Once upon a time, people sat around fires and told stories. What they didn’t know was that these stories would outlive them by millennia, taking on a life of their own. The stories changed and, like a mirror, reflected societies back at themselves. That has been the standard narrative in fairy-tale study over the past 300 years, and it has become rather old. Like a number of academic disciplines, there’s too much solipsistic navel-gazing, too little knowledge-building. Once upon a time, in a previous life, this humble columnist embarked upon an ill-fated postgraduate foray into the study of fairy tales, and learnt an important lesson: sometimes quitting is the best choice. My problem was the only people who would read my thesis were my supervisor, my mother and, possibly — if I was lucky — the person I was dating. Blue-sky research is fundamental to building our knowledge as a society, but staring at a single stitch without connecting it to a larger tapestry is a waste. That’s what ...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as articles from our international business news partners; ProfileData financial data; and digital access to the Sunday Times and Sunday Times Daily.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now