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Kristin Bussey

Christina Giarrusso

9/20/16

Fairy Tales as a Genre


ost people are unaware of how impactful fairy tales are in society. Go out into the

streets and ask anyone to name some sort of fairy tale and more often than not everyone can
name at least one fairy tale off the top of their heads. The majority of people have memories of
when their parents would tell them bedtime stories like Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks
and the Three Bears. However, fairytales provide so much more than a fantastical bedtime
story, they can give insight into a culture or even history, and some stories can even be picked
apart in psychology to show the integration of a persons mind typical with the growing up
process found in children. Fairy tales are so important as a genre because they are ingrained
in every culture. These tales, often fantastical, are used throughout multiple cultures to not
only teach morals to children but provide an oral tradition that is passed down from
generation to generation. However, most people dont understand how deep fairy tales can be.
A brief history of fairy tales is quite difficult to truly trace due to the fact that they
are more of an oral work than a written one. There are a few collections of books that compiled
a written format of the oral stories. One of the earliest chroniclers of fairy tales was Charles
Perrault, who in 1697 published a small work of 8 fairy tales that jumpstarted a lot of the

Kristin Bussey

Christina Giarrusso

9/20/16

Fairy Tales as a Genre



recording of fairy tales (Ashliman 2013). Perrault essentially started the movement to begin
compiling fairy tales into a written text form, which allowed more people to enjoy them.
Around 1806 the Brothers Grimm began to collect fairy tales and it was in 1812 that they
published their first compiled work of these tales. By 1818 they had collected over 585 German
fairy tales (Ashliman 2013). Aleksander Afanasev compiled a list of Russian fairytales into a
collection from the years 1855-1864 (Romanchuk, 2015). During this time period many tales
people know of today were recorded down into a text format in order to preserve the oral
tradition in another way. This also served as a way to help fairy tales grow in popularity as
other parts of the world previously unintroduced to fairy tales of different cultures could now
read them and integrate those tales into their own society. It may also be surprising to know,
but fairy tales were not exclusively for children, there are plenty of tales for adults that were
unsuitable for children (Davidson, 2003).
As it is in the present era, fairy tales seem to be gaining in popularity again with all of
the new films and television shows coming out involving fairy tales. There is a television show
called Once Upon a Time and it reworks fairy tales, giving old tales a new spin. It shows how
much todays cultures are taking an interest in taking previously vague tales and fleshing

Kristin Bussey

Christina Giarrusso

9/20/16

Fairy Tales as a Genre



them out into a more psychologized and detail-oriented fashion ("About Once Upon A Time
TV Show Series."). More and more new films are also coming out taking twists on fairy tales,
such as the newest renditions of Snow White and Maleficent. Many of these films, not only
remake the original fairy tales but in the case of Maleficent, will show a new story to an old
tale. Another noticeable change is the fact that fairy tales are also being remade so that they
are geared more towards an adult crowd and focus more on weaving an alternate story than
imparting a moral. The movie Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is based off of the original
fairy tale, picking up on what happened after the two survived the witchs house, but is most
definitely not suited for young children, so in this way some formats of fairy tales have
changed audiences (Bradshaw, 2013).
When looking at fairy tales in terms of a genre it is unlike any other genre around. A
classic convention of fairy tales that everyone knows is how they start and end with key
phrases such as once upon a time and and they lived happily ever after or phrases along
those lines. In many ways these appeal to our ethos because most people can remember hearing
those phrases when they were children. Usually there are talking animals involved, a lack of an
object spurring a quest, repetitions of three, and for every fairy tale told there is a moral to

Kristin Bussey

Christina Giarrusso

9/20/16

Fairy Tales as a Genre



that story. An example of this is the Boy Who Cried Wolf where the moral to that story is
not to lie because when you finally tell the truth nobody will believe you.
What really makes fairy tales interesting is the fact that they can change around
depending on who the audience is and who is narrating the story. In Russian fairy tales most
tellers would memorize the main points of a fairy tale and then make up the rest as they went
on either lengthening or shortening the tale as they went. One example of this is Ivan the Fire
Bird, and the Gray Wolf which has three different versions by three different tellers
(Romanchuk, 2015). All of them have the main points of Ivan attempting to catch this fire
bird but certain details within the story are changed such as the style in which they are told.
It doesnt disrupt the flow of the tale but shows creative license with fairy tales, allowing them
to modernize to an extent (Romanchuk, 2015). By featuring children as the main characters
with mostly absent parents it is a way to introduce pathos since fairy tales were generally told
to children. It gave them a way to connect to the story itself and to pull away the important
lessons. Furthermore, when looking at the element of animals talking, the anthropomorphized
animals guide the story along with actions that they carry out such as shaming, and
misrecognizing the antagonist (Romanchuk, 2015). They are the ones that will help impart a

Kristin Bussey

Christina Giarrusso

9/20/16

Fairy Tales as a Genre



lesson or moral for the story as well as aid the main character as they carry out their task or
test them. Often time there are repetitions of three in fairy tales, in which the character will
often do an action three times, the third being when a new outcome happens. For example, with
Goldilocks, she goes to three bowls of porridge, the first two being too hot or too cold while the
last one is just right.
Fairy tales play important roles not only for the fact that they are more than just
stories. Fairy tales are a shared history among people and a shared ritual that enables people
to teach children morals in an easily relatable manner. From morals to entertainment fairy
tales remain an indispensable part of every culture whether they retain their written form or
are shown upon the silver screen. Fairy tales have always been around and they will continue
to be a part of human society independent of the different forms they may take.

Kristin Bussey

Christina Giarrusso

9/20/16

Fairy Tales as a Genre



Works Cited:
"About Once Upon A Time TV Show Series." ABC. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016.
Ashliman, D. L. "Charles Perrault's Mother Goose Tales." Charles Perrault's Mother Goose
Tales. University of Pittsburgh, 8 June 2013. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.
Ashliman, D. L. "Grimm Brothers' Home Page." Grimm Brothers' Home Page. University of
Pittsburgh, 1 Oct. 2013. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.
<http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm.html#chronology>.
Bradshaw, Peter. "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Review." The Guardian. Guardian News
and Media, 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.
Davidson, Hilda Roderick Ellis., and Anna Chaudhri. "Fairy-tale Motifs from the Caucasus." A
Companion to the Fairy Tale. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2003. 288. Print.
Romanchuk, R. (2015). Composition_Transition [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from
https://campus.fsu.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_6413207
_1&content_id=_7513808_1
Romanchuk, R. (2015). Introduction_Animal Tales [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from
https://campus.fsu.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_6413207
_1&content_id=_7513808_1