A short note on fairy tale, its characteristics, examples

The fairy tale belongs to folk literature and is part of the oral tradition. And yet no one bothered to record them until the brothers Grimm produced their famous collection of Kinder- und Hausmärchen or Household Tales (1812, 1814, 1822).

In its written form the fairy tale tends to be a narrative in prose about the fortunes and misfortunes of a hero or heroine who, having experienced various adventures of a more or less supernatural kind, lives happily ever after. Magic, charms, disguise, and spells are some of the major ingredients of such stories, which are often subtle in their interpretation of human nature and psychology. It is used especially in any story that not only is not true but could not possibly be true. Such stories typically feature entities such as dwarf, dragon, fairies, witches, giants, gnome, mermaids, talking animals, etc. 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, fairy tales 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 actual times.

The origins of fairy tales are obscure. Some think they may have come from the East. The Thousand and One Nights or Arabian Nights’ Entertainments were written in Arabic and were translated into French in the 18th c.

In European literature, there are three major collections: (a) Charles Perrault’s Contes de ma mère l’Oye (1697), which were translated into English by Robert Samber in 1729; (b) the collection made by the Grimm brothers already mentioned; (c) Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales (Eventyr) published in 1835. Other fairy tales have been composed by Ruskin, Thackeray, Charles Kingsley, Jean Ingelow, and Oscar Wilde, Joseph Jacob, W.B.Yeats, Thomas Crane. Stories about Prince Charming, Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, and Cinderella have a European background.