Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

Magical Folktales May Date to the Bronze Age

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Language folktales blacksmith DURHAM, ENGLAND—Jamie Tehrani of Durham University and Sara Graça da Silva of the New University of Lisbon conducted a statistical analysis of the relationship between languages and folktales in a search for our earliest stories. They chose 76 stories from a database of more than 2,000 types of folktales as possible candidates for estimating folktale ages. These stories were based upon beings or objects with supernatural powers, which is the largest group of folktales in the database. They then studied how the tales related to the family trees of Indo-European languages throughout Asia and Europe. “What these methods allow us to do is trace back really important dimensions of human culture…much further back than the physical evidence would allow us to do,” Tehrani explained to Science News. One tale in particular is thought to date back 6,000 years, to the Proto-Indo-European language, while four others were found to have a high probability of being associated with it. “’The Smith and the Devil’ is the one we feel absolutely confident as being a Proto-Indo-European tale,” Tehrani said. In this story, a blacksmith makes a deal with an evil being for the power to weld any materials together. To read more about Proto-Indo-European, go to "Wolf Rites of Winter." 

Advertisement

Advertisement


Advertisement