Follow TV Tropes


Fairytale Motifs

Go To

Motifs using characters, creatures, and settings from classic Fairy Tales to represent characters or ideas, for example, a love interest being equated with a Knight in Shining Armor. Modern day Cinderella stories commonly mine this fairy tale trope as well.

Fairytale Motifs are used to add romance to a story, especially one set mainly in the grim and gritty real world. The fact that most people have read the fairy tales means that the symbolism isn't likely to be lost.

Most of these are also quite likely to be found in a Fantasy Kitchen Sink, a Fairy Tale Free-for-All, and of course in a Fractured Fairy Tale.

Fairytale Motifs differ slightly from Mythical Motifs. While the former features specific fairy tale characters — such as Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty — it also includes general, archetypal examples, usually a "species" rather than one particular person/animal. The latter tends to use specific characters belonging to a recognizable mythology. For example, most people recognize a unicorn when they see one, but the creature itself has a rather vague history and there is no named unicorn who was the "first of its kind." Therefore, it's a Fairytale Motif. Pegasus, the winged horse, on the other hand, is one specific character from Greek myths with a Canon history, making it a Mythical Motif.

Some fairytale motifs include:

  • Dragons: Western dragons can be used to represent very strong or fierce characters, where as eastern dragons are more likely to be wise.
  • Fairies: The more popular versions of the fairy are carefree, innocent creatures, usually associated with little girls. May indicate a Cloud Cuckoo Lander, since "away with the fairies" is another way to say "constantly daydreaming" or "slightly crazy." The fairies taken from older traditions, such as Celtic Mythology, aren't quite so cutesy — in fact they're downright malevolent at times. Modern literature increasingly employs this version of the fairy-folk, usually as tricksters.
  • Knights: Often, a very noble character, akin to the Knight In Shining Armor, however, the symbolism linked to a knight could easily be used for a Knight Templar character as well (perhaps due to the association in the trope name).
  • Royalty: Generally used to represent power, wealth or prestige. These are often used in High School settings to refer to "the popular kids".
    • Princess/Queen: Often the Alpha Bitch, however, a wealthy or popular girl of any sort will often be equated to a princess (for an example of this comparison, look no farther than this site). A Queen will often refer to the same stereotype, especially if there is a corresponding...
    • Prince/King: Generally the leader of a group or organization or the reigning champion of something (i.e. "The King of Table Tennis"). In the aforementioned High School settings, the king will often be a Jerk Jock. A Prince also will employ similar motifs, especially with a "princess" character around.
  • Unicorn: The mythological "horse with a horn", although many different descriptions of them exist. Usually pure, gentle and noble, but there are exceptions. Being able to draw a unicorn's attention is generally a Virgin Power because they are strongly associated with chastity, and often a motif for young girls.
  • Wolves: Initially they were savage monsters that attack travelers and devour live stock and while the wolf's image has been getting better in modern times, increasingly being seen as a "spirit of the wild", people can't quite get over The Big Bad Wolf. While the wolf is an animal motif at the same time, the wolf as a threat to young girls or a sexual predator seems to have its roots in the fairy tale.
    • In Germanic countries, the wolf is (or was historically) the equivalent of the Devil — they even have an expression about them that's interchangeable with "Speak of the Devil".

Examples with the own page:

