A FAIRY TALE is a type of short story that typically features folkloric fantasy characters, such as dwarfs , dragons , elves , fairies , giants , gnomes , goblins , griffins , mermaids , talking animals , trolls , unicorns , or witches , and usually magic or enchantments . Fairy tales may be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends (which generally involve belief in the veracity of the events described) and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables . The term is mainly used for stories with origins in European tradition and, at least in recent centuries, mostly relates to children\'s literature .
In less technical contexts, the term is also used to describe something blessed with unusual happiness, as in "fairy tale ending" (a happy ending ) or "fairy tale romance ", though not all fairy tales end happily. Colloquially, a "fairy tale" or "fairy story" can also mean any far-fetched story or tall tale ; it is used especially of any story that not only is not true, but could not possibly be true. Legends are perceived as real; fairy tales may merge into legends , where the narrative is perceived both by teller and hearers as being grounded in historical truth. However, unlike legends and epics , they usually do not contain more than superficial references to religion and actual places, people, and events; they take place once upon a time rather than in actual times.
Fairy tales are found in oral and in literary form; the name "fairy
tale" was first ascribed to them by Madame d\'Aulnoy in the late 17th
century. Many of today's fairy tales have evolved from centuries-old
stories that have appeared, with variations, in multiple cultures
around the world. The history of the fairy tale is particularly
difficult to trace because only the literary forms can survive. Still,
according to researchers at universities in Durham and Lisbon , such
stories may date back thousands of years, some to the
Folklorists have classified fairy tales in various ways. The Aarne-Thompson classification system and the morphological analysis of Vladimir Propp are among the most notable. Other folklorists have interpreted the tales' significance, but no school has been definitively established for the meaning of the tales.
* 1 Terminology
* 2 Definition
* 2.1 History of the genre * 2.2 Folk and literary
* 3 History
* 3.1 The Salon Era * 3.2 Later works
* 4 Cross-cultural transmission * 5 Association with children
* 6 Contemporary tales
* 6.1 Literary
* 7 Motifs
* 7.1 Aarne-Thompson * 7.2 Morphology
* 8 Interpretations * 9 Fairy tales in music * 10 Compilations * 11 See also
* 12 References
* 12.1 Citations * 12.2 Sources
* 13 Further reading * 14 External links
Some folklorists prefer to use the German term Märchen or "wonder tale" to refer to the genre over fairy tale, a practice given weight by the definition of Thompson in his 1977 edition of The Folktale: "a tale of some length involving a succession of motifs or episodes. It moves in an unreal world without definite locality or definite creatures and is filled with the marvelous. In this never-never land, humble heroes kill adversaries, succeed to kingdoms and marry princesses." The characters and motifs of fairy tales are simple and archetypal: princesses and goose-girls; youngest sons and gallant princes ; ogres , giants , dragons , and trolls ; wicked stepmothers and false heroes ; fairy godmothers and other magical helpers , often talking horses, or foxes, or birds ; glass mountains; and prohibitions and breaking of prohibitions.
A fairy tale with a tragic rather than a happy end is called an anti-fairy tale .
From The Facetious Nights of Straparola by Giovanni Francesco Straparola
Although the fairy tale is a distinct genre within the larger category of folktale, the definition that marks a work as a fairy tale is a source of considerable dispute. The term itself comes from the translation of Madame D'Aulnoy's conte de fées, first used in her collection in 1697.) Common parlance conflates fairy tales with beast fables and other folktales, and scholars differ on the degree to which the presence of fairies and/or similarly mythical beings (e.g., elves, goblins, trolls, giants, huge monsters) should be taken as a differentiator. Vladimir Propp , in his Morphology of the Folktale, criticized the common distinction between "fairy tales" and "animal tales" on the grounds that many tales contained both fantastic elements and animals. Nevertheless, to select works for his analysis, Propp used all Russian folktales classified as a folk lore Aarne-Thompson 300-749 – in a cataloguing system that made such a distinction – to gain a clear set of tales. His own analysis identified fairy tales by their plot elements, but that in itself has been criticized, as the analysis does not lend itself easily to tales that do not involve a quest , and furthermore, the same plot elements are found in non-fairy tale works.
As Stith Thompson points out, talking animals and the presence of magic seem to be more common to the fairy tale than fairies themselves. However, the mere presence of animals that talk does not make a tale a fairy tale, especially when the animal is clearly a mask on a human face, as in fables .
