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Preserving your Family Stories

On February 26th, we celebrate National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. While the original creator of this day is unknown, what we do know is that telling stories is an age-old tradition. Whether you are sitting around the campfire or enjoying a traditional holiday meal, stories, urban legends and tall tales are always being shared.

Fairy tales, while often based in some kind of truth, have morphed over time to have a more magical quality, featuring princes, maidens in distress and the always present "happily ever after". One such example is the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This story is thought to be based on Margarete von Waldeck, the daughter of a 16th century count living in a German mining town. Many of the tunnels inside the mines were so narrow; children or dwarfs were needed to work the mines. Like the fictional Snow White, it is well documented that Margarete was very beautiful, had a stepmother who sent her away, and that she fell in love with a prince. But in this real-life tale, Margarate mysteriously died before her happily ever after. From this true life of Margarete von Waldeck and her unknown prince, the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs emerged as a pop culture icon and example of the classic fairy tale.

In 1812, The Brothers Grimm were one of the first to put pen to paper and capture many popular stories they felt were being lost as the tradition of oral storytelling was fading away. Hans Christian Anderson published written versions of many sweet nursery rhymes we tell our own children today.These stories survive today because they were written down and shared over generations.

Do you know the special stories that relate to your family's history or lineage? Even if you think a story you remember isn't worth cataloging, you should write it down anyway. Talk with your parents and grandparents. Ask them what their favorite stories were when they were children, and what stories they told their children. Write them down and keep them with your family's special belongings. If you have an elderly neighbor or someone you visit in a nursing home, ask them what their favorite stories were, and why. What you may dismiss as a silly tale told over a Thanksgiving meal may one day be told across the globe as a fairy tale with its own happily ever after.

[If you or a loved one enjoy listening to stories, you can call (217) 525-5000 and listen to a pre-recorded tale. The stories change periodically, and while often more child-focused, this is a wonderful tool for anyone who wants to hear an interesting tale or just hear a friendly voice.]


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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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