Legends are perceived [ by whom? However, unlike legends and epics , fairy tales usually do not contain more than superficial references to religion and to actual places, people, and events; they take place " once upon a time " rather than in actual times. Many of today's fairy tales have evolved from centuries-old stories that have appeared, with variations, in multiple cultures around the world. Still, according to researchers at universities in Durham and Lisbon , such stories may date back thousands of years, some to the Bronze Age more than 6, years ago.
Folklorists have classified fairy tales in various ways. The Aarne-Thompson classification system and the morphological analysis of Vladimir Propp are among the most notable. Other folklorists have interpreted the tales' significance, but no school has been definitively established for the meaning of the tales. It moves in an unreal world without definite locality or definite creatures and is filled with the marvellous.
In this never-never land, humble heroes kill adversaries, succeed to kingdoms and marry princesses. Although the fairy tale is a distinct genre within the larger category of folktale, 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.
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Were I asked, what is a fairytale? I should reply, Read Undine : that is a fairytale As Stith Thompson points out, talking animals and the presence of magic seem to be more common to the fairy tale than fairies themselves. In his essay " On Fairy-Stories ", J. Steven Swann Jones identified the presence of magic as the feature by which fairy tales can be distinguished from other sorts of folktales. In terms of aesthetic values, Italo Calvino cited the fairy tale as a prime example of "quickness" in literature, because of the economy and concision of the tales.
Originally, stories that would contemporarily be considered fairy tales were not marked out as a separate genre. Indeed, one less regular German opening is "In the old times when wishing was still effective".
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The English term "fairy tale" stems from the fact that the French contes often included fairies. Roots of the genre come from different oral stories passed down in European cultures. The genre was first marked out by writers of the Renaissance , such as Giovanni Francesco Straparola and Giambattista Basile , and stabilized through the works of later collectors such as Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Before the definition of the genre of fantasy , many works that would now be classified as fantasy were termed "fairy tales", including Tolkien's The Hobbit , George Orwell 's Animal Farm , and L.
Although fantasy, particularly the subgenre of fairytale fantasy , draws heavily on fairy tale motifs,  the genres are now regarded as distinct. The fairy tale, told orally, is a sub-class of the folktale. Many writers have written in the form of the fairy tale. Yet the stories printed under the Grimm name have been considerably reworked to fit the written form. Literary fairy tales and oral fairy tales freely exchanged plots, motifs, and elements with one another and with the tales of foreign lands. This, in turn, helped to maintain the oral tradition. According to Jack Zipes , "The subject matter of the conversations consisted of literature, mores, taste, and etiquette, whereby the speakers all endeavoured to portray ideal situations in the most effective oratorical style that would gradually have a major effect on literary forms.
Yet while oral fairy tales likely existed for thousands of years before the literary forms, there is no pure folktale, and each literary fairy tale draws on folk traditions, if only in parody. Oral story-tellers have been known to read literary fairy tales to increase their own stock of stories and treatments. The oral tradition of the fairy tale came long before the written page. Tales were told or enacted dramatically, rather than written down, and handed down from generation to generation.
Because of this, the history of their development is necessarily obscure and blurred. Fairy tales appear, now and again, in written literature throughout literate cultures, as in The Golden Ass , which includes Cupid and Psyche Roman , — AD ,  or the Panchatantra India 3rd century BC ,  but it is unknown to what extent these reflect the actual folk tales even of their own time.
The stylistic evidence indicates that these, and many later collections, reworked folk tales into literary forms.
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Besides such collections and individual tales, in China , Taoist philosophers such as Liezi and Zhuangzi recounted fairy tales in their philosophical works. In the midth century, a vogue for magical tales emerged among the intellectuals who frequented the salons of Paris. These salons were regular gatherings hosted by prominent aristocratic women, where women and men could gather together to discuss the issues of the day.
In the s, aristocratic women began to gather in their own living rooms, salons, in order to discuss the topics of their choice: arts and letters, politics, and social matters of immediate concern to the women of their class: marriage, love, financial and physical independence, and access to education. This was a time when women were barred from receiving a formal education.
