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Introduction - What is Fairy Tale?

Little Red Riding Hood

"A fairy tale, or wonder tale, is a kind of folktale or fable. In these stories we meet witches and queens, giants and elves, princes, dragons, talking animals, ogres, princesses, and sometimes even fairies. Marvelous and magical things happen to characters in fairy tales. A boy may become a bird. A princess may sleep for a hundred years. A seal may become a girl. Objects too can be enchanted — mirrors talk, pumpkins become carriages, and a lamp may be home to a genie.

The oldest fairy tales were told and retold for generations before they were written down. French fairy tales were the first to be collected and written down, but now we can read fairy tales from almost any culture. When these stories were studied together, something amazing was discovered. From countries as distant and different as Egypt and Iceland similar fairy tales are told. Both Egypt and Iceland have "Cinderella" stories, as do China, England, Korea, Siberia, France, and Vietnam; and the list doesn't stop there. There may be a thousand versions of the Cinderella story, each with a unique telling which carries cultural information about the time and place the story was told. One thing is for sure; people everywhere like stories in which truth prevails over deception, generosity is ultimately rewarded, hard work overcomes obstacles, and love, mercy and kindness are the greatest powers of all.

Today, some authors still like to retell and invent new fairy tales. The Cinderella story was recently re-imagined by Diane Goode in her book CinderellaThe Dog and Her Little Glass Slipper. Jon Scieszka's fractured fairy tales in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales are another example of a retelling but with humor. So jump in and find out what makes these fairy tales so enduring, or try your hand at creating your own!"

From Scholastic

Fairy Tale Exhibition: Bibliothèque Nationale de France 2014

Fairy Tales, Exhibition

A wonderful explanation of fairy tales, from Bibliothèque nationale de France

Fairy Tales Exhibition

What Makes a Fairy Tale?

People all around the world continue to invent new fairy tales and retell traditional fairy tales.  

Universally, people enjoy a story in which truth prevails, generosity is rewarded, obstacles are overcome by hard work and love, good triumphs over evil and mercy and kindness are the greatest powers.

Fairy tales will often include a moral message for the reader.  

  1. A Moral
    1. The llesson the story teaches.
  2. Characters
    1. Good character - the reader or listener likes this character. A good character will typically start off as young, often poor and alone, unhappy, humble and untainted, but not necessarily perfect.  They generally turn out to be respected and to have found power and happiness.
    2. Bad character(s) - acts as an antagonist to the good character and they usually have evil powers which are used to cause the good character pain. Sometimes the "good" character has to face a series of "bad" characters to be successful.
    3. Supporting characters - these may be characters the good one has to free, or a helper in the quest, or the bad helpers of the evil character.
  3. Magic
    1. Many fairy tales have both good and evil magical characters that work to off-set the other's influence.  Magic should always play a part in a fairy tale, whether it be pixie dust, a magic wand or any other form of magic you want to include.    Some fairy tales have magic numbers.
  4. Happily ever after! 
    1. Nearly all fairy tales start with "Once upon a time" and end with "And they all lived happily ever after!"  Fairy tales finish off with a happy ending--the character must succeed and the evil character must lose.
      1. There is a "lesson learned" through the efforts of the good character.

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