Anime & Manga Fan Works Web Animation

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • AR∀GO: City of London Police's Special Crimes Investigator uses a great many motifs from fairy tales and mythology in general, and it tends to go with the older versions of the stories.
  • Bucchigiri?! is heavily inspired by the original Aladdin story, such as having its main protagonist, with a name similar to the titular character, finding a genie or Honki Person who "helps him" on his quest to conquer the heart of a princess themed love interest. The main setting along with the background of the Honki People take multiple references to the 1001 Nights collection.
  • Cowboy Bebop uses the tale of Urashima Taro as a constant recurring motif and theme, with most of the characters having connections to it, most literally Faye.
  • Cyber Team in Akihabara invokes many fairy tales motifs, but the main one is the wish of 13-year-old protagonist Hibari for meeting and falling in love with a fairy tale prince and live Happily Ever After with him. Her Character Development is essentially to get rid of that mindset, usually via Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • Gaba Kawa actually follows the theme/basic plot of "The Little Mermaid", becoming more obvious about it in the final two chapters.
  • THE iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls, as expected from the title, has a whole lot of Cinderella imagery. There's lines about becoming princesses, glass slippers, clocks striking midnight, and episode titles that reference aspects of the fairy tale are everywhere. It keeps with the theme of unknowns becoming famous.
  • Aya Tsuji from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable has the Stand named Cinderella, which is named after the hair metal band Cinderella (as is the series tradition of Musical Theme Naming), but also evokes the fairy tale as well: her powers involve altering someone's appearance so that they can attain better luck and love life, albeit only for a limited time. The in-universe explanation is that her powers are born from her desire to be like the Fairy Godmother of the aforementioned story.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War draws a lot of elements from The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Most major characters' names and personalities are derived from characters from the original story, though a few are named for the subjects of Princess Kaguya's Impossible Tasks. For example, Yu Ishigami is named for one of Princess Kaguya's suitors, while his Love Interest Tsubame Koyasu is named after the swallow's cowry shell that Kaguya tasked him with retrieving; one chapter of the manga even has Kaguya Shinomiya tell Ishigami "Make Tsubame Koyasu yours", to which he responds "What kind of impossible task is that?!"
  • Naruto: Some members of the Otsutsuki Clan from both Naruto and Boruto have this motif.
    • Kaguya Otsutsuki is named after and based on Princess Kaguya from The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, one of the oldest Japanese legends. Her Tailed Beast form and epithet of the Rabbit Goddess also draw inspiration from the Moon Rabbit.
    • Momoshiki Otsutsuki introduced in Boruto: Naruto the Movie is inspired by the folklore hero Momotarō the peach boy and his animal shaped attacks of monkey, pheasant and dog are based on the familiars of Momotaro.
    • Momoshiki's servant, Kinshiki Otsutsuki, is based on the folklore hero Kintaro the Golden Boy, a giant of a youth with supernatural strength raised by a mountain witch to become a warrior of unsurpassed martial skill. The giant axe wielded by Kinshiki is based on the signature weapon of Kintaro.
    • Urashiki Otsutsuki is based on the title character of the Japanese fairy tale Urashima Taro, a fisherman who saved a turtle who then took him to the undersea palace of the dragon king as a reward for his kindness. In the fairytale, the Palace of the Dragon King has a Year Inside, Hour Outside timeflow which is used as the basis for Urashiki's sealing jutsu which freezes Toneri in time for ten thousand years. Like Urashima, Urashiki is also a fisherman and wields a fishing rod as his main weapon.
    • The Boruto manga introduces Isshiki Otsutsuki, who is currently using Jigen as a vessel, and implied to have come to Earth with Kaguya Ōtsutsuki. Isshiki is named for a fairy tale character in his case Issun-Boshi. Like the diminutive Issun, Isshiki's fights with needle like weapons and his power to shrink himself.
  • Penguindrum has had allusions to various fairytales involving apples, but so far the most prominent motif seems to be the resemblance of the siblings' lives to an in-universe fairytale about a man named Mary and his three little lambs offending a goddess.
  • Princess Tutu mixes Magical Girl tropes and fairy tale motifs with references to specific stories and ballets. The first season mostly plays the typical fairytale structure straight (outside of the fact that the princess is saving the prince), only to defy it in the second season when the characters rebel against their assigned fairy tale roles as the prince, princess, villain and knight and decide to (literally) rewrite the story.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena uses a Fairytale Motif (the romance fairytale of the Prince as male love interest saving the Princess) for major drama. Gender roles in fairy tales are throughly played with, explored, subverted and deconstructed, sometimes in the most brutal ways imaginable.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • The first six episodes of the fifth season are heavily inspired by The Snow Queen fairy tale. There are also elements from Snow White - a lot of magic mirrors and a villainess that envies the heroine's beauty - and Sleeping Beauty - a forest of thorns blocks the way to the castle.
    • Queen Beryl's abduction of Endymion in the first story arc is also reminiscent of The Snow Queen, especially since the Dark Kingdom is based in the Arctic Circle. The scene where Endymion is manipulated into killing Sailor Moon seems to have been inspired by an earlier anime adaptation of the story.
  • Skip Beat! 's Kyouko seems to believes that fairies are real, and very often acts following Cinderella-like Fairy Tales tropes, seeing the (mostly villainous) characters she interprets as princesses under a curse. There is not Wrong Genre Savvyness, just a girl whose life has been so horrible she just prefer to believe she could be rescued and become a Real Princess, even if she knows it isn't. Pity nobody had informed her how The Fair Folk and the Old Fairy Tales truly are...
  • The manga Snow White with the Red Hair is based on the tale of "Snow White". (The title literally means "Red-haired Snow White".) The first chapter in particular has a lot of tributes to the original story.
  • Alice from Witch on the Holy Night possesses magic which revolves around fairy tales.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Leon uses a deck filled with characters from fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, The Big Bad Wolf, Iron Hans, etc.

    Comic Books 
  • In Runaways, Klara wears a red cape like Little Red Riding Hood, is married to The Bluebeard, and summons thickets of thorns to defend herself a la Sleeping Beauty. She even has her own Prince Charming... or rather, Princess Powerful.
  • In one obscure Wonder Woman Vol 1 story, a trio of Psycho Lesbians who called themselves THEM! kidnapped a girl named Cathy and made her their slave. Cathy was portrayed as Cinderella, THEM! as the evil stepmother and stepsisters, and Wonder Woman as the Fairy Godmother.

