Who hasn't read fairy tales when still a kid? Who doesn't like them still? And then, of course, there are fairy tale retellings, presenting those old stories in a whole new look. But let's start at the beginning by using those famous four words ... once upon a time!
Copyright by Arthur Rackham
A fairy tale is a short story that typically features folkloric characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. Despite its name, only a small number of the stories actually refer to fairies. I guess fairy tales just sounds better than troll tales or goblin tales. These days, the term fairy tale is also used for far-fetched stories or tall tales. Interesting to note: The German term "Märchen" literally translates as "tale" – not any specific type of tale.
In some cultures fairy tales merged into legends, where the narrative is perceived as being grounded in historical truth. Unlike legends 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 history of the fairy tale is difficult to trace yet there's evidence in literary works indicating that fairy tales have existed for thousands of years, although not recognized as a genre. 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.
While fairy tales are seen as stories for children today, they were initially intended rather for an audience of adults, as the violence presented in many of the tales was not seen as suitable for children. Yet since the Brothers Grimm titled their collection Children's and Household Tales, the link with children has only grown stronger with time.
To me it seems that fairy tales are really for everyone. You can read them, you can watch them - Disney movies, anyone? - and if you want to get really creative you may even write them. Fairies optional.
Do you like fairy tales? If so, what are your favorites?