‘Lost’ Grimm fairy tale is first AI bedtime story
From the brothers who brought us Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty ...
The first new Brothers Grimm fairy tale in 200 years, The Princess and the Fox, comes from a collaboration between machines and humans and is the newest addition to Calm's ever-growing library of now over 90 Sleep Stories.
The process involved what amounts almost to a form of literary cloning. You might say that it does for the Brothers Grimm what Jurassic Park did for dinosaurs – brings them back from the dead with the help of modern science (except, of course, with a much happier ending).
The resulting story tells the tale of a king, a magical golden horse, a forlorn princess and a poor miller’s son. A talking fox helps the lowly miller’s son to rescue the beautiful princess from the fate of having to marry a dreadful prince who she does not love.
It starts as follows:
Once upon a time, there was a golden horse with a golden saddle and a beautiful purple flower in its hair. The horse would carry the flower to the village where the princess danced for joy at the thought of looking so beautiful and good.
“It’s magnificent!” she said to her father, the king of bread and cheese. “Will you give it something to eat and drink if I finally marry the prince?”
You see, the king had long since urged his daughter to marry the only eligible prince in the land. The problem was she did not love him, and so she had continued to refuse his proposal.
To write this fantastical tale we teamed up with Botnik, a group of writers, artists and programmers that uses artificial intelligence to create new forms of writing.
To begin, Botnik worked with their own predictive text program, called Voicebox. It works in a similar way to the predictive text on your phone. In this case, however, it was fed the collected stories of the Brother's Grimm and trained to suggest words and phrases based on what it had digested.
"Next, the human writers took the phrases and sentences suggested by the predictive text program and began to assemble them into the rough shape of a story", explains Jamie Brew, CEO of Botnik and one of three writers who helped craft the story.
They then filled in the gaps using their imagination, further algorithmic suggestions and input from Calm's story editors.
The result is a new tale in the style and voice of the Brothers Grimm – but with the occasional surreal touch and a more soothing plot and feel than some of the scarier Grimm stories.
The Grimm Brothers used quill and ink; Botnik and Calm used a computer program and human intuition to find patterns in the Grimm’s writing, and replicate those patterns using predictive text to describe new characters and situations.
"The end result," says Botnik's Jamie Brew, "The Princess and the Fox, belongs not to any single machine or person or pair of brothers but to the whole interconnected system of inspiration and intepretation."
We can't help but wonder: are literary robots the future? And what might come next? A new AI Shakespeare play or Dickens novel? Anything now seems possible!
Perhaps you'll write the next fairy tale with the help of Botnik's predictive keyboard here!?