In his essay " On Fairy-Stories ", J. R. R. Tolkien agreed with the exclusion of "fairies" from the definition, defining fairy tales as stories about the adventures of men in Faërie , the land of fairies, fairytale princes and princesses , dwarves , elves, and not only other magical species but many other marvels. However, the same essay excludes tales that are often considered fairy tales, citing as an example The Monkey\'s Heart , which Andrew Lang included in The Lilac Fairy Book .
Steven Swann Jones identified the presence of magic as the feature by which fairy tales can be distinguished from other sorts of folktales. Davidson and Chaudri identify "transformation" as the key feature of the genre. From a psychological point of view, Jean Chiriac argued for the necessity of the fantastic in these narratives.
In terms of aesthetic values, Italo Calvino cited the fairy tale as a prime example of "quickness" in literature, because of the economy and concision of the tales.
HISTORY OF THE GENRE
Originally, stories that would contemporarily be considered fairy tales were not marked out as a separate genre. The German term "Märchen" stems from the old German word "Mär", which means story or tale. The word "Märchen" is the diminutive of the word "Mär", therefore it means a "little story". Together with the common beginning "once upon a time " it means a fairy tale or a märchen was originally a little story from a long time ago, when the world was still magic. (Indeed, one less regular German opening is "In the old times when wishing was still effective".)
The English term "fairy tale" stems from the fact that the French contes often included fairies.
Roots of the genre come from different oral stories passed down in
European cultures. The genre was first marked out by writers of the
Renaissance , such as
Giovanni Francesco Straparola and Giambattista
Basile , and stabilized through the works of later collectors such as
Before the definition of the genre of fantasy , many works that would
now be classified as fantasy were termed "fairy tales", including
The Hobbit ,
FOLK AND LITERARY
The fairy tale, told orally, is a sub-class of the folktale . Many
writers have written in the form of the fairy tale. These are the
literary fairy tales, or Kunstmärchen. The oldest forms, from
Literary fairy tales and oral fairy tales freely exchanged plots, motifs, and elements with one another and with the tales of foreign lands. The literary fairy tale came into fashion during the 17th century, developed by aristocratic women as a parlor game. This in turn helped to maintain the oral tradition. According to Jack Zipes , "The subject matter of the conversations consisted of literature, mores, taste, and etiquette, whereby the speakers all endeavored to portray ideal situations in the most effective oratorical style that would gradually have a major effect on literary forms." Many 18th-century folklorists attempted to recover the "pure" folktale, uncontaminated by literary versions. Yet while oral fairy tales likely existed for thousands of years before the literary forms, there is no pure folktale, and each literary fairy tale draws on folk traditions, if only in parody. This makes it impossible to trace forms of transmission of a fairy tale. Oral story-tellers have been known to read literary fairy tales to increase their own stock of stories and treatments.
The oral tradition of the fairy tale came long before the written
page. Tales were told or enacted dramatically, rather than written
down, and handed down from generation to generation. Because of this,
the history of their development is necessarily obscure and blurred.
Fairy tales appear, now and again, in written literature throughout
literate cultures, as in
The Golden Ass , which includes Cupid and
Psyche (Roman , 100–200 AD), or the
Jack Zipes writes in When Dreams Came True, "There are fairy tale
elements in Chaucer 's
The Canterbury Tales ,
Edmund Spenser 's The
Faerie Queene , and ... in many of
William Shakespeare plays." King
Lear can be considered a literary variant of fairy tales such as Water
and Salt and Cap O\' Rushes . The tale itself resurfaced in Western
literature in the 16th and 17th centuries, with The Facetious Nights
of Straparola by
Giovanni Francesco Straparola (Italy, 1550 and 1553),
which contains many fairy tales in its inset tales, and the
Neapolitan tales of
Giambattista Basile (Naples, 1634–6), which are
all fairy tales.
Carlo Gozzi made use of many fairy tale motifs among
his Commedia dell\'Arte scenarios, including among them one based on
The Love For Three Oranges (1761). Simultaneously,
Pu Songling , in
China, included many fairy tales in his collection, Strange Stories
from a Chinese Studio (published posthumously, 1766). The fairy tale
itself became popular among the précieuses of upper-class France
(1690–1710), and among the tales told in that time were the ones of
La Fontaine and the Contes of
THE SALON ERA
In the mid-17th century, a vogue for magical tales emerged among the intellectuals who frequented the salons of Paris. These salons were regular gatherings hosted by prominent aristocratic women, where women and men could gather together to discuss the issues of the day.
