An Introduction to Fairy Tales

Categories: Fairy Tale

For generations, children have engrossed themselves in the enchanted world of Fairy Tales. Kids have imagined their journeys through kingdoms where fairy godmothers, witches, and talking animals roam. Fairy Tales seem to be an indispensable part of growing up for almost every young child. Some Fairy Tales have remained popular among children for hundreds of years without being forgotten. Fairy Tales greatly impact children's development, both how they act as kids, and how they turn out later in life. Fairy Tales, as with most aspects of pop culture, greatly affect the way people think and act.

Fairy Tales have been told for many different reasons. Jack Zipes, a professor of German and one of the leading folklorists in the world, says that, "It has been assumed that Fairy Tales were first created for children and are largely the domain of children. Nothing could be farther from the truth" (1).

Most Fairy Tales were written with adults in mind, and later adopted for children.

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Many tales involve imaginary characters and situations make them appealing to children, although the violence and adult themes are still part of the story when read to children. Zipes once said, From the Beginning, thousands of years ago, when tales were told to create communal bonds in the face of inexplicable forces of nature, to the present, when Fairy Tales are written and told to provide hope in a world seemingly on the brink of catastrophe, mature men and women have been the creators and cultivators of the Fairy-tale tradition.

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Adults, who cannot accurately tell what affect their writing will have, create these children's stories. Percy B. Green, author of a book on the History of Nursery Rhymes, says that, "Amongst the true historians of mankind the children of our streets find a place" (xvi).

The authors of Fairy Tales are historians; their writing shows us many things about our culture. Both the culture of the author when he wrote it, and the people that continue to read it. The fact that children of today still read Cinderella shows that this society still places a great value on physical beauty and the women's reliance on men. Anthropologist John Lubbock was once quoted as saying, "Even among civilized peoples we find traces of former barbarism." Fairy Tales show can show us how uncivilized we once were, and how uncivilized we continue to be. If a person were to tell their child that a wolf had eaten his or her grandmother, and that the child had better watch out or suffer the same fate, the person would be ostracized for striking fear in a child. Yet thousands, possibly millions, of kids are still reading Little Red Riding Hood, where a girl's grandmother eaten by a wolf.

No one thinks twice about letting their child come in contact with Fairy Tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Hansel and Gredel where violence is rampant. There are many reasons kids are attracted to Fairy Tales, Jack Zipes says, "When introduced to Fairy Tales, children welcome them mainly because the stories nurture their great desire for change and independence" (1). All children want to be grown up, they pretend to be every day. When children imagine themselves in Fairy Tale situations they feel in charge and therefore adult-like. Many children are also intrigued by the violence in the stories.

Rollo May, a former psychology professor at both Harvard and Princeton, says, But if 'violence is so evil,' why is it so essential to this novella as well as to many other classics of literature? There must be something about some violence that meets a need in human beings, something that cannot be wholly 'bad.' This something must be in Grimm's Fairy-Tales, in Shakespeare's plays, and in the dramas by Aeschylus and Sophocles" (170). May rationalizes the violence in literature as a way for people to be brought, "face to face with his own mortality. (171)

May says that people need to think about death and dying, and that violence in literature helps them come to cope with it. It may be fine for adults to think about these types of things, but these topics can damage the fragile minds of children. William Ecenbarger, a Journalist for the Chicago Tribune, gives another reason for kids being attracted to Fairy Tales, "As ancient people from widely different cultures sought to make sense of the world, they devised explanatory stories, and these stories bear remarkable similarities from one culture to another, even though there is no way there could have been any exchange of information from one group to another" (21). All people of all races and creeds need to make sense of the world. Fairy Tales can help people explain what they can't comprehend. Stith Thompson, a Professor of Folklore, points out that, "Curiosity about the past has always brought eager listeners to tales of long ago which supply the simple man with all he knows of the history of his folk" (596). Children, who haven't had time to become sufficiently educated, have little knowledge of the past. Fairy Tales, some written many years ago, can give children a look into the past.

There are many reasons that children would be interested in Fairy Tales, and the reasons for reading theses stories varies from child to child. The stories have significant effects on children, as well as adults, who are the main authors of Fairy Tales for children. As adults are current members of the society and children are its future inhabitants, Fairy Tales greatly influence our society. Children have the unrealistic images of certain Fairy Tales imbedded into their heads before they can tell the difference between the real world and that of make believe. Young children cannot comprehend the idea of make-believe. What young children take in early in life will greatly affect them later on, for better or worse. Some adult sex offenders have histories of being molested as a young child. In the same respect, some schizophrenic adults have read stories of fantasy at a young and sensitive age, only to have these delusions reflected later in their life.

What people see early in life can, and will, affect them later in life. The images of make believe that young children get from fairy tales can come back later in life to haunt them. Some people's desire to use psychedelic drugs can be linked to child hood experiences. Some drug users say they use drugs to fell young and helpless again, just as they did as a child. Just as some club drug users carry pacifiers to create this feeling, the experience of seeing make believe images from their youth will help them reach this illusion of childhood.

Children have the unrealistic images of certain Fairy Tales imbedded into their heads before they can tell the difference between the real world and that of make believe. A two-year-old listener of the tales believes in them, he or she cannot comprehend the difference between the world of Snow White and the world they live in. Fairy Tales should not be censored, but rather used as an example for kids. If the tales are read to children in a way that points out the fallacies and shortcomings of the story, that children will benefit. Parents should point out to their kids that there is no big bad wolf and that external beauty doesn't always matter. Children can take away great lessons from the tales, as long as they are told in a thoughtful way. Parents need to point out that Prince Charming thinks Cinderella has a nice personality and make fairy tales seem moral anyway possible.

Updated: Apr 19, 2023
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An Introduction to Fairy Tales. (2022, Dec 13). Retrieved from

An Introduction to Fairy Tales essay
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