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Traditionally fairytales were intended for an adult audience, and were a way of communicating ideas about the issues of everyday life. It was only a matter of time before the appeal of the violent, magical and just world of fairytales drew children in and fairytales are now undoubtedly essential reading material for any growing youngster. So what is it about these fairytales that both children and adults find so fascinating? Young and old alike take great delight in hearing the story of a fairytale, and fairytales have enjoyed constant popularity.
One reason behind fairytales’ longevity is their ability to entertain – whether it be through evil wolves, beautiful princesses, enchanted fish or simply ordinary children. There is something about the notion of a fantasy land, with its mysterious woods, enchanted creatures and gingerbread houses, that makes for a lovely story. Children especially, adore the violent punishment of a fairytale’s antagonist and take joy in the victory of the hero or heroine. More than that, it is the certainty of these events, and the assurance of ‘a happy ending’ that people find so refreshing.
Such sureties do not exist in the real world, and to be taken to a place in which all is just, the good guy always wins and no wrong goes unpunished is a welcome escape from the often cynical, negative and money-motivated society we live in. It is the fantasy of this perfect world that people long and strive for. The familiar structure of a fairytale furthers its appeal. The basic plot, predictability, set structure and repetition inherent in fairytales helps to endear the stories to their audience.
The anonymity of the characters and settings facilitates fairytales’ widespread applicability, making them relevant for a variety of cultures, races and times. As mentioned, fairytales originated with the purpose of dealing with everyday or even controversial issues among adults. Their rationale was to cover these topics, through an easily understood story that would instruct and educate people on a variety of moral issues. The entertainment value of the stories serves to draw in listeners, and then as they listen intently to the stories, the traditional proper moral values of the tales are instilled in them.
People were, and still very much are, able to relate to the decisions and actions of the characters in the fairytales. Greed, lust, love, jealousy and more are all dealt with in the fairytales. While dealing with issues affecting people in everyday life, the tales are disguised by a thin veneer of metaphor and magic which removes them from the immediate world, making them universal in tone. What is so remarkable about the stories is that people from all age groups are able to identify with them, and are able to see the moral message of the story.