Fairy Tales Elements

What are the elements of Fairy Tales?

As with folktales, fairy tales have an oral tradition, and they usually take place long ago.

There are several elements present in most of these stories that identify them as part of the genre of fairy tales:

Special beginning and/or ending words:


Usually, there is no specified time in fairytales, because the majority of fairytales begin with "Once upon a time" or "Thousands of years ago" or "Long long ago."


The setting is also a bit vague. For example, it may be "a far away land" or "a dense forest" or "an old castle."


The characters in fairytales are usually not well-developed. They are usually identified by physical appearance or personality traits (e.g. beauty, ugliness, wickedness, kindness, handsomeness, nobility, laziness, wisdom). Action usually takes precedence over character development.

Good character

Beautiful/Kind Heroine

a. often an orphan

b. often poor or persecuted

c. often associated with royalty (Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Princess and the Pea, etc)

Handsome/Brave Hero

a. usually the youngest

b. often associated with royalty (Frog Prince, Prince Charming, etc)

Typically the willingness to sacrifice the self for the greater good is seen as the most important defining characteristic of a hero.

Evil character

The Villain

a. Witch (Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel)

b. evil stepmother/wicked sisters (Cinderella, Snow White)

c. dragon

d. ogre

e. wolf (The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood)

f. giant (Jack and the Beanstalk, )

Like stepmothers and witches. A villain is an "evil" character in a story, whether an historical narrative or, especially, a work of fiction. The villain is the bad guy or heavy, the characters who strive against the hero. A female villain is sometimes called a villainess.

Royalty elements

Kingdoms, Queens, Kings, Princess, Prince, Knights and/or a castle usually present


a. usually have the ability to talk (three pigs, frog prince, big bad wolf, puss in boots, etc)
b. usually aids the protagonist (Puss in boots)
c. cats, wolves, birds appear most frequently

Nameless characters (archetypal characters)

Usually the family members of the main characters do not have names, signifying that they are "Everyman." They are usually known as "father," "mother," " "king," "stepmother”, "queen," or "stepsister."


It happens throughout fairies or magic items. Magic and sorcery are the influencing of events, objects, people and physical phenomena by mystical, paranormal or supernatural means. The most widely-known example is probably the spell that Cinderella's Fairy Godmother uses to turn a pumpkin into a coach. An enchantment with negative characteristics is usually instead referred to as a curse.

Enchantement: o be enchanted

It is to be under the influence of an enchantment, usually thought to be caused by charms or spells. In traditional fairy tales or fantasy fiction, an enchantment is a magical spell that is attached, on a relatively-permanent basis, to a specific person, object or location (like an enchanted forest), and alters its qualities, generally in a positive way.

Happy ending

Fairytales end happily, usually in a marriage. A happy ending is an ending of the plot of a work of fiction in which most everything turns out for the best for the hero or heroine, their sidekicks, and just about everyone but the villains. This is epitomized in the standard fairy tale ending phrase, "happily ever after" or "and they lived happily ever after." Satisfactory happy endings are happy for the reader as well, in that the characters he or she sympathizes with are rewarded

Things often happen in "threes" or "sevens" like..


The Three Little Pigs
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
The Three Bears
The three brothers in "Puss in Boots" (the youngest is the main character)
The three sisters in "Cinderella" (2 stepsisters and Cinderella")
The three sons in "The Golden Goose" (the youngest, "Dullhead," is main character); there are also three daughters in the story


Snow White and The Seven dwarves
The Seven Foals
The Story of the Seven Simons

Characters’ description


A dwarf is a short, stocky humanoid creature in Norse mythology as well as other Germanic mythologies, fairy tales, fantasy fiction and role-playing games. Dwarves are much like humans, but generally prefer to live underground and/or in mountainous areas. Some literature and games ascribe to dwarves the ability to see in the dark and other adaptations for living underground. Here they have accumulated treasures of gold, silver, and precious stones, and pass their time in fabricating costly weapons and armor. They are famed miners and smiths although, like humans, they specialize in any number of trades. Generally shorter than humans, they are on average stockier and hairier, usually sporting full beards. Though slow runners and poor riders, dwarves are said to be excellent warriors and defenders of their strongholds.


An elf is a mythical creature of Germanic mythology and Germanic paganism which still survives in northern European folklore.
Elves are often pictured as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty living in forests and underground places, or in wells and springs.
They have been portrayed to be long-lived or immortal and as beings of magical powers.
Poor little birdie teased, by Victorian era illustrator Richard Doyle depicts the traditional view of an elf from later
English folklore as a diminutive woodland humanoid.


A fairy (also faery, faerie, færie or fae; collectively wee folk, good folk, people of peace and other euphemisms) is a spirit or supernatural being that is found in the legends, folklore, and mythology of many cultures. Fairies are generally described as humanoid in appearance and as having magical powers


The mythology and legends of many different cultures include mythological creatures/monsters of human appearance but prodigious size and strength. "Giant" is the English word commonly used for such beings, derived from one of the most famed example: the gigantes of Greek mythology.


A goblin is an evil or merely mischievous creature of folklore, often described in as a grotesquely disfigured or gnome-like phantom, which may range in height from that of a dwarf to that of a human. They are attributed with various (sometimes conflicting) abilities, temperaments and appearances depending on the story and country of origin

Talking animals:

The talking animal or speaking animal term, in general, refers to any form of animal which can speak human languages.
Fictional talking animals often are anthropomorphic, possessing human-like qualities but appearing as another animal. The usage of talking animals enables storytellers to combine the basic characteristics of the animal with human behavior: for example in the Three Little Pigs, the supposed animal rapacity of the wolf is shown through its repeated tricking of the three pigs. Other examples include Little Red Riding Hood and the Bremen Town Musicians.


A troll is a fearsome member of a mythical anthropomorphic race from Scandinavia. Their role ranges from fiendish giants – similar to the ogres of England – to a devious, more human-like folk of the wilderness, living underground in hills, caves or mounds.


A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft. While mythological witches are often supernatural creatures, historically many people have been accused of witchcraft, or have claimed to be witches.

Often, fairy tales are disguised morality tales. This is true for the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale Collection, and many of the dead-pan social criticism beneath the surface of Hans Christian Andersen's tales.

Working with a Fairy Tale a month programme, or you can incorporate them into your monthly units.

For example while working the fairy tale the Ugly Duckling you can work letter U, colour yellow and white, ducks and duckling, baby animals, family relationships, farm animals, swans, feelings…

If you are working with Hansel and Gretel you can teach pairs, numeral 2, family relationships, sweets, nutrition, letter H and G, manners, feelings

Or in the case of Pinocchio honesty, letter P, colour brown, carpenter, school, toys, body parts

You have to work on Fairy Tales as many different formats as possible: pocket charts, big books, interactive posters, magnetic boards, flannel boards, word walls, prop boxes, tapes with the stories, flashcards, books, movies…

Be sure to check out all my posts for Fairy Tales

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