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Fairy Tale

Fairy tales are short stories that include fanciful and magical elements such as goblins, elves, fairies, and ogres.

A fairy tale is usually written with a younger audience in mind. This is especially the case with contemporary fairy tales. The characters in fairy tales sometimes have the ability to use magic to change the world around them. The setting is also “magical” in some way, such as in a mysterious forest or in a castle. 

Pronunciation: fair-ree tay-ull

Fairy Tale definition and book examples


Definition and Explanation of Fairy Tale  

Fairy tales are traditional stories that are passed down from storyteller to listener for generations. They start out orally and are eventually written down and persevered for years to come. The stories include elements of magic and reality allowing the reader or listener to suspend their disbelief and accept the story they’re being told. Often, these stories are also told from a child’s perceptive, something that can heighten the magical feeling of the characters and setting. This increases the intensity of the stories and often the fantastical elements within them. These stories present readers with worlds in which the impossible is possible. 


Examples of Fairy Tales

Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm, and Wilhelm Carl Grimm are the authors of some of the best-known Western fairy tales. These stories were collected and published in the 19th century. They popularized stories like Cinderella, in addition to Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Sleeping Beauty. Today, their stories are available in more than 100 languages and have been made into films and television shows. 

In Cinderella, the Brothers Grimm take a story that dates back to Ancient Greece and rework it for their collection. In its very first form, the story was known as Rhodopis, It describes a woman bathing who has one of her sandals snatched by an eagle and carried to Memphis. In the Brother’s Grimm story, known as Aschenputtel, a young woman is abused by her stepsisters and stepmother, catches the eye of a prince, and is helped along by a wishing tree (rather than a fairy godmother as in the Disney version). The stepsisters mutilate their feet and eventually suffer for what they put Cinderella through. 


Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

Beauty and the Beast was written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. It tells the story of a merchant and his three daughters. When he goes on a journey he asks them what they want him to bring them. The oldest daughters ask for jewels while the youngest, Belle, wants a rose. He picks a rose for his youngest daughter on the way home and is stopped by the Beast. The father is told he has to pay a penalty for stealing the flower. Belle sets her father free by giving herself to the Beast. She falls in love with him, breaking his curse and turning him into a handsome prince. 


The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

This well-loved fairy tale was written by Hans Christian Andersen and published in 1837. It follows a young mermaid who gives up her life in the sea to get a human soul. When she turns fifteen and gets a glimpse of the world above, she falls in love with it, especially with a handsome prince she watches from the safety of the water. She eventually saves the prince from drowning and brings him to shore. The little mermaid decides to give up everything to be with the prince. She finds a sea witch who gives her a potion that will allow her tail to turn into legs. It’s a one-way trip and one that’s going to be painful. If the prince chooses to marry her, she’ll get a human soul, if not, she’ll die. 


Why Do Writers Use Fairy Tales? 

Writers create or include fairy tales in their written works in order to tap into a long tradition. Often, writers will allude to already well-known fairy tales. This allows them to use the same themes and plot points that the reader is already well aware of. It’s also possible to write new fairy tales, although creating ones that are original is sometimes a hard task. 

Those that are successful are capable of creating light-hearted (or darker) stories that use fanatical, entertaining elements that should attract readers of all ages. But, due to the fact that these stories appeal most to children, writers should be aware of the impact they can have on those reading them. These stories can boost a child’s interest in reading and improve literacy on a broader scale. The child narrators two are often at the heart of these novels are only one of the many reasons these stories are appealing to readers of the same age. 


Fairy Tale or Fable 

Fairy tales are short stories, as fables are, that involve fantastical elements. Fairy tales are far more centered on the “magical” elements of stories than fables are though. Their characters are otherworldly and include ogres, fairies, witches, and more, in addition to talking and thinking animals. These characters use magic to accomplish amazing feats, some good and some bad. It should also be noted that fairy tales are not usually written with the express point of teaching a moral lesson.


Related Literary Terms 

  • Folklore: stories that people tell. These include folk stores, fairy tales, urban legends, and more.
  • Anti-Hero: a character who is characterized by contrasting traits. This person has some of the traits of a hero and of a villain.
  • Antagonist: a character who is considered to be the rival of the protagonist.
  • Protagonist: the main character of a story, generally considered to be the hero or the force for good.
  • Genre: a type of art, literary work, or musical composition that is defined by its content, style, or a specific form to which it conforms.
  • Fantasy: a literary genre that includes talking animals, magic, and other worlds. It includes plots that couldn’t take place in the real world.


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