Why You’ll Never Look at Little Red Riding Hood the Same Way Again

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Okay, so this is COOL. Using techniques developed for the study of evolutionary biology, scientists have traced certain folk stories back to the Bronze Age.

Stories, in their telling and retelling, accumulate changes in plot, characters, and settings. In fact, they behave a lot like living organisms, which build up mutations in the genes that they pass to successive generations. And now scientists can reconstruct the relationships between versions of a story using the same tools that evolutionary biologists use to study the change over time in species. They can compare different versions of the same tale and draw family trees–phylogenies–that unite them. They can even reconstruct the last common ancestor of a group of stories.

Little Red Riding Hood, for example, can be traced back to a single origin, 2,000 years ago, somewhere between Europe and the Middle East. Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin were first written down in the 17th and 18th centuries respectively, but they are actually between 2,500 and 6,000 years old.

How cool is that!?!

Much more here. And here, too. Well worth the read!

– S.

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