What is the difference between fairy tales in general and "The Rocking-Horse Winner"?I know that the rocking horse winner and fairy tales have certain similarities, but what differences do they have?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a lot of similarities between fairy tales and "The Rocking-Horse Winner," but it is good to note their differences also.  Fairy tales usually have a really horrible, clear-cut antagonist or bad guy/girl.  There's an evil witch, there's demons and ghouls, and in "The Rocking-Horse Winner," there is no such obviously evil and creepy villian.  The villian instead is a metaphorical or symbolic one, and that is greed.  Paul's mother is also cold and remote, prompting Paul to unhealthy actions.

Another difference is in the actual settings.  Fairy tales are typically set in some fantasy land of castles and magic, or in times long, long ago.  "The Rocking-Horse Winner" is set in what could be modern times, today.  There are no castles, no trolls, no magical fairies and knights; it's just a modern, average family in an average lifestyle.

Also, consider the ending--fairy tales are classically wrapped up with the famous line, "And they lived happily ever after," and the main protagonist of the story does not die.  He or she lives, finds total and complete happiness and love, and their lives are bliss.  This is definitely not the case with Paul; his journey kills him.  He does not ever truly gain the love he seeks from his mother, he does not quiet the haunting voices in the house, and does not live happily ever after.  The pursuit of money and luck kills him. There's no magical apple, or princess that can revive him with a kiss.  He's gone, and the story ends very sadly on that note.

I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

pepsinable | Student
  1. Though “The Rocking Horse Winner,” is very similar to fairy tales, its differences, however, are significant. Firstly, the characters in fairly tales are normally very "flat" characters as they are undeveloped and are not explored psychologically in any way. This is certainly not true of the mother. The mother is described in great detail, especially her lack of love for her children and her greed. Likewise, Paul’s introduction comes along with how he processes the voices that echo around the house, “there must be more money,” (307) equating money with luck, enabling readers to understand why Paul sets on his self-destructive course - to gain his mother's affection in a way that he is unable to do normally. The other major difference is the ending. There is no "happy ending" given in this tale. Instead, it is a tragedy, allowing the author to reinforce his central message. As the mother is left with the consequences of her greed, the readers recognise the evils of materialism and how it can literally rip apart relations and families.
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The Rocking-Horse Winner

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