Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas as time for Storytelling

Hey-remember when I said I was engaged? Well, the wedding is now less than a month away! Which means that in addition to working, I will be doing much wedding planning, moving to a new Chicago suburb, and doing this thing called Christmas. So don't be surprised if I'm extra scarce around here for a while...I will hopefully have more time for reading and posting around mid-January when we get back from the honeymoon!

In the meantime:

Christmas, at least in Victorian England, was seen as a time set apart for telling stories. I have a book from my library from 1881 titled "Yuletide Stories" which I originally thought would be Christmas themed, but are in fact fairy tales from different parts of Europe. Dickens wrote a series of stories, each supposedly told by a different person in a group gathered around a Christmas tree.

Christmas was also used as an idealized image of the telling of folk and fairy tales. When the Grimms published their collection, they tried to romanticize them by emphasizing the image of an old woman reciting the tales word for word, when really most of the tales were told by young friends of theirs. When the Grimm collection was translated into English, Edgar Taylor, the translator, fleshed out this image even more.
from The Illustrated London News, 1848
In the epigraph to his first volume, he writes, "Now you must imagine me to sit by a good fire, amongst a companye of good fellowes, over a well spiced bowle of Christmas ale, telling of these merrie tales which hereafter followe." Sounds pretty cozy...
Taylor went on to name a fictitious narrator, Gammer Grethel, and invent a history for her:

"Gammer Grethel was an honest, good-humoured farmer's wife, who, a while ago, lived far off in Germany.
She knew all the good stories that were told in that country; and every evening about Christmas time the boys and girls of the neighborhood gathered round to hear her tell them some of her budget of strange stories.
One Christmas, being in that part of the world, I joined the party; and begged her to let me write down what I heard, for the benefit of my young friends in England. And so, for twelve merry evenings, beginning with Christmas Eve, we met and listened to her budget."

Even though there was no Gammer Grethel, we can try to revive the tradition of spreading fairy tales at Christmas time!

EDIT: Woops! Forgot to credit my source! Jennifer Schacker, National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth Century England


  1. Congrats in advance! A Christmas/New Years wedding? How lovely. Wishing you every happiness in your ever after. May this just be the beginning of the best part of your story yet. *throws eco-confetti*
    PS I think all the hot toddy may help in inspiring additional tales around the fire at Christmas time. Bring on the tradition! ;)

  2. Thank you!! Yes, somehow I didn't learn from my sister, who got married on December 29, that it's extremely hectic to do the holidays and wrap up wedding plans at the same time...but thank you also for sharing the stories year round! Your blog is such an inspiration!!