Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The 'evolution' of Little Red Riding Hood

Date:
November 13, 2013
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Evolutionary analysis can be used to study similarities among folktales.

This image shows a maximum clade credibility tree returned by the Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of the tales. Major groupings are labelled by region and/or ATU international type and indicated by the coloured nodes. Numbers beside the edges represent the percentage of trees in the Bayesian posterior distribution of trees in which a given node occurred. The scale bar indicates the average number of changes per character along a given edge.
Credit: Tehrani JJ

Evolutionary analysis can be used to study similarities among folktales, according to new research published November 13 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jamshid Tehrani at Durham University in the UK.

Since the Brothers Grimm published their compilation of folktales 200 years ago, academics have noted that many plots from those European stories are similar to those from other stories all over the world. For instance, highly similar stories to "Little Red Riding Hood" have been observed in African and East Asian cultures. But whether these stories actually a share a common descent and are indeed the same type of tale has been difficult to demonstrate based on previous approaches.

In this study, the author uses phylogenetic analysis to study relationships among different folktales. Phylogenetics was originally developed to investigate the evolutionary relationships between biological species, by constructing a taxonomy tree that represents relationships of common ancestry based on shared traits. Folktales are an excellent target for phylogenetic analysis because they evolve gradually over time, with new parts of the story added and others lost as they get passed down from generation to generation.

By focusing on "Little Red Riding Hood" and related tales, the author analyzed 72 plot variables, such as character of the protagonist (e.g., single child versus group of siblings, male versus female), the character of the villain (e.g., wolf, ogre, or tiger), the tricks used by the villain to deceive the victim (e.g., false voice or disguised paws), and so on. He found that the African tales are not actually of the "Little Red Riding Hood" type, but instead are related to a tale called "The Wolf and the Kids." East Asian tales did not group with either type but probably evolved by blending together elements of both types of stories.

These finding suggest that phylogenetics can be used to identify distinct groups of folktales spread over wide regions and cultures, which may help us better understand the development and "evolution" of oral narratives in these contexts. Tehrani expands, "Folktales are excellent targets for phylogenetic analysis because, like biological species, they evolve over generations and adapt to new environments as they spread from region to region. Since folktales are mainly transmitted via oral tradition, it can be difficult to study their development using conventional tools of literary analysis, because there are so few historical texts. My study shows how we can overcome these difficulties by using the same approach that biologists have used to fill the gaps in the fossil record.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jamshid J. Tehrani. The Phylogeny of Little Red Riding Hood. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (11): e78871 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078871

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "The 'evolution' of Little Red Riding Hood." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131113182602.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2013, November 13). The 'evolution' of Little Red Riding Hood. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131113182602.htm
Public Library of Science. "The 'evolution' of Little Red Riding Hood." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131113182602.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 23, 2014) The WHO has warned up to 20,000 people could be infected with Ebola over the next few weeks. As Sonia Legg reports, the implications for the West African countries suffering from the disease are huge. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million Within 4 Months

Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million Within 4 Months

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) Health officials warn that without further intervention, the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could reach 1.4 million by January. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: No Nation Gets Pass on Climate Change

Obama: No Nation Gets Pass on Climate Change

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) In a forceful appeal for international cooperation on limiting carbon pollution, President Barack Obama warned world leaders at the UN Climate Summit on Tuesday that the globe's climate is changing faster than efforts to address it. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Overcrowding Has Public Schools Going Vertical

Overcrowding Has Public Schools Going Vertical

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) Pricey real estate and overcrowding have forced urban and suburban school districts to get creative. In Atlanta and outside Washington, that means converting high rise commercial buildings into vertical learning environments. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins