Famous British novelist, Charles Dickens, is considered as one of the finest writers of the English history. He was very fond of reading as well as writing from his early days. The fairy tales and folklores surrounded most of his childhood, often read to him by his nurse. Since then, his love for fairy tales started to foster.
The collecting of European folklore had its birth in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the publication of the volumes of fairy stories and folktales by the brothers Grimm, Perrault, and others. The Perrault and Grimm brother were translated into English, during the eighteenth century. Dickens would have been exposed to these earlier versions of tales. Dickens had read most of them; his childhood reading also includes other famous fairy tales of his time: “Jack and the beanstalk”, “The giant killer”, “Hop’o my thumb”, “The children in the wood”, “Little red riding hood”, and “Hassel and Gretel”. In his short story “a Christmas tree” Dickens claimed that “[little red riding-hood] was my first love”.
In his novel David Copperfield, Dickens declares his childhood readings by attributing the list of fairy tales and Arabian knights stories. The passion for the literature, he read as a child, had been crucial to the development of his imagination, and indeed his whole outlook on life bears the stamp of his early reading.
On different occasion, Dickens even defended fairy tales and fantasy against those who saw fantasy as harmful or those who wished to use fairy stories as vehicle for teaching of morality. In his essay “frauds on fairies” (1853) published in household words, Dickens condemned Cruikshank’s rewriting traditional fairy tales: to tarnish them by attaching explicit moral massages to them. Dickens believes that these stories give their reader a sense of relief from their hectic life. In “frauds on fairies”, he also tells the worth of fairy tales. He argued, “in a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected”.
Dickens, through his writings, tried to cover social cruelties – ensued from industrial revolution– of his time. With the touch of fantasy or fairy-tales elements, he depicted the reality of his time. He was aware of the cruelties and injustices of the life, but he strongly believed that man had the capability within himself to change both himself and his life. For Dickens, these stories were not only the escape from reality, but they also had provided him with the ground on which he can stand and look at the reality with different prospective. Most of his writings adopt the themes and plot structure of traditional fairy tales.
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