A fairy tale is a children’s story about magical and imaginary people and places. Fairy tales may have characters such as princesses, princes, elves, and witches, but not necessarily fairies.

Fairy Tale Definition

Fairy tales are short stories often intended for children, and include magical creatures, people, and places. As with other types of stories, fairy tales include a beginning, middle, and end, protagonists and antagonists, some type of conflict and resolution. However, fairy tales have magical elements such as talking animals or objects and an enchanted setting such as a kingdom far away or a forest. Fairy tales often start with the phrase, “Once upon a time”, and have happy endings. The good characters always triumph over the evil characters, there are lessons taught, and there is always the promise of a happily ever after. Fairy tales differ from fantasy fiction in that they assume that the magical aspect is just the way things are, and not an explicit part of the story. Also, fairy tales often have morals, whereas fantasy stories may or may not.

The term “Fairy Tale” was first used by French writer, Madame d’Aulnoy in the late 1600s. She called her work, conte de fẻe, which is French for “fairy tale”. Some fairy tales, such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Rumpelstiltskin”, are thought to be over four thousand years old, and have been passed on by word of mouth long before they were written down. Many of today’s fairy tales have evolved over time and are told in many variations around the world. It is difficult to trace the exact history of the fairy tale, as much of this genre depended on oral tradition in earlier times.

Today, fairy tales are still in oral form, but are more commonly in published works and even made into movies. They are often used to teach lessons and entertain people of all ages. The fairy tale genre is often studied in school, and can be used to teach point of view in writing, where students are asked to rewrite a popular tale from another character’s point of view, often changing the story dramatically. Since fairy tales have distinct settings, characters, and plots, they are often studied in reading classes as well. Fairy tales are still written today, but many of the stories that we know and love have been around for many, many years.

Examples of Fairy Tales

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Bluebeard
  • Cinderella
  • The Frog Prince
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • The Juniper Tree
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Puss in Boots
  • Rapunzel
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • The Singing Tortoise
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

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