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fairy tales


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


Stories about fairies or, more generally, the fantastic; incredible or imaginative tales of fantasy, often involving familiar, archetypal characters and motifs, that have been woven into the fabric of a culture's memory. The fairy tale has had a long and colorful life, migrating from the communal fireside, to the salons of the elite, to the nursery, to the psychologist's couch, and finally returning to the modern fireside equivalent, the big screen. Defining the literary genre of fairy tale and deciding what falls under its categorization has been a continual source of frustration for scholars, as has been distinguishing the term “fairy tale” from its older sibling, the equally elusive “folk tale.” In general, it is agreed that the folk tale has strictly oral origins, while the fairy tale has evolved as a written genre, planting its roots – albeit tentatively – in the literary. However, despite this recognized alliance with the written, the origins of many fairy tales can be seen as progeny of an earlier oral tradition, most often in cultures where storytelling figured largely as a community's vehicle for educational and moral instruction, for the preservation and transmission of its cultural history, and as a source of entertainment. Often literary fairy tales were reworkings of a prior, oral form, drawing on well known motifs, plots, and characters in an effort to create a more ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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