    Fan Works 
  • In the crossover Black Sky:
    • Dorea and Xanxus are frequently compared to a princess and a dragon, with the twist that Dorea is the kind to marry the dragon rather than seek to escape him.
    • Terrence Higgs pledges himself to Dorea, becoming her devoted Knight. After dyeing his hair green, he gains the nickname "Green Knight" as the Arthurian figure.
  • Can One Change Fix All of RWBY?: Salem is compared to the Wizard of Oz in Ozpin's stead when she's introduced, contacting Ruby not in person, but via a hologram.
  • As indicated by the title, The Changeling Sequence makes use of Changeling Tale. When Bruce Wayne is introduced to his biological son Damian, he immediately compares him to a cuckoo in a robin's nest, referring to the fact a changeling is a child who doesn't belong in the family because of his fey origins.
  • In the Mega Crossover Child of the Storm, fairy tale motifs frequently crop up, with Harry being frequently referred to as something of a Knight In Shining Armour.
    • Harry himself calls Warren a 'Knight in Shining Feathers', accurately judging him to be a Knight in Sour Armor.
    • Leaving aside the appearance of The Fair Folk in the form of the Winter and Summer Courts, the basic premise of the story is an inverted Changeling Fantasy, with the reveal that James Potter was really Thor incarnated as a mortal. Furthermore, Harry is also described as being 'fey' on an increasingly regular basis, coming off as inhuman more and more often.
    • Ghosts of the Past reveals an even straighter version of the Changeling tale, with Jean Grey's twin sister having been stolen at birth by Sinister and replaced with a dead infant, making it look like a tragic case of SIDS, being raised by Sinister as Madelyne 'Maddie' Pryor.
    • The finale of Book I starts off as a Storming the Castle scenario, with a twist - all the captives are male, locked away by a serpent (Lucius Malfoy, often described in serpentine terms) and a number of the key players in the storming are female (especially Jane Foster, who reveals 'the castle', HYDRA's HQ, forcing it out of its pocket universe, to rescue Thor and Carol, who is going in to rescue her great-grandfather, Steve - though he doesn't know of the relation and she's only just found out.)
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: The story gives Chloe Cerise a motif based on Little Red Riding Hood. She dreamed of wearing a red cloak to meet up with some ghastly monsters and even starts reciting her own version with her as the titular character. Her Animal Motif is the wolf — befitting the fairy tale — and she is granted her own red cloak by Olmec that looks like a wolf and gives her the ability to transform into one. Moreover, she's associated with the color red, fitting the association with Little Red even more.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Kyril is a knight who attempts to rescue members of the Seven Shields (princesses). The first attempt (Alicia and Prim) is successful. The second attempt (Maia) is half-successful because the captive is raped. The third attempt (Luu-Luu) is a failure because the captive is Brainwashed and Crazy and has to be mercy-killed.
    • For a deliberate inversion, the narration in Chapter 10 of the original emphasises how Kyril isn't a Knight In Shining Armour in the fairy tales. Later chapters have Kyril internally expressing the same sentiment.
      Kyril Sutherland was no noble knight in shining armor. He wasn't a hero in the fairy tales who saved the princess and slew the evil dragon. He was a killer through and through. He didn't see combat as glorious, in fact he knew more about combat than any noble knight or warrior. Combat was hell, and the only reward was your continuing survival.
  • A Northern Dragoness gives us the classical pattern of the fair princess - Daena Targaryen - locked away in a tower by a cruel dragon - her brother Baelor - and saved from this fate by a good-hearted man from noble birth - Jonnel Stark. It does subvert a little bit the habitual motif as Jonnel does not fight Baelor for Daena's hand but relies on a promise made to his father by the previous monarch to give a royal princess as a bride to the Stark heir.
  • Being a RWBY fanfic, RWBY: A Grimm Fate continues the fairy tale motif for its main character: Fenrir Lupus. The author directly stated that he was based on The Big Bad Wolf. He was originally an Alpha Beowolf before being converted into a wolf Faunus, his Semblance is the ability to unleash freezing roars in the form of sound waves, and the chapter he unlocks his Semblance is also titled "Huff and Puff", a reference to "The Three Little Pigs". He's also paired with Ruby Rose, thus directly playing into The Big Bad Wolf connection with Little Red Riding Hood.
  • Seventh Endmost Vision uses these for chapter titles, and also as recurring motifs in-story. Tifa is compared to Sleeping Beauty while recovering from her fall from the Plate, and then to Androcles' Lion when she chooses to defend the doctor who helped her recover, Sephiroth.
  • To Hell and Back (Arrowverse) gives a rather subtle yet strong Arthurian motif to the Merlyn family.
    • Just like King Arthur's kingdom was doomed by his bastard son Mordred, Malcolm Merlyn's Undertaking is ruined by his illegitimate and adulterous child: Oliver Queen. An older retelling of the legend also claims Arthur tried to kill a young Mordred by putting him on a ship rigged to sink, just like Malcolm almost killed Oliver by blowin up the Queen's Gambit.
    • The Merlyn men also suffer from letting themselves love someone else, like Merlin the wizard suffered for loving his pupil Vivian. For Malcolm and Tommy, falling in love then losing the woman they love leads them to become Love Makes You Evil than Love Makes You Dumb, however.
  • Based on the RWBY series below, the Various Vytal Ventures fanfic expands upon many established Fairytale Motifs, particularly with the inclusion of Granny Classic grandma Amber Rose, the grandmother of Ruby who makes appearances in two separate chapters.

