"Fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already because it is in the world already. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of evil.
The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St George to kill the dragon."
A story which depicts a fantastic sequence of events. Often, fairy tales include creatures from folklore such as goblins, witches
, and dragons. Fairy tales usually take place "once upon a time
", with few (if any) references to real people, places or events.
Orally told fairy tales are told in extremely spare and laconic style. Even the fancy dresses
the heroine wears to a ball
are discussed briefly; "three dresses
, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as bright as the stars" and the story goes on. Likewise, characters are defined by their actions. Even when motives are provided (which is only for human characters), they are short and simple: the heroine is out to find her fortune; the hero wants to marry the princess; the Wicked Stepmother
and doesn't want her stepchild to have an inheritance, or envious
of her beauty, or if she has a stepson, destroy his wife; the false hero
wants to marry the princess; the king falls in love with the strange woman he meets in the woods because of her beauty. And motives may not be; in the Grimms'
"The Twelve Dancing Princesses
", we never find out why the princesses are going to the nightly dances, and indeed never discover whether they are doing so voluntarily or not.
"Fairy tale" is often used in modern times to depict an idealized romance or ending, although many classic fairy tales are much darker than many people realize. Heroes may be the victims of such violence
as having hands chopped off or eyes gouged out; at the end of the story, villains may be disposed of
by such methods as having them wear red-hot shoes and dance until they die
or putting them in a barrel lined with nails and having a horse drag it until they die
. The spare style helps minimize the impact, as it can deal with the violence briefly and without gory detail, but even so many fairy tales have produced Nightmare Fuel
. In some cases, this is intentional, to Scare 'Em Straight
Fairy tales are found in cultures all over the earth. Many tale types have wide-spread variants. However, only a tiny handful of them are widely known in modern culture. Consequently, when a writer goes to rewrite a fairy tale into Fractured Fairy Tale
, with parody or subversion, it generally invokes one of that handful. For instance, the Fairy Godmother
is a relatively rare figure in fairy tales, but having featured in "Cinderella
" and "Sleeping Beauty
", is epidemic in the Fractured Fairy Tale
. Even retellings
that do not parody the fairy tales generally stick to the best known.
We know that fairy tales are Older Than Dirt
because clearly recognizable fairy tales turn up, occasionally, in written form as far back as there has been writing. The story of Jason and Medea is a form of "The girl helps the hero flee" like The White Dove
; a whole cycle of Chivalric Romance
are tales of "The girl without hands" like The One-Handed Girl
. However, many of these are also clearly written in literary form, and the others may also be far removed from the orally told tales of their time. Nor were they distinguished from other types of story. Giambattista Basile's The Pentamerone
in 1634 (or so) was the first collection to contain only what we would recognize as fairy tales, but heavily rewritten into a literary style. The Brothers Grimm
were the first to even try to save the folk version, and all tales collected from the oral tradition post-date theirs.
Fairy tales were originally intended for all ages, but for a long period of time, they were only written or presented as children's stories. Disney is rather famous for adapting fairy tales into movie musicals
, often with changes to make them more light-hearted
. Writers who seek to restore fairy tales to their original intensity may intensify it to the point of Grimmification
Very few fairy tales actually feature fairies
; even those European countries with a developed fairy folklore
preferred to use Talking Animals
instead. The name of the genre can be traced to Madame d'Aulnoy's Les Contes de Fées
, which appeared only after literary fairy tales became all the rage. Folklorists have made valiant attempts to give the category more accurate names, such as "wonder tale", or the Grimms' original term "household tale" or Märchen
, but the name sticks. "Folk tales" include them, but also other tales.
Several extremely popular tales such as Perrault
's "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty" did feature fairies, helping give weight to the name, while others like "Rumpelstiltskin
" and "Kate Crackernuts
" alluded to a more sinister kind
of folkloric fairies
. On the other hand, Perrault's "Cinderella" is an odd-ball; normally the Cinderella figure is helped by her dead mother
, and "Sleeping Beauty" is as likely to be a victim of prophecy as a curse
). Many, such as "Rapunzel
", "Puss in Boots
", "Hansel and Gretel
", and "Snow White
", contain no such figures. Some, like "The Emperor's New Clothes
" contain no magic of any kind.