Sometime in the middle of the 17th century, a passion for the conversational parlour game based on the plots of old folk tales swept through the salons. Great emphasis was placed on a mode of delivery that seemed natural and spontaneous. The decorative language of the fairy tales served an important function: disguising the rebellious subtext of the stories and sliding them past the court censors. Critiques of court life and even of the king were embedded in extravagant tales and in dark, sharply dystopian ones.
Not surprisingly, the tales by women often featured young but clever aristocratic girls whose lives were controlled by the arbitrary whims of fathers, kings, and elderly wicked fairies, as well as tales in which groups of wise fairies i. Such literary forms did not merely draw from the folktale, but also influenced folktales in turn. The Brothers Grimm rejected several tales for their collection, though told orally to them by Germans, because the tales derived from Perrault, and they concluded they were thereby French and not German tales; an oral version of Bluebeard was thus rejected, and the tale of Little Briar Rose , clearly related to Perrault's The Sleeping Beauty , was included only because Jacob Grimm convinced his brother that the figure of Brynhildr , from much earlier Norse mythology , proved that the sleeping princess was authentically Germanic folklore.
This consideration of whether to keep Sleeping Beauty reflected a belief common among folklorists of the 19th century: that the folk tradition preserved fairy tales in forms from pre-history except when "contaminated" by such literary forms, leading people to tell inauthentic tales. The work of the Brothers Grimm influenced other collectors, both inspiring them to collect tales and leading them to similarly believe, in a spirit of romantic nationalism , that the fairy tales of a country were particularly representative of it, to the neglect of cross-cultural influence.
Andersen's work sometimes drew on old folktales, but more often deployed fairytale motifs and plots in new tales. Two theories of origins, have attempted to explain the common elements in fairy tales found spread over continents. One is that a single point of origin generated any given tale, which then spread over the centuries; the other is that such fairy tales stem from common human experience and therefore can appear separately in many different origins. Fairy tales with very similar plots, characters, and motifs are found spread across many different cultures.
Many researchers hold this to be caused by the spread of such tales, as people repeat tales they have heard in foreign lands, although the oral nature makes it impossible to trace the route except by inference. Folklorists of the "Finnish" or historical-geographical school attempted to place fairy tales to their origin, with inconclusive results.
Fairy tales tend to take on the color of their location, through the choice of motifs, the style in which they are told, and the depiction of character and local color. The Brothers Grimm believed that European fairy tales derived from the cultural history shared by all Indo-European peoples and were therefore ancient, far older than written records.
This view is supported by research by the anthropologist Jamie Tehrani and the folklorist Sara Graca Da Silva using phylogenetic analysis , a technique developed by evolutionary biologists to trace the relatedness of living and fossil species. Among the tales analysed were Jack and the Beanstalk , traced to the time of splitting of Eastern and Western Indo-European, over years ago. Both Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin appear to have been created some years ago.
On the other hand, various studies converge to show that some fairy tales, for example the swan maiden,  could go back to the Upper Palaeolithic. Originally, adults were the audience of a fairy tale just as often as children.
In the modern era, fairy tales were altered so that they could be read to children. The Brothers Grimm concentrated mostly on sexual references;  Rapunzel , in the first edition, revealed the prince's visits by asking why her clothing had grown tight, thus letting the witch deduce that she was pregnant, but in subsequent editions carelessly revealed that it was easier to pull up the prince than the witch. Tolkien noted that The Juniper Tree often had its cannibalistic stew cut out in a version intended for children.
His acquaintance Charles Dickens protested, "In an utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected. Psychoanalysts such as Bruno Bettelheim , who regarded the cruelty of older fairy tales as indicative of psychological conflicts, strongly criticized this expurgation, because it weakened their usefulness to both children and adults as ways of symbolically resolving issues. To quote Rebecca Walters , p. These fairy tales teach children how to deal with certain social situations and helps them to find their place in society.