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen II: While the original movie is an adaptation of The Snow Queen, the sequel reveals the backstory of Elsa and Anna's parents, Agnarr and Iduna, which is strikingly similar to the The Little Mermaid. A free-spirited girl (the mermaid/Iduna) from one realm rescues the prince of a realm foreign/antagonistic to her own and falls in love with him.
  • Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade draws on (and quotes) the more traditional darker version of "Little Red Riding Hood" for its story of a relationship between a young terrorist girl, and a 'wolf' from the elite Kerberos Panzer police. The anime film makes the point that such relationships are always fated to end badly.
  • Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea was inspired by "Little Mermaid". It's shown a lot with the whole 'true love' theme... and Ponyo being, ya know, a fish girl turned human.
  • The Chilean arthouse stop-motion film The Wolf House takes many elements from the fairytale The Three Little Pigs (Such as a symbolic Big Bad Wolf stalking the main characters from outside their house) and puts a more sinister twist on them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Adele Hasn't Had Her Dinner Yet:
    • The Gardener grew a magical rose that puts ladies into sleep — probably for a hundred years — if they get hurt by its thorn. From Sleeping Beauty. However, a kiss did not wake them up, and the rose was actually used to invoke the coma.
    • The Gardener managed to grow fast-sprouting beans and he used their stalks to carry him up to windows of New York apartments which he robbed. From Jack and the Beanstalk.
  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence with Pinocchio, the film even directly references it. Robot child David sets on a quest to Become a Real Boy, looking for the Blue Fairy who will grant him his wish, alongside him comes supertoy Teddy acting as a Jimminy Cricket-esque voice of conscience.
  • Another Cinderella Story: Mary is in a Cinderella Plot with her as Cinderella, Dominique as the Wicked Stepmother, Britt and Bree as the stepsisters, and Joey as Prince Charming. Tami is the Fairy Godmother. She has her family help clean up Mary's house and provides her with a dress for the ball. Tami's vehicle that she drives Mary to the ball in is orange and resembles a pumpkin, aka the pumpkin carriage. Tami even calls it The Great Pumpkin.
  • The City of Lost Children is a Cyberpunk story where a bunch of children are kidnapped in obvious parallels to Hansel and Gretel, and the village idiot must save them.
  • Rachel in Crazy Rich Asians has been mockingly referred to as Cinderella, seeing how she was able to date Singapore's most eligible bachelor. Her "fairy godmothers" are Peik Lin and Oliver who dressed her up for the wedding ceremony. Also after running away from the wedding reception, there was a shot of her bare feet, as if she had lost her heels (she was simply holding them).
  • Edward Scissor Hands uses lots of elements of Beauty & the Beast, putting the story from the Beast's perspective.
  • Hanna features numerous references, despite the fact that it is also a spy thriller. Hanna is the young girl raised by her father in the woods, whose mother died at a young age. The antagonist has shades of both The Big Bad Wolf and an Evil Stepmother.
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army has lots of fairy tale motifs, including fairies, elves and trolls.
  • Hocus Pocus has some to Hansel and Gretel, with the boy's parents sending him out of the house with his sister which leads to them visiting the witches' house. The witches attempt to eat one child and lock two others in cages and the heroes attempt to finish them off by burning them in a furnace. The original script would have even had the witches using candy to entice children to come to their home.
  • Romantic comedies like Knocked Up typically use either the "Beauty and the Beast" trope or the "Cinderella" trope.
  • Labyrinth features a quest to rescue someone before the clock strikes twelve - as well as goblins, trolls and fairies. Sarah also gets to briefly go to a ball with a Pimped-Out Dress. Jareth also warns Hoggle that if Sarah kisses him, he'll turn him into a prince (which is apparently A Fate Worse Than Death in this universe). Since Sarah is a lover of fairy tales (her first scene has her essentially LARP-ing in a park), this is pretty justified.
  • Maid in Manhattan is an obvious Cinderella story. The protagonist is a maid in a hotel, also of an ethnic minority. There's a degree of classism between her and her love interest - who is a rich white senator. Yes there is also a ball where she isn't recognised by anyone - and she has to leave before midnight.
  • Pan's Labyrinth features a fairy princess reincarnated as a young girl in the Spanish Civil War. As she's an avid fairy tale reader, she has little trouble believing in her true destiny. There's some amount of in-universe qualities to this as well, notably when Ofelia shows the fairies pictures of what they're 'supposed to' look like in her storybook - and they transform into them to please her.
  • Pretty Woman is often called an adult version of Cinderella. The protagonist is a Hooker with a Heart of Gold who is dolled up to pass as a rich man's girlfriend.
  • From the movie The Visit trailer and the poster, this seems to be something of a Hansel and Gretel tale. And the ultimate explanation for why everything is happen is straight out of Little Red Riding Hood.

