Academics have revealed that fairy tales including Beauty And The Beast and Rumpelstiltskin can be traced back thousands of years, with some even predating the English language.
In the 19th century Wilhelm Grimm, of the famous Brothers Grimm, believed that many of the stories they popularised were rooted in a shared cultural history dating back to the birth of the Indo-European language family.
But later thinkers challenged that view, saying that some stories were much younger, and passed into oral tradition having first been written down by writers from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Using techniques normally employed by biologists, researchers studied common links between stories from around the world and found some have roots that are far older than previously known.
I have some doubts about the applicability to genetic methods applies to evolution of language, since there is no fixed object to measure, like the structure DNA that determines the spoken word.
'Some of these stories go back much further than the earliest literary record and indeed further back than Classical mythology - some versions of these stories appear in Latin and Greek texts - but our findings suggest they are much older than that.'That's pretty old, but it only overlaps the younger period of Stonehenge.
The university's analysis, which is published in Royal Society Open Science, showed that Beauty And The Beast, made famous by the Disney cartoon in 1992, is 4,000 years old.
Jack And The Beanstalk is said to have been rooted in a group of stories classified as The Boy Who Stole Ogre's Treasure
Rumpelstiltskin, the renowned German classic, is also believed to be from the same millennium.
It can be traced back 5,000 years to when Eastern and Western Indo-European languages split.
Dr Tehrani said: 'We find it pretty remarkable these stories have survived without being written.
'They have been told since before even English, French and Italian existed. They were probably told in an extinct Indo-European language.'
Fairy stories often have themes common to humans throughout the world and through all ages, such as family, betrayal, violence and survival, he said.
I don't find it that surprising. The stories themselves are simple, and in a clan based society, it's easy to imagine them being passed down over and over, at least if there were no cell phones to distract the kids.
Retired German professor Jack Zipes of the University of Minnesota had previously suggested that fairy tales were older than most people thought.Yes, the old stories were about real worries, terrible animals, warring human beings, death. You had to break the kids in early before reality broke them.
In 2009, when research suggested Little Red Riding Hood was 2,600 years old, he said: 'Little Red Riding Hood is about violation or rape, and I suspect that humans were just as violent in 600BC as they are today, so they will have exchanged tales about all types of violent acts.
Melvin Joel Konner, Professor of Anthropology and of Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, believes storytelling and fairy tales could have been going on for hundreds of thousands of years.
In his book, The Evolution of Childhood (2010), he wrote: 'Even the simplest and most static of human cultures is an engine of inventive mutual influence and change. Furthermore, at least orally, human cultures preserve historical record, imaginative or real, couched in a human language.
If only the apes could talk.
'The past pervades human consciousness to some degree even in the simplest societies, and discussions of past events - narrating, sometimes dramatically, commenting on the narration, challenging points of fact or logic, and co-constructing a suite of stories - occupied many an evening for perhaps 300,000 years, but not for millions of years before that.
'And while our ancestors were arguing, many ape communities not far away in the forest were making their - yes, traditional - nests and drifting off to sleep.
'The only modern apes that have learned language learned it from human teachers, and none of their wild counterparts has anything like it.
Wombat-socho has the giant "Rule 5 Sunday: Blue Shirt Double-Dip Edition" ready at The Other McCain.