Faerie Tale Friday

Faerie Tale Friday: History and Purpose of Faerie Tales

Hello Fellow Make Believers!

Today I wanted to touch a little on the history and purpose of Faerie Tales. Where do they come from? Why were they created? What do they entail? Faerie Tales are one of the oldest forms of story telling, and most have been re-written so many times that we may never know their true origins or meanings.


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What is a Faerie Tale?

Faerie tales (Märchen in German, meaning Wonder Tale) are stories that usually involve magic and/or magical beings such as witches, unicorns, faeries, trolls, dwarves, etc.  Faerie tales often contain some sort of moral lesson, and often times have “happy endings.” A faerie tale can be differentiated from a “legend” because of the “make believe” or unreal aspects of the story.

Most classic faerie tales originated in Europe (though many originated in other countries thousands of years ago) and were told in oral form. Back then, faerie tales were not placed in their own genre. A faerie tale could be known by the qualities noted above, and by the notable use of the beginning phrase “once upon a time.” During the Renaissance period, writers such as Basile, and Straparola, began marking out the genre by writing and collecting tales. These tales were made more well known by collectors Charles Perrault, and the Grimm Brothers. It was Madame d’Aulnoy who invented the term Conte de fée, or fairy tale in the 17th century.

Faerie tales, despite popular belief, were actually intended as entertainment for adults. Original faerie tales, and most notably the Brother’s Grimm tales (which were re-written upon complain that they weren’t suitable for children), were actually quite gruesome and horrific. Most retellings, and the Disney versions, were adapted to be more child friendly. Though, it was widely known that servants, and women of lower class, often told these tales to their children, sometimes to scare them in to behaving.

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Interesting Videos on Faerie Tales:

You can skip to about 1:30 if you don’t wish to see the credits.

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Do you have anything to add to what makes a faerie tale? My opinion is that the magic elements, the moral lesson, and the happy ending definitely make a faerie tale.

Do you think faerie tales were meant for children? To me, it’s obvious that they weren’t initially. The only reason I could see for telling them to children was to scare them and teach them lessons.

Do you have any extra tidbits I missed? I am constantly finding out new facts about faerie tales and would love to continue to learn more!


Picture found on Pinterest.

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19 thoughts on “Faerie Tale Friday: History and Purpose of Faerie Tales

  1. This is a wonderful post! I am a huge fan of faerie tales and their retellings. This will sound strange but I do believe that most of the faerie tales we have heard growing up might have a nugget of truth in them, considering how widespread they were over many regions. I’d also like to add to your point about the origins of faerie tales: I think we believe they mostly came from Europe simply because for many, many generations, Western culture have always dominated media. You did mention that there are faerie tales that come from all regions of the world–but I think the reason we don’t know about those stories much are because of how underrepresented non-white cultures are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that idea of the nugget of truth. I’d honestly like to believe that, but it would make them more of legends than faerie tales, unless you consider the moral lessons as the nuggets of truth. But it could be that travelers picked up on the stories, which is why they spread around and seem like they have something in common. I also agree that the non-white cultures are underrepresented, but I also think we haven’t heard much about more of them because they weren’t written down and collected as much like the European tales were (could also be that they didn’t contain the magical elements and were considered more folk tales than faerie tales). I have been trying to find faerie tale retellings from other cultures to read for Faerie Tale Friday, and the only ones I know of are A Thousand Nights and The Wrath and the Dawn, but all I can find about those is that they are retellings based on a COLLECTION of Arabian faerie tales, so I am having trouble pinning down the one tale they are based off of. Other than those (which are supposed to be based off the same story), I don’t have any other cultural faerie tales lines up, and really need to find some.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yeah I have read both A Thousand Nights and Wrath And The Dawn (highly recommend the former; I hated the latter because the MC in Wrath and The Dawn was just so annoying). Those books are not really a retelling of 1001 Nights/The Arabian Nights (which are, as you said, a collection of Arabian faerie tales) but rather they are retellings of the legend of Queen Scheherazade, a woman who supposedly collected these stories and told them to a psychopath and misogynist king to cure him of his hatred towards women and make him realize that not all women are backstabbing and unfaithful wives. Disturbing, I know, but the legendary queen herself was one brave, intelligent and sassy woman.

        I can’t speak of other cultures, but I do know for a fact that faerie tales from the Indian subcontinent consist entirely of magical elements, and have also been written down and collected as those originating from Europe have been. BUT unfortunately for us, they haven’t been promoted in the international media. Ever. In fact, I don’t think those books have even been translated in English–I certainly have not been able to find any and I have been looking for their translations in English for years so I could recommend them to non-Indians/non-Bangladeshis/non-Pakistanis. And though underrepresentation of non-white cultures is part of the reason, the lack of efforts from the literary community in our region is also to blame. It really is a shame–I am sure you would have loved those stories if you got the chance to read them.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. O…M…G!!! Thank you for that information!! That is not only extremely fascinating to learn, but is super helpful in my research for when I read those books! So, then, do you think those tales count as faerie tales? Do they have any magic to them?

        It is a shame, isn’t it? We are missing out on so many great stories. I wish there was a way to find some of those and translate them to read them and share them.


      3. Same! I do think many of the stories from 1001 Arabian Nights count as faerie tales because of the magical elements in them. Plus many of them feature djinns and ifrits which are basically the Arabian/Islamic equivalent of faeries!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an awesome post! I think you’re right about fairy tales being more for adults, at least initially- I hope so anyway, because yeah some are pretty gruesome! In fact I’m not always a huge fan of them for that reason. But they are so interesting especially some of them are so old!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, I am loving getting to know the original tales, and their origins, because it is quite interesting to learn about how dark they were compared to the modern day retellings. Are there any retellings that you love?


  3. I loved reading fairy retellings but I’ve found many of them to be based on the Andersen or Grimm works. In spite of these retellings having a twist, I still wish there could be more racial diversity in the fairytales.

    Women Who Run With the Wolves was an amazing find! Although it required a lot of attention and is sort of like a “self-help” book it was so worth the read. The author, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, provides us with so many different fairy tales and discusses them around women empowerment via the wild women archetype.

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    1. I honestly think we know those the best because it was the easiest route. The Grimm Brothers did all the work of collecting the tales, and Anderson wrote a bunch on his own, so a lot of them are already there in those volumes where we didn’t have to look too hard to find them. I would like more diversity in fairy tales too, though.

      I will have to look that one up because one of the videos in this post mentioned that a lot of faerie tales came from women trying to bring issues to light or make fun of the situations men had forced them in in that time period.


  4. I absolutely love folklore. Love this post! I was told many creepy folk tales as a kid and they mesmerized me. Probably the opposite of what they were supposed to do! I really wanted to find Baba Yaga and befriend her haha!

    Liked by 1 person

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