Okay, so some of the people mentioned in this post will be pretty difficult to find because all of them are dead…. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t check out the places that inspired them to write/collect some of the most magical folk- and fairy tales in Europe!
Below you’ll find a list of five interesting cities that all provided the perfect setting for the work of some awesome people who were instrumental in bringing us amazing stories within the fairy/folk tale genre.
- Venice, Italy
Venice – a place brimming with wonder (and a gazillion tourists). It’s not difficult to see why it might have provided Giovanni Francesco “Gianfrancesco” Straparola with a tonne of magic-filled inspiration. Straparola (ca. 1485?-1558? – Yep, he’s so old that we don’t have a clear record of when this guy actually lived) was a writer best known for his collection of stories called The Facetious Nights (or The Pleasant Nights). The first volume was published in Venice in 1551 with the second volume out in 1553, and together they contain a total of 75 short stories, fables – and fairy tales! Even though the term ‘fairy tale’ hadn’t been invented in the mid-16th century, the collection includes examples of the first known printed fairy tales in Europe.
So if you want to soak up a bit of the magical atmosphere which brought us the earliest known printed European fairy tales, Venice is your destination!
- Naples, Italy
Another old guy who has had an impact on the fairy tale genre is Mr Giambattista Basile (1566 – 1632). Basile was an Italian writer and fairy tale collector. His claim to fame was his collection of Neapolitan fairy tales which were published in two volumes in 1634 and 1636. Unfortunately for him, he never got to enjoy his fame as both volumes were published posthumously by his sister.
The stories fell into oblivion as time went by but rose to fame again when the Brothers Grimm credited Basile’s work as the first national collection of fairy tales. The collection includes many of the oldest known versions of famous fairy tales, including the earliest known stories of Rapunzel and Cinderella.
Basile’s stories are set in the old woods and castles of Basilicata in southern Italy, so this area (and in particular the city of Acerenza) would be a good place to take in some fairy tale atmosphere.
- Paris, France
Paris – The City of Love – and fairy tales! Whilst Paris is well-known for being one of the top destination for couples seeking a romantic holiday, the city actually has a rich fairy tale history with some famous writers having called it their home.
One of them was Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d’Aulnoy (1650/1651? – 1705). Madame d’Aulnoy wrote stories within a range of different genres, but her most popular works were her fairy tales. When she published Les Contes des Fees (tales of fairies) in 1697, she became the first writer to use the term for this particular genre. However, if you expect these tales to be sweet, innocent stories that are just perfect for little ones, then think again! Madame d’Aulnoy’s stories were not aimed at children, and many of the English adaptations have been substantially altered because they were found to be unsuitable for all the Mini-Mes in the world.
Another famous Parisian writer, who became known for his fairy tales, was Charles Perrault (1628 – 1703). Whilst Madame d’Aulnoy originated the term ‘Fairy Tales’, Perrault laid the foundations for the literary genre we now know as fairy tales. Though his works drew from older folk tales, Perrault is generally acknowledged as the founder of the modern-day fairy tale genre. Some of Perrault’s best-known stories include Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (aka Little Red Riding Hood), Cendrillon (aka Cinderella), Le Chat Botté (aka Puss in Boots) and La Belle au bois Dormant (aka The Sleeping Beauty). Some of these fairy tales may actually have influenced the German folk tales which the Brothers Grimm published more than a century later.
- Hanau and Kassel, Germany
What do Rapunzel and Snow White have in common? Well before they were Disney princesses, they were both immortalised by the Brothers Grimm in their famous collection of folk tales along with the German version of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
There are a few places which fans of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales can visit to get a feel of the brothers’ life stories. A good place to start is in Hanau, Germany, which is the birthplace of the famous fairy tale collectors.
It is also where the German Fairy Tale Route starts! This is a 600+ km journey which highlights the different stages in the life of Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859) and takes you through the places and landscapes in which their famous folk tales take place. It will take you to Kassel where both brothers spent a large part of their lives, and this was also the place where they published their first collection of folk tales in 1812. Kassel also has a cool new museum dedicated to the dynamic duo and their stories.
- Odense, Denmark
Image by Nigel’s Europe & beyond
The little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, Frozen – okay, so maybe the last one isn’t entirely correct, but just like The Little Mermaid, Disney based their story on one of Hans Christian Andersen’s well-known and much-loved fairy tales.
One of the most famous fairy tale writers of all time, Andersen is also the “youngest” person on this list. He was born in 1805 in Odense, which is the 3rd largest city in Denmark. Though he travelled a lot throughout his life, Andersen spent his childhood in Odense, and the city undoubtedly had an impact on not only his life, but his stories too. So why not discover the place where the intrepid writer spent the first 14 years of his life?
In Odense, you can see the house he grew up in and there’s even going to be a pretty cool museum in 2020 that will tell you more about the man who gave us some of the most amazing fairy tales in the world.
Which place would be at the top of your to-visit list? And why?