If you haven’t noticed yet, I tend to be a very opinionated person. This extends into most areas of my life, and I am of the opinion that my opinions are correct :). However, I want to start with a disclaimer that this article is an opinion, and should not be taken as scholarly, well-researched information about the nature of fairy tales. For that you can look at some of Rachel’s posts on While We’re Paused. That being said, I have opinions about what fairy tales should, and should not, include.
When I speak of fairy tales I am speaking of children’s moral stories (think Brothers Grimm). If it contains a long, complex storyline then it is, in my opinion, not a fairy tale. Similarly, if it is written for adults then it is not a fairy tale. That being said, I think that a fairy tale must fit within a few parameters:
1) A fairy tale must be short (no more than a few pages), and fairly simple (most of my fairy tales have a single, overarching message).
2) A fairy tale must have an important lesson for a child’s future safety and growth (the woods are dangerous, revenge is bad, don’t trust strangers, confidence will get you far, etc).
3) A fairy tale must effectively point its readers in a positive direction. This goes along with teaching an impotant lesson, but it expands that idea. For instance, the lesson of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ is that the woods are a dangerous place, and the positive direction is two-fold: first, that cooperation is a good way to get things done; and second, that home is safe.
4) A fairy tale should be intended primarily for children, but should not be childish in nature. Instead, it should effectively introduce children to important lessons, concepts, and truths of the world in order to prepare them for adulthood, without coddling them from the truths of the world.
These kinds of moral stories hold an important place in the literary world, which sadly seems to be disappearing. While it is not easy to write this kind of fiction, it is important because these stories have been used (literally for centuries) to teach children important lessons for their adult life. While I generally write literature intended for adults, I honestly cannot think of a higher calling, or a more important form of writing than simple moral stories. I just wish I was better at writing them.