  • In-universe in The Cinderella Murder, the media linked Susan Dempsey's murder to "Cinderella", albeit a very grim version: Susan was a pretty young woman who got dressed up to meet a director about a potential starring role, lost one of her silver shoes as she was pursued and was discovered shortly after midnight, while her car was mysteriously returned to her college campus. It's worth nothing that Susan's mother has always hated people referring to Susan as Cinderella, feeling that it dehumanises her and distracts from the fact her only child was hunted down and brutally strangled by someone, who then got away with it for two decades.
  • The Discworld revels in playing with every fairytale motif it can get its hands on. For example, to paraphrase Granny Weatherwax, unicorns are just big angry horses that come to a point. However, it plays the Virgin Power part straight:
    Granny: I could hold it with a feather.
    Nanny Ogg: Oh? Oh!
  • Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest:
    • Babs and the Mystery Cottage have all the hallmarks of the Witch and Gingerbread House from Hansel and Gretel; a kindly old woman that baits adventurers (in this case, Helen and Troy) to her inn where she feels them, only to capture and eat them to "repay" her for her hospitality. They even manage to defeat her by having her own oven eat her alive.
    • After Helen and Troy escape the Mystery Cottage, it grows a pair of chicken legs similar to Baba Yaga's home. Her being a witch named "Babs" hunting children may imply she might actually be Baba Yaga, or at least an Expy of her.
  • Jacqueline Wilson's Midnight involves an idealistic young girl obsessed with the fairy characters of her favourite author. The fantasy and idealism represented by the fairies are her escape from a world of cynical, self-obsessed people.
  • In Of Mice and Mooshaber, the country suffers under the terror of Albin Rappelschlund, but the rightful ruler is Duchess Augusta and people rumour she's hiding somewhere and that her restoration will bring them hope. There are rural inns in the capital, despite the fact that the country has also underground transport system and flights into space are common. Several everyday objects like cakes are described in such terms that they easily gain symbolic meaning, like in fairy tales.
  • The Once Upon A Con series has each book based on a fairy tale or fictional story: Geekerella is a Cinderella Plot, The Princess and the Fangirl is a Prince and Pauper plot, and Bookish and the Beast is a Beauty and the Beast plot.
  • Shangri-La Frontier: At least two NPCs of the game have these.
    • Emul, the Magical Rabbit, is an Alice Allusion, being a white rabbit with a blue coat and a tiny top hat that guides the protagonist to a foreigner magical land. She particularly stands out because of this because her homeland of Rabituza is fashioned after early century Japan, and all characters from there, including the rest of her family either wear unspecified fantasy outfits or Japanese ones, so her European outfit stands out like a sore thumb.
    • Aramiys is a member of the military forces of the Cat Folk kingdom of Cazzeria his name is lifted from one of the titular characters from The Three Musketeers, while he himself (and presumably the force he is the vice-captain of, the "Musketeers in Boots") are fashioned after Puss in Boots.
  • Sisters... No Way! by Irish author Siobhan Parkinson is a modern retelling of Cinderella (the protagonist is called Cindy Ellis). Her father marries her teacher, who has two daughters of her own, and they're in constant clashes. It turns out that the prince analogue is the older sister's ex-boyfriend.
  • It seems that the entire Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series by Mercedes Lackey was created so she could play with every fairy tale trope ever created, from fairy godmothers to the dragon and the princess.
  • Tales Of The Big Bad Wolf uses Red Riding Hood and The Wild Swans as a guide to establishing characters and themes for two separate volumes, "Tales of the Big Bad Wolf" and "Queen of Swans."
  • In The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, the alien White Queen is told about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and — much to the storyteller's surprise — identifies with the titular character. Although Alice was human and vulnerable, in contrast to the White Queen's alien strength, both saw themselves as just normal people in a strange land.
    White Queen: I fell out of my world. [points to human storyteller] And into your world.
  • Uprooted outright opens with the declaration that a dragon enjoys stealing the girls living in his valley. Said Dragon actually is a human mage, whom the Plucky Girl finds herself apprenticed under and proceeds to gradually defrost.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Two episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
    • "The Tale of the Final Wish" - the protagonist is a fairy tale lover and is constantly teased for it. She makes a wish that everyone would leave her alone - and everyone ends up in an enchanted sleep. Also includes a couple of Shout Outs to Alice In Wonderland and Snow White.
    • "The Tale of the Pinball Wizard" - the protagonist gets sucked into a pinball game with a fairy tale theme. He must fight a Wicked Witch and help a Princess Classic regain her throne. However despite this, it's infamous for having a massive Downer Ending.
  • The Charmed (1998) episode "Malice in Wonderland" has demons exploiting Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to corrupt innocents. One demon disguises herself as a white rabbit, luring teens with Alice-like names (Alistair, Alexis etc.) underground and driving them mad. When Billie gets sucked in, she's chased by an army of playing cards and put on trial.
  • Cinderella and the Four Knights: Ha-won tries to disabuse some children of the Cinderella story in the opening, claiming that princes aren't real and you have to make your own way in the world. She herself is a young woman abused by her Wicked Stepmother who becomes proximal to wealth after she falls in with the absurdly wealthy Kang family.
  • Dash & Lily: After Lily looses her red boot at a party and Dash finds it everyone who knows the story does not hesitate to link the incidents to Cinderella. Sofia deconstructs this later on, however — associating the events with a fairy tale just puts things on a pedestal, and Dash has to go to Lily as himself and not as a prince if he wants to make amends.
  • In Hotel del Luna, main protagonists Man-wol and Chan-sung have a "Beauty and the Beast" dynamic but with the genders swapped. Man-wol is the "beast" who is a great beauty but she possesses a rough, often cruel personality developed over time. Chan-sung is the "beauty" who is handsome and compassionate and he is the one to help Man-wol heal.
  • Kamen Rider Den-O uses this for the Imagin-Momotaros is Momotarō, Urataros is Urashima Taro, Kintaros is Kintaro the Golden Boy, Ryutaros is Taro, the Dragon Boy, Sieg is Swan Lake, Deneb (and by extension his master Yuto Sakurai and his fiance Airi Nogami) is Tanabata.
  • Mahou Sentai Magiranger and Power Rangers Mystic Force mix in fairytale elements with its other magical themes. For example, The Mentor is a Winter Royal Lady, the Sixth Ranger is a Knight in Shining Armor who was introduced as a Bewitched Amphibian, and The Dragon is a Big Bad Wolf-themed Black Knight.
  • Scrubs:
    • The cartoon unicorn on J.D's diary in the episode "My Unicorn" was a pretty apt symbol for the head-in-the-clouds doctor. However, it was also there to prove a plot point: J.D. insists that the cutesy unicorn was a mighty horse with a sword on its head, when he imagines the drawing coming to life, saying "You know I'm a unicorn!" Accepting the truth is a major theme of the episode.
    • The seventh season episode "My Princess" has Dr Cox telling his son about his day at the hospital - dressed up as a fairy tale. The ill patient is a Damsel in Distress, her illness is a monster attacking her, JD is the village idiot, Elliott is a princess and Cox has himself appear as a Knight In Shining Armour. Jordan also cameos as a Wicked Witch.
  • Sherlock has Moriarty narrating a fairy tale about a knight named Sir Boast-a-Lot (representing Sherlock), with Lestrade cast as King Arthur. Later, Sherlock's brother Mycroft accuses him of wanting to be a "dragon slayer," backing up the knight motif and making Charles Augustus Magnussen the dragon by association. However, a shot of Sherlock exhaling cigarette smoke hints that he might be in danger of becoming a dragon himself. Magnussen also refers to John as Sherlock's "damsel in distress".
  • The personalities and character arcs of the kids from Stranger Things all match up to a character type from Dungeons & Dragons:
    • De facto leader Mike is a Paladin.
    • Gentle peacemaker Will is a Cleric.
    • Upbeat and cheerful Dustin is a Bard.
    • Down-to-earth realist Lucas is a Ranger.
    • Powerful psychic Eleven is a Mage.
    • Tomboy Max categorises herself as a "zoomer", but her ability to pick a lock and get around quickly makes her a perfect Rogue.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Nomine: The Archangel Blandine strongly associated with fairytales and fantasy imagery, being essentially a magical princess isolated in an enchanted dream tower who watches over the dreams, hopes, and stories of humanity. This is leaned into more heavily with her parodic alternate versions, where she's a literal fairy godmother, or a darker account, where she's covering up her overwhelming grief with false light.

