Fairy tale is story that, since ancient times, people have passed down from generation to generation. Much time has passed since its origin, but these texts have been read and reread in all ages and still are today.
In the beginning, the stories were aimed at adults and were characterized by being very strong narratives, which showed betrayals, revenge and deaths. Over time, these tales underwent several adaptations until they reached the form known today, much more aimed at children’s universe than adults.
In general, parents and grandparents usually read to children stories that take place in distant kingdoms and involve princes, princesses, fairies, dragons, wizards, among many other magical elements.
Some scholars believe that fairy tales are more than just stories told to entertain children and put them to sleep. According to them, the teachings about the human essence present in the stories would help to prepare readers and listeners for adult life. Through fictional stories, the child would be able to identify many situations present in his own life and, thus, would be able to deal better with everyday life.
Most likely, you have read and still read a lot of fairy tales. Stories like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, among others, are very present in everyone’s imagination. It’s hard to find someone who has never heard of them.
Fairy tale elements
According to scholars of the genre, normally, the same types of characters appear in all tales.
- The aggressor: the one who performs an evil; is the villain of the story.
- The giver: the one who donates his magic so that the hero can overcome his obstacles. In general, it is the fairy godmother.
- The helper: secondary character that helps the hero overcome his challenges.
- The princess and her family: very important characters around which the story revolves.
- Mandatory: character who commits a crime at the behest of another.
- The hero: character who will restore the initial situation of peace.
- The false hero: tries to pass himself off as a hero, but actually just wants to cause more conflict. Attention: there is no strict rule for the characters; in the short story “Little Red Riding Hood”, for example, the heroine is a country girl, and the villain is represented by a wolf.
Presence of magical and fantasy elements:
Fairies, witches, animals with human characteristics, objects that fly, etc. These magical beings are important in the story, as they always help the hero to achieve his goal.
Magic is related to situations that do not exist in reality, but that make perfect sense in the atmosphere of the tale. It’s not logical to meet a fairy godmother and be transformed into a handsome prince; however, in the fairy tale, this kind of situation is expected by the reader.
Structure of fairy tale
– Initial status:
At first, everything is calm, “the princess lived happily in her castle”. It can also be called stability , as everything is at peace. The characters are happy and have a very calm life.
In “Cinderella”, the young woman of the same name still lived with her father, who was alive. In “Little Red Riding Hood”, the girl lived with her mother, who loved her and had a dear grandmother to whom she made frequent visits. In “The Sleeping Beauty”, the whole kingdom was happy with the arrival of the new princess.
– Complication or conflict:
There is a transformation, something happens and unbalances the initial situation. It can also be called rupture , as an unexpected event breaks with all the initial stability of the tale. Peace turns into a nightmare and the characters are no longer happy.
In “Cinderella”, this event is the death of the father. In “Little Red Riding Hood”, the girl’s disobedience in choosing the dangerous path in the forest. In “Sleeping Beauty”, the curse invoked by the fairy who had not been invited to the christening.
In this part, the narrative is tense, there is a confrontation , as the characters must find a way to solve the problems that appear.
In “Cinderela”, the fairy godmother appears who, through magic, manages to transform her into a princess and help her go to the ball. In “Little Red Riding Hood”, the hunter appears, who rescues Little Red Riding Hood and the grandmother from the wolf‘s belly. In “Sleeping Beauty”, a handsome prince appears who awakens the princess from her hundred-year sleep.
– Outcome or ending:
It is the moment after the conflict, when the stability of the beginning of the tale is restored. The ending is happy, and the characters are at peace.
Both in “Cinderella” and in “Sleeping Beauty”, the princesses marry the princes, and, in “Little Red Riding Hood”, the girl and her grandmother are saved and return to the initial situation of the story. Princes receive rewards, and villains are punished.
Usually the time is indefinite, stories start with “ once upon a time ”. You must be thinking: but not all fairy tales have fairies and princesses! Really, but they have the same structure and some magical elements, so they can also be called wonder tales! There is always a character who, if he behaves well, will have a happy ending, receiving a reward, but if he is bad, he will be punished.
Usually the fairy tale is narrated in third person, that is, the person who tells the story does not participate in it.
One can infer from the themes, teachings, as is the case of “Little Red Riding Hood”, whose outcome teaches children that obedience to parents is always recommended, so as not to run the risk of having to face dangerous situations. The contextualization of this fact in real life is perfectly pertinent.
The main settings of fairy tales are forests, woods, castles, palaces and small villages.
The main authors of the short stories
One of the first writers appointed as the author of children’s fairy tales was the Frenchman Charles Perrault , in the 17th century. “O Pequeno Polegar”, “Puss in Boots”, “Blue Beard”, “Sleeping Beauty”, among many others, are part of his work. Many of these stories already existed in oral tradition, but he organized them and created a definitive version of his own.
Later, in the early 19th century, the German folklorists Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm , better known as the Brothers Grimm, rewrote and published these tales with some modifications. Currently, the Brothers Grimm version is the most common.
Also in the 19th century, in Denmark, another author emerged who would make fairy tales even more popular: Hans Christian Andersen . He wrote the famous short stories “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Little Mermaid”, “The Princess and the Pea”, among others.
In the same period, Lewis Carroll also began to make a name for himself in England. He wrote a book that you certainly know: Alice in Wonderland . In fact, it is not exactly a short story, due to its length, but its textual structure fits very well in this literary genre.