Once upon a time... In English and beyond

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How do folktales and fairytales start in different languages? Once upon a time... is the English language version we are all familiar with of course. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the phrase ‘Once upon a time’ has been used since 14th century to tell fairy tales, folk tales and fables by many generations of storytellers.

But what about other languages? Apparently in most other cultures folk tales start the same way. There are a few minor variations to the vocabulary but basically the similarities are quite astonishing. So let’s explore some other Once Upon a Times...

كان يا ما كان،في قديم الزمان، وسالف العصر والأوان ...There was in the oldest of days and ages and times... Have you recognised the language? It’s Arabic!

The most famous collection of folk tales is The Arabian Nights which teach us the morals that are so common to the world of folklore: tolerance is the key for success, satisfaction and contentment keep you out of trouble, loyalty is rewarded, and dishonesty is discovered and punished sooner or later. Arabic folk tales tell us the adventures of genies, goblins, kings and queens, talking animals and princes and princesses. Arabic folk tales were transmitted orally from one generation to the next and were first written down in the 14th century in Syrian Arabic manuscript.

‘And they lived happily ever after’? Do Arabic folk tales share the common ending of the English language tales? Apparently not. Each ending is unique in Arabic folklore.

Stay tuned for “Once Upon a Times’ in other languages and cultures...

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