Fairy tales have come in for a lot of criticism in recent years. Written in another time, people now have the tendency to critically look at the stories and characters with a degree of unease.
If you pay attention, there’s a lot of not-so-subtle stereotyping going on in a lot of them.
The stories of witches and wizards, magic and monsters, handsome princes and beautiful damsels in distress that once captured our imagination are now not quite as politically correct as many would like.
Many modern fairy tales (or Disney films) have worked hard at becoming more inclusive, but whilst these new stories inspire and amaze new generations of children, the old stories still live on.
They form a very important part of our childhoods. They’re one of the first things our parents read to us and one of the first things we read ourselves. They entered our dreams and they’ve become imprinted in our memories.
I’m guessing a lot of adults are able to re-tell most classic fairy tales without re-reading or prompting.
If you ask me, that’s what makes fairy tales amazing. They’re still around because they give us memories to cherish, and that’s how stories get retold.
You probably have your own favourite fairy tale, something your parents read to you or something you watched as a child. Some fairy tales certainly stand out above all others, and some are more famous than others.
In this listicle, I’ve picked 10 of the most famous fairy tales ever written for you to reconnect with and enjoy once more.
So, whatever your point of view, without further ado (and in no particular order) …
Beauty and the Beast
A favourite and mine, and probably yours too. Beauty and the Beast is a classic tale of romance, love and magic. A prince cursed to live as a terrifying beast takes a clockmaker captive and his daughter, Belle, takes his place to save his life. This turns out to be the beast’s saving grace. Love is the catalyst to change him and break his spell, but at what cost?
The children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) were the basis for the hit Disney film Pinocchio, released in 1940. This is perhaps the most famous fairy tale in the world, about a little boy who wishes the wooden puppet he made could become a real boy. He wishes it upon a falling star. The story is absolute magic - and a must for any bed time ritual.
Peter Pan is a fairy tale known the world over. It was created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie, about a free-spirted and mischievous boy who flies and never grows up. The tale has been adapted many times in writing and film, but the stories nearly always take place in the mythical and magical world of Neverland.
Folk tales don’t come more famous than Cinderella, the story of a young woman who lives in unfortunate circumstances. The best-known modern version is Disney’s, in which Cinderella is forced to live with her cruel stepmother after her father dies. An invitation to a palace ball reveals a magical fairy god mother, who changes Cinderella’s stars.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so that I may climb thy golden stair!” is the most famous folk tale quote. The tale itself is part of a collection by the Grimm Brothers, created in 1812. When a child, Rapunzel, turns 12 years old, an evil witch named Dame Gothel locks her away in a one-room tower. Her saviour? A charming price - but freedom isn’t so simple.
Sleeping Beauty is a classic fairy tale about love. An evil witch curses Princess Aurora to die on her 16th birthday. The ingenuity of Princess Aurora’s fairies ensures she only falls into a deep sleep, saving her life. But the only way she can wake up is if Prince Phillip, her one true love, kisses her. Trouble is, Maleficent has him locked away!
Snow White is a German fairy tale published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm. Most children today will know the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, first produced in film by Walt Disney. This fairy tale is a classic, in which a jealous queen orders the murder of her beautiful your stepdaughter, Snow White.
Little Red Riding Hood
The story of a little girl who wore a red riding cloak and the Big Bad Wolf is world-famous. This tale can be traced back as far as the 10th century, so it’s by far and away the oldest here! It’s a tale of caution and a lesson for young children to never trust strangers. It’s also a frightening story for little ones, recommended for 6+.
Jack and the Beanstalk
Jack and the Beanstalk, or "The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean", has everything. Magic, castles and a big, bad giant. It’s been adapted many times over the years but always has Jack trade his family’s last cow for three magical beans. He plants the beans and in wonderment, sees the stalk grow up far above the clouds. What could be up there?
Hansel and Gretel
We end with the most famous fairy tale of them all, Hansel and Gretel. In this tale, two children (Hansel, Gretel) are left in the woods by their poor family during a famine to fend for themselves. They’re captured by a witch who intends to eat them, but she’s got to fatten them up first! Thankfully, Gretel outsmarts the witch before she can cook them.
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