In the 1630s, aristocratic women began to gather in their own living
rooms, salons, in order to discuss the topics of their choice: arts
and letters, politics, and social matters of immediate concern to the
women of their class: marriage, love, financial and physical
independence, and access to education. This was a time when women were
barred from receiving a formal education. Some of the most gifted
women writers of the period came out of these early salons (such as
Madeleine de Scudéry
Sometime in the middle of the 17th century, a passion for the conversational parlour game based on the plots of old folk tales swept through the salons. Each salonnière was called upon to retell an old tale or rework an old theme, spinning clever new stories that not only showcased verbal agility and imagination, but also slyly commented on the conditions of aristocratic life. Great emphasis was placed on a mode of delivery that seemed natural and spontaneous. The decorative language of the fairy tales served an important function: disguising the rebellious subtext of the stories and sliding them past the court censors. Critiques of court life (and even of the king) were embedded in extravagant tales and in dark, sharply dystopian ones. Not surprisingly, the tales by women often featured young (but clever) aristocratic girls whose lives were controlled by the arbitrary whims of fathers, kings, and elderly wicked fairies, as well as tales in which groups of wise fairies (i.e., intelligent, independent women) stepped in and put all to rights.
The salon tales as they were originally written and published have been preserved in a monumental work called Le Cabinet des Fées , an enormous collection of stories from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The first collectors to attempt to preserve not only the plot and
characters of the tale, but also the style in which they were told,
Brothers Grimm , collecting German fairy tales; ironically,
this meant although their first edition (1812 an oral version of
Bluebeard was thus rejected, and the tale of Little Briar Rose,
clearly related to Perrault's The
Sleeping Beauty , was included only
because Jacob Grimm convinced his brother that the figure of Brynhildr
, from much earlier
This consideration of whether to keep Sleeping Beauty reflected a belief common among folklorists of the 19th century: that the folk tradition preserved fairy tales in forms from pre-history except when "contaminated" by such literary forms, leading people to tell inauthentic tales. The rural, illiterate, and uneducated peasants, if suitably isolated, were the folk and would tell pure folk tales. Sometimes they regarded fairy tales as a form of fossil, the remnants of a once-perfect tale. However, further research has concluded that fairy tales never had a fixed form, and regardless of literary influence, the tellers constantly altered them for their own purposes.
The work of the
Brothers Grimm influenced other collectors, both
inspiring them to collect tales and leading them to similarly believe,
in a spirit of romantic nationalism , that the fairy tales of a
country were particularly representative of it, to the neglect of
cross-cultural influence. Among those influenced were the Russian
Alexander Afanasyev (first published in 1866), the Norwegians Peter
Christen Asbjørnsen and
Jørgen Moe (first published in 1845), the
Petre Ispirescu (first published in 1874), the English Joseph
Jacobs (first published in 1890), and
Jeremiah Curtin , an American
who collected Irish tales (first published in 1890). Ethnographers
collected fairy tales throughout the world, finding similar tales in
Two theories of origins have attempted to explain the common elements in fairy tales found spread over continents. One is that a single point of origin generated any given tale, which then spread over the centuries; the other is that such fairy tales stem from common human experience and therefore can appear separately in many different origins.
Fairy tales with very similar plots, characters, and motifs are found spread across many different cultures. Many researchers hold this to be caused by the spread of such tales, as people repeat tales they have heard in foreign lands, although the oral nature makes it impossible to trace the route except by inference. Folklorists have attempted to determine the origin by internal evidence, which can not always be clear; Joseph Jacobs , comparing the Scottish tale The Ridere of Riddles with the version collected by the Brothers Grimm, The Riddle , noted that in The Ridere of Riddles one hero ends up polygamously married, which might point to an ancient custom, but in The Riddle, the simpler riddle might argue greater antiquity.
Folklorists of the "Finnish" (or historical-geographical) school
attempted to place fairy tales to their origin, with inconclusive
results. Sometimes influence, especially within a limited area and
time, is clearer, as when considering the influence of Perrault's
tales on those collected by the Brothers Grimm. Little Briar-Rose
appears to stem from Perrault's The
Sleeping Beauty , as the Grimms'
tale appears to be the only independent German variant. Similarly,
the close agreement between the opening of the Grimms' version of
Little Red Riding Hood
Fairy tales tend to take on the color of their location, through the choice of motifs, the style in which they are told, and the depiction of character and local color.
