The 19th-century fairy tale collector Wilhelm Grimm said fairy tales dated back thousands of years. Scientists now support this. They say many popular fairy tales could be over 4,000 years old. Anthropologist Jamshid Tehrani said the oldest known fairy tale dates back 6,000 years to the Bronze Age. This is a time when humans first started making metal tools. Dr Tehrani studied the evolution of early languages. He found strong links between a tale called "The Smith and the Devil" and an ancient language that dates to around 6,000 years ago.
Dr Tehrani analysed 275 tales for elements of culture that existed before people spoke English. He said well-known tales, like "Beauty and the Beast," are at least 4,000 years old. Dr Tehrani said: "It's remarkable that these stories have survived so long without being written down. They are older than the English language and would have been first told in a language that is now extinct." He added that the new findings suggest that: "A substantial number of magical tales have existed in Indo-European oral traditions long before they were written down."