A fairy tale is a magical, short story that has been derived from cultures and the word-of-mouth. It is understood to be fictional. A fairy tale grasps the essence of magic and imagination with its style, pattern, elements, and themes. Fairy tales stay with us until we are old and become a part of us as we grow. Some of the most popular fairy tales have come from the Brothers Grimm. These tales were written based on stories people told them. The fairy tales are close to oral tradition while including stylistic, formal, and thematic changes to appeal to the growing middle class.
The most important part in determining what makes a fairy tale different from legends and myths is what is in the heart of the fairy tale. In the heart of a fairy tale is magic. Without magic, a fairy tale wouldn’t be a fairy tale. The magic allows for the imagination to run wild. It is what fascinates so many people from children to adults.
Fairy tales incorporate the supernatural to explore life’s meanings. Of course a fairy tale doesn’t need to have fairies, but they contain other mystical beings from talking wolves, birds, and other animals to dwarves and witches. No one questions why a wolf speaks or why birds can sew because that is the essence of a fairy tale. It’s the magic!
Each fairy tale has a specific style in which it is written. A fairy tale has clarity, neatness, and precision. There is a major lack of detail and description. This means that every word counts and is meaningful to the story. Another aspect found in fairy tales is repetition. Certain actions are repeated as well as numbers-3, 7, 12, and 100. Repetition allows for a rigid and strict form. Fairy tales are written in an abstract style. “The steady progression of the action, the dispensing with a detailed portrayal of the background or the characters, the predilection for everything clearly formed, the tendency towards extremes and contrasts, the tendency to make feelings and relationships congeal into objects, so to speak, and thus become outwardly visible- all these things give the fairy tale definiteness, firmness, clarity. The fairy tale bestows on its hearer, without him being aware of it, something of its unaffected precision and brilliance.” (Lüthi, 53)
Along with their style, most fairy tales have a specific pattern and include certain elements. Most plots follow the same progression. Zipes explains the five common plots in each of the Grimm’s fairy tales. First, the protagonist goes out to explore the world. Then, the protagonist encounters some helpers and receives advice and gifts. Next, the protagonist encounters a powerful person who threatens to stop the protagonist from success. Then, the protagonist uses the gifts and advice the helpers gave her. Finally, the protagonist is rewarded. Fairy tales include the elements of timelessness and isolation. They also include symbolism, motifs, and archetypes. Most fairy tales contain archetypes of the hero, the villain, and the helper just to name a few. Fairy tales have themes and teach lessons, which make them so fascinating to not only children but also adults. They share the theme of good versus evil. They teach that good will always defeat evil. All of these characteristics make up a fairy tale.
From toddlers to teenagers and even adults, fairy tales are an important part to our lives. They give us hope. The magic that unfolds gives us encouragement and entertainment and allows our imagination to soar.