  • Fairy tale motifs are found in lots of William Shakespeare's plays, most prominently in his festive comedies and romances. Often his protagonists and characters are members of aristocracy or magical creatures, and his settings have elements of magic.
    • The Merchant of Venice: Portia is an extremely wealthy and amazingly beautiful heiress associated with gold. Several noble men try to gain her hand in marriage and her inheritance. There are three caskets made of three metals, and Portia gives to her betrothed a ring to recognize her.
    • As You Like It: The rightful ruler is hiding in magical forest with fairy tales creatures. The characters are from royal court.
    • A Midsummer Night's Dream is set in magical forest near Athens with fairies and other fairy tale creatures. It's full of magic tricks.
    • The Tempest is set on magical island. There is a monster Caliban and Prosperos's invisible servant, a magical creature Ariel. Ferdinand is a prince whose ship got lost and wrecked on the island.
    • The Winter's Tale combines pastoral idyll with royal court. It is set in two Kingdoms — Bohemia and Sicily, and the main characters are of Royal Blood. Sicilian princess was doomed to death as a baby, but she was saved by Bohemian shepherds and raised as one of them. Bohemian prince falls for her.
    • King Lear is loosely based on a fairy tale. The first scene has the titular king demanding that his daughters demonstrate how much they love him - which is straight out of Cap O' Rushes. In the original tales, the youngest daughter says something the father misinterprets; here she merely refuses to flatter his ego and ends up banished. The play was massively unpopular because it turned a fairy tale ending into a massive Downer Ending instead.
    • Macbeth begins with three witches brewing a potion and predicting the future, has the protagonist (an aristocrat) scheme to become king, features an appearance from a ghost haunting him, and the plot resolution hinges on a literally-worded prophecy.

