Fairy Tales History, Content, and Structure
History: Origins • The name “fairy tale” comes from 1697 French term “contes des fées,” meaning “tales of the fairies.” • Although termed in 1697, most stories were passed through an oral tradition. • Definition varies, but fairy tales are a form of folklore, which consists of stories of a culture, subculture, or group. • It is the content of a fairy tale that gives it its definitive characteristics (more on this in a minute)
History: Just for Children? • A popular belief is that fairy tales were mainly told to children. • Originally told amongst adults only after dark and bed-time because they would scare kids. • Eventually, tales began to become lessons for children.
Content of Fairy Tales • Magic quests or a sense of enchanting things that go beyond reality. • Fairies, princes, princesses, ogres, giants, dragons, trolls, stepmothers, godmothers, horses, foxes, birds, frogs, geese, and other “magic helpers.”
Content of Fairy Tales (cont.) • Fairy tales usually reveal social or cultural values in their themes and lessons. • Use anthropomorphism: completely personifying an animal, object, etc. • Use symbolism often, too.
Basic Three Part Structure • First: Confrontation/Conflict: Protagonist faces an obstacle • Leaving home • Wicked family member • Weakness or humiliation • Poverty • Loss of parents
Basic Three Part Structure (cont.) • Second: Transformation/Testing • The character has a transformation or is tested in some way. • These tend to happen in three’s or through repetition.
Basic Three Part Structure (cont.) • Third: “Fairy Tale Ending” • The character is rewarded with fortune, fame, love, marriage, eternal life, survival, revenge, or some other blessing. • The lesson and cultural belief is usually revealed through this reward.