What is a Fairy Tale?
A Fairy Tale is a story that features fanciful and wondrous settings or influences, often with characters like elves, goblins, wizards, or, not necessarily, fairies. The term seems to be used to distinguish fairy stories from other magical fiction genres, including folktales and legends, and speculative fiction such as science-fiction.
These are stories of magic and wonder, where the impossible happens. They are typically geared toward children, but have also been enjoyed by adults. The tales usually involve big contrasts of good and evil, and most have a happy ending. They also tend to be stories of how someone rises from nothing to everything, or how someone falls from all to nothing, often involving a prince or princess, a poor shoemaker or simple person, or even an ugly duckling who turns into a beautiful swan.
Fairy tales have been around for as long as humans have told stories, though they were not formally recorded until the 19th century. They appear in every culture, with many variations on themes and characters. A story that was passed down by word of mouth and not written is still considered a fairy tale, as are the stories from mythology and religion. The fairy tale has gone through a resurgence and reinvention in recent years, with writers such as Neil Gaiman and Kate DiCamillo taking them to new places.
There are some characteristics that all fairy tales share:
They are not realistic. The characters are stereotypes that are not given much depth, and they don’t experience much character development. They are either all-good or all-evil, and they usually have a clear message about being good or believing in something. The stories are also often set in the magical realm of fantasy, with no specific location or time period. They often begin with “once upon a time…” and close with “they lived happily ever after.”
Most importantly, fairy tales provide a sense of wonder to children and help them believe in the impossible. They teach kids that if they work hard and stay strong, they can overcome anything in life, even the most difficult circumstances. This helps them develop emotional resiliency.
They also introduce children to a wide variety of cultures through their retellings and variations. Some modern works of fiction incorporate fairy tale elements, such as the erotic retells of familiar tales that are geared towards adult audiences, often featuring fetish and BDSM themes and female empowerment. For example, Cleis Press has released a number of fairy tale-themed anthologies such as Fairy Tale Lust, Lustfully Ever After, and more.
Some fairy tales are adapted into animated TV shows and movies such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, the Princess Bride, Pan’s Labyrinth, and more. These are great way to introduce young kids to a range of different stories from other parts of the world, and also to get them interested in reading more.