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons has the Tulip Surprise Box, the Peach Surprise Box, and the Bamboo Doll. All three of them share a gimmick (when interacted with, a small doll will suddenly pop out like a jack in the box) and are based on different fairy tales where the main character is found within the corresponding item (Thumbelina for the Tulip Surprise Box, Momotarō for the Peach Surprise Box, and The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter for the Bamboo Doll).
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 villains run by this. For example, the one whose motif is The Snow Queen is An Ice Person.
  • Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2 incorporates a bit of Wicked Stepmother (keeping his own daughter locked in a tower/Kill Sat) and Vain Sorceress (goes to disturbing ends to keep himself looking young and handsome) into his design. In one DLC based on Tina's RPG sessions, the antagonistic "Handsome Sorcerer" is clearly modeled on Jack.
  • The Dark Parables series effectively runs on this trope. It references and intertwines literally dozens of classic fairy tales, and even those which have not been actively present in the series thus far often appear in a passive form such as illustration.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: Vanny/Vanessa is heavily associated with princess imagery, most notably in the "Princess Quest" minigames seen in Help Wanted and Security Breach. Said minigames are implied to be her attempting to fight off Glitchtrap's influence, told through a dungeon crawler featuring a princess player character fleeing from (and later fighting) shadowy rabbit monsters inside a sprawling castle. Said imagery both emphasizes the innate tragedy of her situation as well as plays a direct contrast against her villainous actions.
  • Link and Zelda of The Legend of Zelda are always different characters in different circumstances with each incarnation, but at their core, Link is a knight saving Princess Zelda from the monster (who's usually Ganon(dorf), but not always).
  • A number of Abnormalities in Lobotomy Corporation are based on fairy tales, including the Scorched Girl, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White's Apple.
  • The Longest Journey: The game features two worlds, one the scientific world of Stark and the other Arcadia, a fairy tale-like world.
  • The Mary Skelter series, especially the first two games, is loaded with fairytale references. The living prison that the games take place in is themed around fairytales, while almost all of the playable characters are named after fairytale heroines. The minds of the playable Blood Maidens (as well as main character Jack) are fixated on mimicking a specific trait of their namesake fairy tale due to being part-Marchen and therefore influenced by the Jail's desire for mimicry, a personality quirk that is played for comedy or drama depending on the character.
  • The Night of the Rabbit: The game premise, a kid who follows a rabbit into a magical world, is reminiscent of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
  • Pokémon:
    • Celesteela from Pokémon Sun and Moon is an Ultra Beast based on the character of Princess Kaguya, from The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Its Japanese name is "Tekkaguya", it has rockets as limbs that resemble cut bamboos (mirroring how Kaguya was first discovered inside a cut bamboo), its body overall resembles space shuttles and it came from Ultra Space (alluding to Kaguya herself belonging to a race of Moon people), and it's exclusive to Pokémon Moon and Ultra Moon.
    • The Hatterene line from Pokémon Sword and Shield takes inspiration from popular depictions of princesses and witches, with their Fairy-type, their magical power over hair, and their conical hats resembling both the stereotypical pointy witch hat and the hennin (medieval princess headwear). Gigantamax Hatterene in particular is a distillation of the Rapunzel fairy tale, with its body peering out and the multiple gaps in the hair making it look like a girl in a tower, her hat-like silhouette resembling the conical roof of a tower, and its long strands of hair invoking the hair let down by Rapunzel. With the witch theme on top, Gigantamax Hatterene represents Rapunzel, her hair, the tower she was held in, and the witch who captured her all in one.
    • In contrast, the Hatterene line's counterpart, the Grimmsnarl line, is based on trolls, ogres, and orcs, with similar powers over hair. Their English names even invoke The Brothers Grimm.
  • Rule of Rose: The game is a World of Symbolism, so these are superfluous. Your save-point is a makeshift knight (labelled "Bucket Knight") sworn to remember your story; every main character is labelled a "Prince" or "Princess" (except Jennifer, the "Unlucky Girl"); there are many storybook presentations in the style of a Fractured Fairytale, summarising the events of the chapter to come; the enemies are animal-themed imps; and the whole game is arguably a Coming of Age Story about Jennifer working through her past traumas and moving on, but promising to never forget.
  • Sengoku Basara 4 has Kyogoku Maria, Azai Nagamasa's older sister, who pays nod to The Evil Queen from Snow White (being a Vain Sorceress and disharminizing a black-haired, pale-skinned non-relative like Oichi) and Morgan le Fay from the King Arthur legend (being a sorceress and a sister to a knightly character).
  • The Wonderland Dreams expansion of Shadowverse is heavily focused on characters and stories from numerous classical tales such as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Swan Lake and even the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • A Witch's Tale is built upon these. Aside from familiar ones, like Snow White and Hansel and Gretel, it also has references to The Snow Queen, A Thousand And One Nights and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Princess Kaguya is a reference to The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where Kaguya-hime is revealed to be from the moon.

