When we hear the words fairy tale, we often think of Hans Christian Anderson, Lewis Carroll, and, of course, the Brothers Grimm but do we ever think of Chaucer? Do we think of Keats? I didn’t. In this way, my exposure to this genre is very limited.
As we begin to explore various fairy tales, we will notice that not all of these stories feature fairies. They are, instead, stories that contain magic. They are stories where the unusual happens. In addition, the fairies that do appear may not be what we expected (small and sprightly). We will also see that many of these stories are alive – having been passed down through the generations and altered along the way until finally being canonized once printing became standard.
Notice the reverence that many great authors have for this genre. Charles Dickens noted,
“It would be hard to estimate the amount of gentleness and mercy that has made its way among us through these slight channels. Forbearance, courtesy, consideration for the poor and aged, kind treatment of animals, the love of nature, abhorrence of tyranny and brute force – many such things have been first nourished in the child’s heart by this powerful aid.”
[ref] Tatar, Maria. “The Classic Fairy Tales: Texts, Criticism.” The Classic Fairy Tales: Texts,
Criticism, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2017, pp. xv-xv. [/ref]
This is a bold statement and likely only partially true depending on which stories you are reading. Nevertheless, through these words we can see the importance that was placed on this genre of writing.