For example, Tsitsani et al. Parents of the children who took part in the study found that fairy tales, especially the color in them, triggered their child's imagination as the read them. This unknown fact is what Jung calls the Self, which is the psychic reality of the collective unconscious.
Other famous people commented on the importance of fairy tales, especially for children. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales. The adaptation of fairy tales for children continues. Walt Disney 's influential Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was largely although certainly not solely intended for the children's market. In contemporary literature , many authors have used the form of fairy tales for various reasons, such as examining the human condition from the simple framework a fairytale provides.
A common comic motif is a world where all the fairy tales take place, and the characters are aware of their role in the story,  such as in the film series Shrek. Other authors may have specific motives, such as multicultural or feminist reevaluations of predominantly Eurocentric masculine-dominated fairy tales, implying critique of older narratives. Examples of narrative reversal rejecting this figure include The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch , a picture book aimed at children in which a princess rescues a prince, and Angela Carter 's The Bloody Chamber , which retells a number of fairy tales from a female point of view.
There are also many contemporary erotic retellings of fairy tales, which explicitly draw upon the original spirit of the tales, and are specifically for adults. It may be hard to lay down the rule between fairy tales and fantasies that use fairy tale motifs, or even whole plots, but the distinction is commonly made, even within the works of a single author: George MacDonald's Lilith and Phantastes are regarded as fantasies, while his " The Light Princess ", " The Golden Key ", and "The Wise Woman" are commonly called fairy tales.
The most notable distinction is that fairytale fantasies, like other fantasies, make use of novelistic writing conventions of prose, characterization, or setting. Fairy tales have been enacted dramatically; records exist of this in commedia dell'arte ,  and later in pantomime. The Walt Disney Company has had a significant impact on the evolution of the fairy tale film. Some of the earliest short silent films from the Disney studio were based on fairy tales, and some fairy tales were adapted into shorts in the musical comedy series " Silly Symphony ", such as Three Little Pigs.
Walt Disney 's first feature-length film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs , released in , was a ground-breaking film for fairy tales and, indeed, fantasy in general. Many filmed fairy tales have been made primarily for children, from Disney's later works to Aleksandr Rou's retelling of Vasilissa the Beautiful , the first Soviet film to use Russian folk tales in a big-budget feature. Other works have retold familiar fairy tales in a darker, more horrific or psychological variant aimed primarily at adults. A more modern cinematic fairy tale would be Luchino Visconti's Le Notti Bianche , starring Marcello Mastroianni before he became a superstar.
It involves many of the romantic conventions of fairy tales, yet it takes place in post- World War II Italy , and it ends realistically. These alternative texts were meagre in their imaginative reach, and often strangely aggressive with it — not a patch on the deeply resonant traditional fairy tales with their elves and toads, their forests and rubies and thorns. One of its key twists is that the beauty of its title is a young man. But if I expected her to empathise with my feminist squeamishness, I was misguided.
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But what about all the princesses? Explaining this to a child can help get past the fixation with beauty. Her key advice about reading fairy tales to children is simple: wait. Mythographer and cultural critic Marina Warner made the point in her seminal study, From the Beast to the Blonde, that most fairy tales were not originally intended for children. Besides, as my sister has pointed out, she was raised on exactly the same stories as me and has never once been bothered by princess-y inclinations.
Given that authors from JRR Tolkien to AS Byatt have cited them as essential sources of inspiration, this seems altogether more troubling than any passing phase for flouncy pink frocks that they might inspire in impressionable small girls or boys.
Tempting though it is to blame the fairy tale for the incompleteness of the sexual revolution, it is just one of myriad influences that have conspired to keep generations of women in their place. Meanwhile, my sister has also reminded me that my own best-loved fairy story was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Flaxen-haired and blue-eyed though she be, that bratty, and above all exacting heroine is no princess. Culture Menu. Books Is it time to rewrite fairy tales? Share on Facebook. Share on Twitter. Share on Reddit.
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