See also Fairy Tale Tropes
for a list of tropes common to fairy tales and Propp's Functions of Folktales
. Not to be confused with the similarly-named manga Fairy Tail
Popular fairy tale authors, collectors, and compilers include:
- Gianfrancesco Straparola — author of the first notable collection of European (specifically, Italian) fairy tales, The Facetious Nights of Straparola (1550/53)
- Giambattista Basile — The Pentamerone (1634/36); the first collection solely of fairy tales
- Charles Perrault — Tales of Mother Goose (1697)
- Madame d'Aulnoy — coined the term "fairy tale" with her Les Contes des Fées (1697/98)
- The Brothers Grimm — Children's and Household Tales (1812)
- Hans Christian Andersen — the maybe most famous author of literary fairy tales (Fairy Tales Told for Children and New Fairy Tales, 1835-44)
- Asbjørnsen and Moe — Norwegian Folktales (1842/43)
- Alexander Afanasyev — Russian Fairy Tales, 8 volumes (1855-67)
- Andrew Lang — Colored Fairy Books, 12 volumes (1889-1910)
- Joseph Jacobs — Fairy Tales, 5 volumes (1890-1916)
- Angela Carter — The Bloody Chamber (1979)
Fairy Tale analysis includes:
Traditional fairy tales or fairy tale characters:
Modern works in the style of fairy tales, adaptations of fairy tales, or works that in other ways draw on fairy tales:
Literary Fairy Tales
Fairy Tale Fantasy
Fairy Tale Adaptations and Retellings:
Fairy Tale parodies, pastiches, and deconstructions:
- The Adventures of Pinocchio
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Notable for being a fairy tale of nonsense instead of magic.
- Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus
- Barbie & The Diamond Castle
- Barbie And The Secret Door
- The Book of Life. A story set in 1920 Mexico that involves God and magical items.
- The Black Swan
- Castle in the Air
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is built on mad science instead of magic, but fits many fairy tale tropes otherwise. Many other Roald Dahl works aimed at children qualify as fairy tales as well, and his Revolting Rhymes is a collection of tongue-in-cheek retellings of "Cinderella", "Snow White", etc.
- Coraline, a book by Neil Gaiman.
- Coraline, a film adaptation of the same name.
- Corpse Bride
- Edward Scissorhands
- Erase una vez...
- Farmer Giles of Ham
- Half Upon a Time
- Howl's Moving Castle - A novel in which a witch bewitched the hatter's daughter, as well as the loose anime adaptation of the same name.
- Land of Oz
- The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus
- The Light Princess - And many of the other stories of George MacDonald.
- Little Otik
- Merlin, specifically the episodes The Labyrinth of Gedref and The Hunter's Heart.
- Moonflowers, an Urban Fantasy on hitRECord. It's written in the style of fairy tales, draws heavily on Celtic Mythology, and is described as "the unsettling kind" of fairy tale.
- Once Upon a Time
- The Ordinary Princess
- The Orphan's Tales
- Otogi Juushi Akazukin
- Pans Labyrinth
- The Paper Bag Princess
- Peter Pan
- The Plucker - An illustrated novel by Brom
- The Princess Bride
- Princess Tutu
- Revolutionary Girl Utena
- Stardust, the novel by Neil Gaiman
- Stardust, the film adaptation of the above
- Sylvie and Bruno
- The 13 Clocks
- Tales of the Big Bad Wolf is a fantasy web novel that is a loosely based retelling of a Red Riding Hood romantic polygon that incorporates other myths, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes.
- The Tale of Despereaux
- Tales of the Frog Princess
- Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
- The Velveteen Rabbit
- The Wide-Awake Princess
- The Wishing Maiden