What is a (define) fairy tale and what elements are needed to make it a fairy tale?
Outside of the technical definition of format defined above, a fairy tale contains many elements which make it different from other texts.
Differing from the folk tale, which depicts a societies reasoning for why things exist as they do (myth/legends), the fairy tale examines morality. Therefore, a fairy tale's purpose is to educate.
Outside of this, a fairy tale encompasses characteristics typically not found in the real world. Filled with talking animals (personification), symbolism (Red Riding Hood's cape), and imagery (far-off castles and Lewis Carroll type environments, the characters usually shown are ones children tend to idolize and dream about: fairies, gnomes, giants, and trolls.
Given they are not religious by nature, the tale is not criticized based upon its use of witchcraft and the supernatural.
Therefore, the stories, passed down through time by word of mouth (mirroring the Anglo-Saxon epics, and through literature, have stood the test of time. It seems that there has been no other way to use literature to teach morals to the young than the historically famed fairy tale.
A Fairy Tale and its Elements
A story being called a fairy tale means that it is a made up story. It is not meant for you to learn about any true occurrences but there is always a ‘moral’ to the story. For example: ‘The Three Little Pigs’.
The first part of a fairy tale is called the Exposition. The exposition gives a description of a particular time and place. For example: “once upon a time in a land far, far away’.
The second part of a fairy tale is the ‘body’ part of the Story. This is an element of the ‘plot’ which is used to represent the commencement of the conflict and the conflict itself, leading up to the primary actions of the tale. For example: a young princess looking for her prince charming.
The third part is the Perpetia. This is the aforementioned primary action of the tale. This is the part of the tale that mounts the suspense on and on until the climax of the tale is reached.
The fourth part of the fairy tale is the Climax. This is the most intense part of the tale where things really get to ‘popping’ so to speak. This is where the main character finds trouble and normally is comprised of an apparent prediction of the characters demise followed by a difficult to guess solution to the trouble.
The fifth part is called the Dénouement or conclusion. This part is where it is decided if the story will end good or bad for the main character. Will the Princess finally marry or will her Prince be killed at the wedding.
Very unique to Fairy Tales is the finale - the Rite de sortie, which is like a type of ceremony to leave the fairy tale fantasy world. Consider it a transition from a dream back to reality. “And they lived happily ever after”!