My Breaking the Mother Goose Code: How a Fairy Tale Character Fooled the World for 300 Years will break into print this coming February 27, 2015.
"If fairy tales were at one time subversive revolutionary communiqués, how exactly would they have been passed on from one person to the next? Especially after the witch persecutions began to heat up in the early-modern era (16th-18th centuries), it would have been exquisitely dangerous to be caught passing along any religious beliefs except the Christian kind. Even when the tales were told in secret code, the transmission would have needed to take place in extreme secrecy.
"One idea: they were passed along by itinerant traders and wandering vagabonds. Davidson and Chaudhri note that with the invention of the cheap “chapbook” in the 1500s, many fairy tales, and especially perhaps the literary ones, traveled rapidly around Europe, carried by peddlers from town to town and village to village.
"Marie-Louise von Franz describes a fascinating example of one way oral fairy tales were disseminated by itinerant peddlers. In 1926, one Father Bramberger, an Austrian Catholic priest, published a book of fairy tales called Marchen aus den Donaulande. Approximately one fourth of the tales in the book were collected from “Old Dog Girl,” an elderly itinerant peddler and storyteller. Traveling the countryside, Old Dog Girl sold “shoe laces and the like,” and also took children aside to tell them her tales in exchange for which the children’s parents would serve her a good hot meal. Adults were not allowed into Old Dog Girl’s storytelling sessions, and “Father Bramberger himself had to pay her with many sausages before he was allowed into the presence of the children to write down those stories."
"Two facts stand out here: First, as an itinerant, if Old Dog Girl got into trouble, she would be practiced at quickly and quietly moving on – with no one knowing exactly which direction she might have taken. Second, she told her tales to children, and children only. Since no adults were allowed into the story sessions, no adults could be quizzed by authorities about what this woman was telling their children. And if any authority insisted upon sitting in on a session, Old Dog Girl could easily “tidy up” her tales."