It would seem Dr. Tehrani's announcement and his talk at the British Science Fair last week have stirred up an old, yet apparently still hot, debate in the academic ring of fairy tale studies.
In one corner we have the oral traditionalists; in the other: the literary-origin camp.
Heavy weights from both camps have already weighed in and traded some verbal fisticuffs.
Representing the literary-origin advocates we have the highly respected Ruth Bottigheimer:
(Quotes from The Star)
"Tehrani has bought into the newest wave of biology-based understanding of literature, taking evolutionary genetics as his model. But his views are based on slippery assumptions that can't be verified and that have no legs in the real world.
Of course, all narratives have ancient origins: Aesops's fables date back to the sixth century B.C. But "modern revisionists distinguish between different kinds of traditional tales" – folk stories differ from fairy tales – "and understand that they have histories of different lengths."
Elements of a narrative told here and there over time do not a "fairy tale" make."
"Yes, there is debate in the field over dating. Fairy tales are in the thick of the culture wars."
The editor of Marvels & Tales, a twice-yearly journal of fairy tale studies, says Tehrani is right to conclude that a form of Red Riding Hood exists in many varied cultures. What's news, however, is that the story may date back further than 2,600 years: "It's intriguing, it's plausible, but tracing the ancestry of fairy tales can be very difficult. I want to see his evidence."
Arguably the most well known and respected fairy tale authority, Jack Zipes, also firmly (and famously) in the oral-traditionalists corner, doesn't hesitate to respond, or to pull his punch:
"All our storytelling originated thousands of years ago, centuries before the print editions of fairy tales," he says. "Anyone who says they arrive only with print is just stupid. People have similar experiences around the world and always have had."
But this is just the warm up. They're all waiting eagerly for the paper to be published before winding up for the knock-out.