Brothers Grimm believed that European fairy tales derived from
the cultural history shared by all Indo-European peoples and were
therefore ancient, far older than written records. This view is
supported by research by the anthropologist Jamie Tehrani and the
folklorist Sara Graca Da Silva using phylogenetic analysis , a
technique developed by evolutionary biologists to trace the
relatedness of living and fossil species . Among the tales analysed
Jack and the Beanstalk , traced to the time of splitting of
Eastern and Western Indo-European, over 5000 years ago. Both Beauty
and the Beast and
Rumpelstiltskin appear to have been created some
4000 years ago. The story of The Smith and the Devil (Deal with the
Devil ) appears to date from the
ASSOCIATION WITH CHILDREN
Originally, adults were the audience of a fairy tale just as often as children. Literary fairy tales appeared in works intended for adults, but in the 19th and 20th centuries the fairy tale became associated with children\'s literature .
The précieuses , including Madame d\'Aulnoy , intended their works
for adults, but regarded their source as the tales that servants, or
other women of lower class, would tell to children. Indeed, a novel
of that time, depicting a countess's suitor offering to tell such a
tale, has the countess exclaim that she loves fairy tales as if she
were still a child. Among the late précieuses, Jeanne-Marie Le
In the modern era, fairy tales were altered so that they could be
read to children. The
Brothers Grimm concentrated mostly on sexual
Rapunzel , in the first edition, revealed the prince's
visits by asking why her clothing had grown tight, thus letting the
witch deduce that she was pregnant, but in subsequent editions
carelessly revealed that it was easier to pull up the prince than the
witch. On the other hand, in many respects,
violence—particularly when punishing villains—was
increased. Other, later, revisions cut out violence; J. R. R. Tolkien
noted that The Juniper Tree often had its cannibalistic stew cut out
in a version intended for children. The moralizing strain in the
Psychoanalysts such as Bruno Bettelheim , who regarded the cruelty of older fairy tales as indicative of psychological conflicts, strongly criticized this expurgation, because it weakened their usefulness to both children and adults as ways of symbolically resolving issues.
The adaptation of fairy tales for children continues.
John Bauer 's illustration of trolls and a princess from a collection of Swedish fairy tales
In contemporary literature , many authors have used the form of fairy tales for various reasons, such as examining the human condition from the simple framework a fairytale provides. Some authors seek to recreate a sense of the fantastic in a contemporary discourse. Some writers use fairy tale forms for modern issues; this can include using the psychological dramas implicit in the story, as when Robin McKinley retold Donkeyskin as the novel Deerskin , with emphasis on the abusive treatment the father of the tale dealt to his daughter. Sometimes, especially in children's literature, fairy tales are retold with a twist simply for comic effect, such as The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka and The ASBO Fairy Tales by Chris Pilbeam. A common comic motif is a world where all the fairy tales take place, and the characters are aware of their role in the story, such as in the film series Shrek .
Other authors may have specific motives, such as multicultural or
feminist reevaluations of predominantly Eurocentric
masculine-dominated fairy tales, implying critique of older
narratives. The figure of the damsel in distress has been
particularly attacked by many feminist critics. Examples of narrative
reversal rejecting this figure include The Paperbag
There are also many contemporary erotic retellings of fairy tales,
which explicitly draw upon the original spirit of the tales, and are
specifically for adults. Modern retellings focus on exploring the tale
through use of the erotic, explicit sexuality, dark and/or comic
themes, female empowerment, fetish and
BDSM , multicultural,
It may be hard to lay down the rule between fairy tales and fantasies
that use fairy tale motifs, or even whole plots, but the distinction
is commonly made, even within the works of a single author: George
MacDonald's Lilith and
Phantastes are regarded as fantasies, while his
Fairy tales have been enacted dramatically; records exist of this in
commedia dell\'arte , and later in pantomime . The advent of cinema
has meant that such stories could be presented in a more plausible
manner, with the use of special effects and animation . The Walt
Many filmed fairy tales have been made primarily for children, from Disney's later works to Aleksandr Rou's retelling of Vasilissa the Beautiful , the first Soviet film to use Russian folk tales in a big-budget feature. Others have used the conventions of fairy tales to create new stories with sentiments more relevant to contemporary life, as in Labyrinth , My Neighbor Totoro , Happily N\'Ever After , and the films of Michel Ocelot .
Other works have retold familiar fairy tales in a darker, more
horrific or psychological variant aimed primarily at adults. Notable
Jean Cocteau 's
Beauty and the Beast and The Company of
Wolves , based on
Angela Carter 's retelling of Little Red Riding Hood
In comics and animated TV series, The Sandman , Revolutionary Girl
A more modern cinematic fairy tale would be Luchino Visconti\'s Le
Notti Bianche , starring
Marcello Mastroianni before he became a
superstar. It involves many of the romantic conventions of fairy
tales, yet it takes place in post-
World War II
Any comparison of fairy tales quickly discovers that many fairy tales have features in common with each other. Two of the most influential classifications are those of Antti Aarne , as revised by Stith Thompson into the Aarne-Thompson classification system , and Vladimir Propp 's Morphology of the Folk Tale .
