Can artificial intelligence create a new Brothers Grimm fairytale? One just did…

If a Brothers Grimm fairytale called The Princess And The Fox sounds unfamiliar, that’s because it didn’t exist until this week. It’s an entirely new story created by artificial intelligence (AI) technology, after a predictive text algorithm was fed the collective works of the Brothers Grimm.

It certainly sounds like it has the fairytale tropes present and correct: “It 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,” explained the announcement this morning.

The story is the work of a company called Botnik, which has form in this area: last year its AI came up with an all-new Harry Potter book. The company was commissioned by meditation firm Calm, whose co-founder Michael Acton Smith may be familiar to parents as the former boss of Moshi Monsters creator Mind Candy. His new company is commissioning “sleep stories”, so enlisting an AI writer is part of promoting that.

“You might call it a form of literary cloning. We’re doing for the Brothers Grimm what Jurassic Park did for dinosaurs,” he said, in a quote that in no way has any bad omens whatsoever at all. “We’re bringing them back from the dead, with modern science.” Sadly no Jeff Goldblum.

There are some caveats here: the algorithm came up with phrases and sentences, which three human writers then knocked in to shape as a story. So it’s not entirely AI: it’s more AI and humans working together. Apparently the results have “a more soothing plot and feel than some of the scarier Grimm stories”. So no children are getting eaten.

How does it sound? There’s an excerpt to listen to here: what do you think? And how do you feel about the idea of AI-generated fairytales for your children?