On preserving stories

Today I visited my grandparents, and while what we talked about doesn’t exactly relate to books, to me it relates to storytelling, and links with what has been preoccupying my head for the last few days – fairy tales.

Something that struck me when I started looking at the two best known collections of fairy tales – that is, those captured by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault – is that all three of the gentlemen who wrote these stories down were academics. They didn’t write these fairy tales because they were born writers (although that can be debated) but because they were fascinated by what these stories meant to the communities they lived in. Both the Brothers Grimm and Perrault were scared these stories were going to be lost, and thought they were too important to be lost from the collective consciousness.

So how does this relate to my grandparents? My mum asked me to ask my Nana and Pa whether they still had the toasting fork she remembers being used so often when she was young. This sparked a conversation of life when my grandparents were growing up – memories that my Nana says she had forgotten about. They talked about the different types of irons their mothers had, and the one my Nan used when she was first married – did you know there was a gas iron, that you attached to a gas bottle like the one used for barbeques? And we talked about the first time my grandparents tasted chocolate, and rice – my Pa remembers both moments distinctively. And the rationing during the war, of petrol and sugar and clothing – my Pa talked of how the shearers on his father’s farm made shoes out of Kangaroo skin.

There were so many stories, stories that I can’t possibly all share with you now, but I am so glad that I heard them. Talking to my mum afterwards, we wanted to write these stories down, just like Perrault and the Grimm brothers did, so those stories were not lost. I understand completely these authors fascination with oral stories. Like the way that fairy tales transform every time they are told by a different storyteller, I will take my grandparents stories and make them my own.


toasting fork

I promise to move on from fairytales tomorrow – they’ve been stuck in my head! There is so many different aspects to think about. But I finished reading Rene Goscinny’s Nicholas today, and I’ll talk about that tomorrow – no more fairy tales, I swear!



  1. Most fairytales originate from folk tales. These were passed on by word of mouth until people decided to write them down. That’s also why there are so many different versions of fairy tales. There are no “right” versions, they’re all the same with a different twist to make it their own.

  2. And what is a toasting fork? and did your grandparents still have the one your mum remembered?

    • You spear a piece of bread on the end of the toasting fork, and then hold it over the fire to make your morning toast! Unfortunately my grandparent’s toasting fork was lost in one of their moves, along with the porridge-stirring stick. It only exists in memory now!

      • Ahhh! When we go camping we use hangars. I didn’t know that there were fancy things for toasting over a fire. Pretty cool. And a fancy porridge stirring stick too! I’m sorry that these treasures were lost.

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