This system groups fairy and folk tales according to their overall plot. Common, identifying features are picked out to decide which tales are grouped together. Much therefore depends on what features are regarded as decisive.
For instance, tales like
Further analysis of the tales shows that in Cinderella, The Wonderful Birch, The Story of Tam and Cam, Ye Xian, and Aschenputtel, the heroine is persecuted by her stepmother and refused permission to go to the ball or other event, and in Fair, Brown and Trembling and Finette Cendron by her sisters and other female figures, and these are grouped as 510A; while in Cap O' Rushes, Catskin, and Allerleirauh, the heroine is driven from home by her father's persecutions, and must take work in a kitchen elsewhere, and these are grouped as 510B. But in Katie Woodencloak, she is driven from home by her stepmother's persecutions and must take service in a kitchen elsewhere, and in Tattercoats, she is refused permission to go to the ball by her grandfather. Given these features common with both types of 510, Katie Woodencloak is classified as 510A because the villain is the stepmother, and Tattercoats as 510B because the grandfather fills the father's role.
This system has its weaknesses in the difficulty of having no way to
classify subportions of a tale as motifs.
Rapunzel is type 310 (The
Maiden in the Tower), but it opens with a child being demanded in
return for stolen food, as does
Puddocky ; but
Puddocky is not a
Maiden in the Tower tale, while The Canary
It also lends itself to emphasis on the common elements, to the
extent that the folklorist describes
The Black Bull of Norroway
Father Frost acts as a donor in the Russian fairy tale Father Frost , testing the heroine before bestowing riches upon her
Vladimir Propp specifically studied a collection of Russian fairy tales , but his analysis has been found useful for the tales of other countries. Having criticized Aarne-Thompson type analysis for ignoring what motifs did in stories, and because the motifs used were not clearly distinct, he analyzed the tales for the function each character and action fulfilled and concluded that a tale was composed of thirty-one elements ('functions') and seven characters or 'spheres of action' ('the princess and her father' are a single sphere). While the elements were not all required for all tales, when they appeared they did so in an invariant order – except that each individual element might be negated twice, so that it would appear three times , as when, in Brother and Sister , the brother resists drinking from enchanted streams twice, so that it is the third that enchants him. Propp's 31 functions also fall within six 'stages' (preparation, complication, transference, struggle, return, recognition), and a stage can also be repeated, which can affect the perceived order of elements.
One such element is the donor who gives the hero magical assistance,
often after testing him. In
The Golden Bird
Analogies have been drawn between this and the analysis of myths into the Hero\'s journey .
Many fairy tales have been interpreted for their (purported) significance. One mythological interpretation saw many fairy tales, including Hansel and Gretel , Sleeping Beauty , and The Frog King , as solar myths ; this mode of interpretation subsequently became rather less popular. Freudian , Jungian , and other psychological analyses have also explicated many tales, but no mode of interpretation has established itself definitively.
Specific analyses have often been criticized for lending great importance to motifs that are not, in fact, integral to the tale; this has often stemmed from treating one instance of a fairy tale as the definitive text, where the tale has been told and retold in many variations. In variants of Bluebeard , the wife's curiosity is betrayed by a blood-stained key , by an egg\'s breaking , or by the singing of a rose she wore , without affecting the tale, but interpretations of specific variants have claimed that the precise object is integral to the tale.
Other folklorists have interpreted tales as historical documents. Many German folklorists, believing the tales to have preserved details from ancient times, have used the Grimms' tales to explain ancient customs.
One approach sees the topography of European Märchen as echoing the period immediately following the last Ice Age . Other folklorists have explained the figure of the wicked stepmother in a historical/sociological context: many women did die in childbirth, their husbands remarried, and the new stepmothers competed with the children of the first marriage for resources.
In a 2012 lecture, Jack Zipes reads fairy tales as examples of what he calls "childism". He suggests that there are terrible aspects to the tales, which (among other things) have conditioned children to accept mistreatment and even abuse.
FAIRY TALES IN MUSIC
Fairy tales have inspired music, namely opera, such as the French
Opéra féerie and the German
Märchenoper . French examples include
Zémire et Azor , and Auber's
Le cheval de bronze
See also: Collections of fairy tales
AUTHORS AND WORKS:
* Mixed Up
* Alan Garner\'s Book of British
Fairy Tales (
* Madame d\'Aulnoy (
* Books portal * Children\'s literature portal
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