sophia Morrison was averse to photographs as she had problems from childhood with her eyes giving her a form of squint.
13. Jeanne Scelles-Millie (Algeria)
Jeanne Scelles-Millie was an architectural engineer and folktales collector in North Africa. She published several North African folk tales and legends collections, was a social activist and was the first woman to direct construction sites in Algeria.
Fun fact: After her husband learned about trafficking, they decided to become active campaigners for awareness and pressure against trafficking.
14. Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (Germany)
Franz Xaver von Schönwerth was a German folktales and fairy tales collector. The works of the Brothers Grimm inspired him. Almost all of the stories he collected are from people from the specific region (Upper Palatinate) where he lived. His wife, also born there, assisted him.
Fun fact: He communicated extensively with Jacob Grimm (yes, one of the Brothers Grimm). Jacob Grimm later recommended his work to the king and told him that Schönwerth was the only person who could continue his and his brother’s work after their deaths.
More collectors of fairy tales and folktales?
While I have strived to include many fairy tale collectors in this list, it is by no means exhaustive.
If you enjoyed getting to know more about these different fairy tales collectors, you might also enjoy my article about the best folktale collections.
Photo credits: Pixabay
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