Lately I’ve found myself thinking a fair bit about fairy tales – I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, the story of a young man travelling into Faerie; scouting around my family home for my copy of Grimms' Fairy Tales; and falling in love again with the little fairy tale of the three brothers who meet Death in The Deathly Hallows.
There doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of agreement on the subject of what a fairy tale is, just that it doesn’t actually need fairies. So I started thinking, what does make a fairy tale?
Should there be a moral to the story? Does the hero or perhaps even villain need to learn a lesson or certain wisdom before he can gain the prize?
Most fairy tales that I can think of have some sort of inherent magic involved in them, whether it’s a witch casting a spell on a young prince or talking animals…magic of some form is involved. But does the story need magic to make it a fairy tale?
Are fairy tales based on some form of truth, whether it’s a tradition, legend, fable, or just an old wives tale?
· Happy ending
Does every fairy tale have to have a happy ending?
I would certainly not say that a fairy tale needs all of these components to be a fairy tale, but I still can’t quite put my finger on what does make a fairy tale. Perhaps my problem is that I’m analysing it too much, and what defines a fairytale is more about the way the story makes you feel or what you think, rather than its content and structure.
What’s your opinion - what makes a story a fairy tale?