For children, fairy tales are an initiation into a world of fantasy and possibilities. These are spectacular stories of mythical creatures like dragons, elves, witches, and fairies. While fairy tales have brought joy and fascination to children around the world, they have also taught them important lessons about life.
As a rule, most fairy tales have happy endings. A classic fairy tale will start with “Once upon a time…” and end with “… happily ever after.” In the world of fairy tales, most everyone ends up living happily ever after. Our culture loves happy endings, and fairy tales give singles hope that we will find our "happily ever after" as well.
Some fairy tales actually began as myths about gods in various cultures. As they evolved, they began to include more magical elements and fewer religious overtones. These fairy tales are passed down through generations as they are told to children who, in turn, tell their children. Some have survived because they were written and then translated into other languages. In this way, fairy tales spread to other countries and cultures. Sometimes the stories are altered to give them a more local flavor and relevance. This is why there are different versions of the same fairy tales all over the world.
Fairy tales differ by culture. Celtic and Norse fairy tales tend to revolve around their warrior culture, and usually tell tales of epic battles. Asian fairy tales often include animals that are sacred in their culture, such as tigers and dragons. Native American fairy tales typically have a theme of harmony with nature.
Regardless of culture, many fairy tales have common themes. Tales like Beauty and the Beast and The Ugly Duckling show that beauty is only skin deep, and that inner beauty is most important. The Tortoise and the Hare and Race Among the Animals teach that pride is a dangerous thing that should be kept under control. The Brave Little Tailor and many Celtic myths teach that you should always have courage, even when you’re afraid.
Most fairy tales have strong themes that center around romance, dating, and other aspects of love. Many have single female characters who want to find their true love and fall in love with a gallant prince – Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty feature princes who come to the rescue of the princess. In both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the only thing that can wake the princess from a deep sleep is a kiss from her prince charming. After that kiss, the prince will marry the girl and they live happily ever after for the rest of their lives.
Below you'll find resources on popular fairy tales from various cultures.
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