Encyclopedia > Fairy tale
A fairy tale or fairy story is a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters (such as fairies, goblins,elves, trolls, witches, giants, and talking animals) andenchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events. In modern-day parlance, 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.
In cultures where demons and witches are perceived as real, and the Encyclopedia > Fairy tale teller and hearer of a tale see it as having historical actuality, fairy tales may merge into legendary narratives. However, unlike legends and epics, they usually do not contain more than superficial references to religion and actual places, persons, and events; they take place "once upon a time" rather than in actual times.
The history of the fairy tale is particularly difficult to trace, because only the literary forms can survive. Still, folklorists have found these forms from every culture over many centuries. Thus the oral fairy tale may have existed for at least that long, although not perhaps Encyclopedia > Fairy tale recognized as a genre. The name "fairy tale" was first ascribed to them by Madame d'Aulnoy. Fairy tales, and works derived from fairy tales, are still written today.
The older fairy tales were intended for an audience of adults as well as children, but they were associated with children as early as the writings of the précieuses; the Brothers Grimm titled their collection Children's and Household Tales, and the link with children has only grown stronger with time.
Folklorists have classified fairy tales in various ways. Among the most notable are the Aarne-Thompson classification system , and Encyclopedia > Fairy tale the morphological analysis of Vladimir Propp. Other folklorists have interpreted the tales' significance, but no school has been definitively established for the meaning of the tales.
Although the fairy tale is a clearly distinct genre, the definition that marks a work as a fairy tale is a source of considerable dispute. 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 Aarne-Thompson 300-749—in a Encyclopedia > Fairy tale 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.
The Russian tale Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf features no fairies, but a talking wolf.
One universally agreed-on factor is that the nature of a tale does not depend on whether fairies appear in it Encyclopedia > Fairy tale. Obviously, many people, including Angela Carter in her introduction to the Virago Book of Fairy Tales, have noted that a great many of so-called fairy tales do not feature fairies at all. This is partly because of the history of the English term "fairy tale" which derives from the French phrase conte de fées, and was first used in the collection of Madame D'Aulnoy in 1697.
As Stith Thompson and Carter herself point 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 Encyclopedia > Fairy tale 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 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 Encyclopedia > Fairy tale Andrew Langin cluded in The Lilac Fairy Book. Other tales that include no magic but are often classified as fairy tales include What Is the Fastest Thing in the World? and Catskin.
Some folklorists prefer to use the German term Märchen to refer to the genre, 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 Encyclopedia > Fairy tale 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. Italo Calvino cited the fairy tale as a prime example of "quickness" in literature, because of the economy and concision of the tales.