Hans Christian Andersen and his borrowed grave at Assistens Kirkegård in Copenaghen

Assistens Cemetery, Assistens Kirkegård in Danish, in Copenhagen, Denmark, is the burial site of many local notables. An “assistenskirkegård” (which means “assistance cemetery”) is originally a generic term in Danish, used to refer to cemeteries which were laid out to assist existing burial sites, and therefore a number of cemeteries by the same name are found around Denmark.Inaugurated in 1760, it was originally a burial site for the poor laid out to relieve the crowded graveyards inside the walled city, but during the Golden Age in the first half of…

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The dark origins of the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of the most famous (and appreciated) fairy tales in the world, first related in 1812 when the Grimm brothers published their collection of tales that had been gathered from old European folk stories. Like many of the Grimm tales, it is supposed that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been in existence since the Middle Ages, passed down through word-of-mouth over the centuries. The version that is universally told today is the most “digestible” by a non-adult audience, and in 1937,…

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The Snow Child: a black humor medieval folktale

In medieval France a few different type of story was told as an alternative to the fairy tales or the popular fables, know as “Fabliaux”, in French, with a simple and linear plot. Focusing mostly on tales of commoners, they often treated adulterous wives and husbands, and their purpose was to make the listeners laugh. Often anonymous, they were written by “jongleurs” (minstrels, medieval European entertainers in northeast France) between c. 1150 and 1400, and they are generally characterized by sexual and scatological obscenity, and by a set of contrary…

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The true (and dramatic) history of Pocahontas: the first American Native died in England.

Pocahontas, the Native American princess, is known by most as the sweet young redskin who fell in love with Englishman John Smith during the initial period of British colonization. In 1995, Disney produced a beautiful animated film, which tells the encounter and alleged lovestory between John Smith and Pocahontas. Although Disney movies are notoriously fantastical tales, many people have believed that, in this movie, true events were told, even if somewhat fictional. However, this representation is very distant from historical events, and from the girl’s real life. It seems that…

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The Pied Piper: the creepy medieval mystery behind one of the most popular Children’s Tale.

Every summer Sunday in the city of Hamelin, actors gather in the old town center to pay homage to a strange, enduring tale. The “Pied Piper” (or “the Piper of Hamelin”) is one of the most famous classic fairy tales all over the world. Despite its great diffusion, only a few people have studied the genesis of this story, probably for the habit of considering it harmless, only a fairy tale, and for this without any reference to reality. The most recent children’s story (the version of 1857) tells that…

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