    Visual Novels 
  • Many of the spirits from Spirit Hunter: NG contain references to Japanese folklore. D-Man suspects that this is deliberate on the Big Bad's part, making them like fairytales while she's hosting them.
    • Kakuya is an obvious one to Princess Kaguya from The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Her riddle to the protagonist references the tale, with the solution being to 'cut' the letters 'bam' and 'boo' out of the listed phrase.
    • The Urashima Woman's case is inspired by the story of Urashima Tarou, and contains multiple references to it. The island's lake that the ghost inhabits is called Ryuuguu, which is the same as the palace from Taro's story. On the island is Tamate hall, a play on Tamatabako, which was also in Urashima Taro's tale. Finally, the lake is infested with turtles, which references how Taro saved one in the tale.
    • Kubitarou of Kintoki is inspired by the legendary folk hero Kintaro, who was, in turn, said to be inspired by the real-life warrior Sakata Kintoki. Kintaro was known as an incredibly strong child who carried a hatchet to protect his animal friends; Kubitarou, conversely, uses its incredible strength and axe to decapitate animals and collect their heads.
    • One of the central characters of the Screaming Author case is a children's fairytale novelist, so naturally, the chapter is rich in references to them. The three most prominent are Swan Lake, Momotaro/The Melon Princess, and Tsuru no Ongaeshi.
      • A modified ballet of 'Swan Lake', known as 'Duck Lake', was to be performed by the victim of the case, but they were kidnapped and horribly mutilated to resemble a bird (like how the princess in the story becomes a swan).
      • Akira receives a dog, pheasant, and monkey mask, the three creatures that join Momotaro in his journey. He has to place the masks in the order that they joined Momotaro in order to proceed to the mansion's attic. Ban and Rosé's constant sniping is also reminiscent of the rivalry between the dog and monkey. When off to confront the spirit, Akira's mark recites a version of the melon princess' "Tonkarari" poem.
      • It's revealed before the final confrontation with the Screaming Author that Yakumo wanted to transform them into a crane so that they would repay the favour back to him. This is revealed in a document he titled 'Tubasa no Ongaeshi', a play on 'Tsuru no Ongaeshi' using the victim's name.
    • Momotaro returns in a greater way for the Killer Peach case. The spirit's face looks different to those who see it - either a dog, pheasant, or monkey, the three animals from Momotaro's tale. This is why she earned the name Killer Peach, as Momotaro is the "Peach Boy". Later it's shown that her child drew her like Momotaro, so she took upon his aesthetic when fighting against injustice, and also said child was named Momotaro, which is why he made the connection.
  • The TAISHO x ALICE series of visual novels does a different take on fairy tales, folktales, and their female protagonists... by turning them all into men. Even Alice and the Big Bad Wolf are included.

  • Homestuck In Sburb, all players are given a particular class and aspect that determines their powers. The classes are themed around typical High Fantasy character types such as 'prince', 'witch', and 'knight'. Then there's the kingdoms of Derse and Prospit who double up this trope with Chess Motifs, as well as the fact that all Sburb players are considered to be princes or princesses of one or the other. Then there's Terezi loving dragons and Tavros liking fairies (and since god tier trolls possess wings, they're sort of fairies as well) and Feferi being an actual princess. Of course, all the fantasy elements are mixed with a good deal of science fiction and technology as well.
  • The "Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On" arc of Roommates has both general fairy tale motifs and more specifically Swan Lake allusions in its dream sequences to symbolically communicate information to the main character (Jareth)note . The fair folk don't do simple.
  • Whale Star: The Gyeongseong Mermaid: After Su-a compares herself to a fish, content so long as she has basic necessities provided for her, Uihyeon compares her instead to the title character of The Little Mermaid. The story itself is a broad retelling, since Su-a falls in love with him but loses her voice.

    Western Animation 
  • The Owl House:
    • Eda Clawthorne's famed exceptional power, penchant for fire magic, solitary living space, seemingly advanced age, and small collection of magical servants might bring to mind Baba Yaga, a powerful witch of Slavic folklore. When her house comes to life and walks on a pair of bird legs, the comparison is even more appropriate, as Baba Yaga's hut famously walks on a pair of chicken legs.
    • Amity Blight reddish-brown roots resemble a crown, mirroring her upper-class family, her popularity among the students at Hexside, and her status as a talented witch-in-training.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Fairytale Motif


"The Poor Little Princess"

The title character of the storybook is disliked by all of her subjects due to her selfishness and greed.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / RoyalBrat

Media sources: