Fairy tales, hmm?

by nadihavb

When I was in Portugal not too long ago I went to a bookstore which is might be one of the most famous ones among us, the bookstore where a part of the Harry Potter movies was filmed. I shall not bother you with my obsession on old book smells, which were amazing in that bookstore, but I’d rather tell you about a book that made me change my mindset on a certain subject.

Hans Christians Andersen ‘Best fairy tales’ by the collectors library is one of the best books I’ve read lately. It made me revisit my childhood thoughts on fairy tales or maybe better called fables. Nowadays we tell children fairy tales which are actually a kind of moral fable set in a parallel world. However many generations before ours the term fairy tale did not necessarily meant a story containing fairies, romances or a happy outcome. Here lies the difference with the fairy tales from our generation, our fairy tales have ‘a happily ever after’ and always contain a moral or a kind of social values. The stories we now a days consider as fairy tales derive from stories passed on by generations of storytelling.

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are quite different than the modern ‘fairy tales’, the stories he wrote do not necessarily contain a moral or a ‘happy’ ending. This made me think about the mixed up use of the terms fairy tales and fables. This made me do a quick internet search for the words ‘fables’ and ‘fairy tales’.

Fable – A short tale to teach a moral lesson, often with animals or inanimate objects as characters; a story not founded on fact often about supernatural or extraordinary persons or incidents; legends or myths; an untruth

Fairy tale – A story, usually for children, about elves, hobgoblins, dragons, fairies, or other magical creatures.

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com

I might be the only one who is confused by the change in meaning in terminology in a period of 400 years. I understand that in this huge difference in time brings along changes, revolutions, change of speaking and language but I don’t understand how such significant terms can be ‘reversed’ in meaning. Fairy tales might always be meant for children, particularly when romanticized, but they weren’t made to contain a moral or social values. But still every movie or book I saw or read, the fairy tales contained a moral or a life lesson to learn or to be considered for us children. It seems that these fairy tales (or sprookjes in Dutch) collided with the fables.

The point I am trying to make is might not be really interesting in everyday life, but it is once you read old stories or books in which these differences in terms still matter. I have to confess that a smile crossed my face while reading the stories of Hans Christian Andersen but at the same time I realized that I am (considered as, haha) an adult, and that I would never read one of these stories to an child for entertainment without romanticizing it A LOT.

When I told this to my parents at dinner tonight my father sighed, shook  his head, smiled and turned back to watch tv again, he gets used to me wondering about these kinds of things hahaha. My mother however was interested and told me that I should not forget about the influence the brothers Grimm might have had. Maybe when I have more time or my thoughts keep wondering about this subject I will look in to their influence on the matter but for today my mind wondered enough!

Ciao Nadine!