Fairy Tale Genre

Definitions – Examples – Hallmarks

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Hello Lovelies, and welcome to the blog. Last week I went over the difference between Fairy Tales and Fables, because they are very often lumped together, yet they are two separate folk tale subgenres. This week you will get individual posts that look at each more specifically, starting with Fairy Tales, and continuing next week into Fables. 

Fairy Tale Definition

From the Oxford dictionary, we understand that a fairy tale is “a children’s story about magical and imaginary beings and lands.” Here we have two distinct elements: a children’s story, and magical elements, such as beings or lands.

Example of Fairy Tales

Many of our favorite cartoonish books and movies from our childhood are based on fairy tales, though they are often made more accessible for young children than the real tales they are trying to describe. I’m going to list six and a brief synopsis to give you an idea of the kinds of stories that each describes. Some of them may surprise you.

Six Fairy Tales

  • Cinderella: A girl whose mother has died finds herself in a new family that hates her when her father remarries. An invitation from the palace arrives and the girl must watch and help her stepmother and stepsisters get ready for the ball as she stays behind. In her despair, her fairy godmother arrives and grants the girl all she needs to go to the ball for one night. Once there, she meets and dances with the prince, who falls in love with her. But the spell is broken at midnight and the girl flees, leaving behind only a glass slipper. But the prince will not be denied, and scours the country looking for the person to whom the glass shoe is a perfect match, eventually finding the girl again and marrying her.
  • Sleeping Beauty: A princess cursed to die at her coming of age by an evil witch at her birthing ceremony instead lives when a fairy casts a spell promising only sleep should the witch’s curse come to pass. She is hidden away and raised by the fairies until she comes of age, at which time she will be given back to her parents and take her place at the throne. However, the curse does come to pass and upon the night of her coming of age ceremony the princess falls into a deep slumber. A prince who had met her during her time in hiding, fights the witch and the curse upon the princess, to bring her awake once more. 
  • Snow White: Jealous of the princess’ beauty, the wicked queen orders the murder of her innocent stepdaughter, but later discovers that the girl is still alive and hiding in a cottage with seven friendly little miners. Disguising herself as a hag, the queen brings a poisoned apple to the princess, who falls into a death-like sleep that can be broken only by a kiss from the prince.
  • The Gingerbread Man: Baked in a hot oven, a gingerbread man comes to life and no one can catch him, though many people and animals try. Eventually, he reaches a fateful encounter with a fox near the river. The fox convinces the gingerbread man to jump on his back and the fox will take the cookie across the river. Leading himself in deeper, the gingerbread man has to move further and further up the fox’s body, eventually reaching the fox’s snout, where the fox then eats the gingerbread man.
  • Pinocchio: A lonely woodworker makes a wish upon a falling star that the wooden toy he’d made was his real son. His wish comes true, granted by a fairy. His wooden son comes to life, but it isn’t a true life. The fairy tells them that if he proves himself brave, truthful, and unselfish, he will become a real boy. The wooden boy is led astray many times, and the woodworker tries to find him and bring him home, eventually ending up swallowed by a whale. The wooden boy, too, is swallowed by the same whale, and the wooden boy sacrifices himself to save the woodworker that carved him. The woodworker returns brokenhearted, but the fairy revives the wooden boy, making him a real boy in truth.
  • Thumbelina: A woman who has no children goes to see a witch, asking for help in getting a little daughter. The witch gives the woman a barleycorn and the bud of a beautiful flower grows from the barleycorn. When the woman kisses the bud, it opens and reveals a tiny girl inside the flower. One night, a toad sees the girl and thinks that she would make a fine wife for her son, kidnapping her. This is the first of many small animals who try to steal and marry the tiny girl. Eventually, she tells a bird of her plight and the bird carries her off to a land where there are many beautiful flowers. Inside each flower is a little person like Thumbelina. She marries the king of the flower people. For a wedding present, she is given a pair of wings which allow her to fly. She is also given the new name Maia.

Hallmarks of a Fairy Tale

Fairy Tales are extremely varied and also have several of the same things in common. These things, as mentioned in the definition, include:

  • Stories made for children
  • With magical beings or elements
  • That can be of any length

If you want to write a fairy tale of your own, keep these elements in mind and you’ll pretty much have what you need.

Next Week

Now that you know about Fairy Tales, we will be continuing next week into Fables. These are the last two subgenres in the Folklore pillar of genre, and we will move straight into the next pillar in mid-May, so I hope you are enjoying this detailed look into genre, and stay tuned!

Discussion Questions

  1. What is your favorite folk tale subgenre?
  2. Do you have a favorite fairy tale or fable?
  3. What genre is your favorite to read in, and do you write in the same genre or a different one?
  4. What is the most important reason writers should be aware of genre and its conventions?
  5. What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?

Leave your answers in the comments section for this post!

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