Nobody really wrote most of the stories. People told them in all parts of the world long before Egyptian hieroglyphics or Cretan signs or Cyprian syllabaries, or alphabets were invented. They are older than reading and writing, and arose like wild flowers before men had any education to quarrel over. The grannies told them to the grandchildren, and when the grandchildren became grannies they repeated the same old tales to the new generation. Homer knew the stories and made up the 'Odyssey' out of half a dozen of them. All the history of Greece till about 800 B.C. is a string of the fairy tales, all about Theseus and Heracles and Oedipus and Minos and Perseus is a Cabinet des Fées, a collection of fairy tales. Shakespeare took them and put bits of them into 'King Lear' and other plays; he could not have made them up himself, great as he was. Let ladies and gentlemen think of this when they sit down to write fairy tales, and have them nicely typed, and send them to Messrs. Longman & Co. to be published. They think that to write a new fairy tale is easy work. They are mistaken: the thing is impossible. Nobody can write a new fairy tale; you can only mix up and dress up the old, old stories, and put the characters into new dresses, as Miss Thackeray did so well in 'Five Old Friends.' If any big girl of fourteen reads this preface, let her insist on being presented with "Five Old Friends."
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Andrew Lang (March, 31, 1844 July 20, 1912) was a Scottish writer and literary critic who is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales. Lang s academic interests extended beyond the literary and he was a noted contributor to the fields of anthropology, folklore, psychical research, history, and classic scholarship, as well as the inspiration for the University of St. Andrew s Andrew Lang Lectures. A prolific author, Lang published more than 100 works during his career, including twelve fairy books, in which he compiled folk and fairy tales from around the world. Lang s Lilac Fairy and Red Fairy books are credited with influencing J. R. R. Tolkien, who commented on the importance of fairy stories in the modern world in his 1939 Andrew Lang Lecture On Fairy-Stories.
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