The Orgin of Fairy Tales


Joslyn Rico, Writer

What we now know as fairytales started thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt. As an example of just how old they are one of the oldest dated fairytales “The Smith and the Devel” dates to about 1300 B.C. We all know the common fairytales that Disney has adapted like “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Little Mermaid”.  But most of those happy, funny, family friendly stories have very dark origins. But that is a different article. Today we are focusing on the term itself.

What is a fairy tale?

Two people’s opinion on what a fairytale is are as follows “A fairy tale is a poetic presentation of a spiritual truth” – Unknown. “Undine is a fairytale”-George Macdonald. The technical definition of a fairytale is a story, usually they are intended for children. Mostly they involve creatures like goblins, wizards, elves but not necessarily fairies. They are often traditional, passed down by word of mouth before they were ever recorded in books. It is called a fairytale not because it has fairies in it but because of there magical setting and influences.

Where did the word “fairy” come from?

According to Thomas Keightly in fairy Mythology the word fairy comes from the Latin prefix “fatum” which translates in English to “to enchant”. In French fee, and feerie translates to “illusion”. The French word “fee” and the Italian word “fata” both mean “a woman skilled in magic” fays who had the power of enchantment and charms and knew the power of words. A fairy is used in four senses. 1) Illusion and enchantment. 2)Abode of the fees, the country of the fays. 3) Inhabitants collectively, the people of fairy land. 4) Individual in fairyland.

The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen

The brothers Grimm Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) are probably the most well-known fairytale authors of all time. They wrote the classics like “Cinderella”, “The Frog Prince”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Rapunzel”, “Rumpelstiltskin”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White”.  Their father’s death in 1796 Jacob became financially responsible for his mother, Wilhelm, and his young siblings. Following the brothers Grimm,  Hans Christian Anderson was probably the second most famous author. Born in 1805 and died in 1875 he wrote “The Little Mermaid”, and “The Snowqueen”, which was later adapted into “Frozen”.