Why did George Orwell originally call his novel Animal Farm a "fairy story"?

Expert Answers
vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When it was first published in England in 1945, George Animal’s novel Animal Farm carried the subtitle A Fairy Story. The ironies of this subtitle are various:

  • Fairy tales are usually written for, and read by, children. Orwell’s novel deals with very adult topics indeed.
  • Fairy tales usually deal with imaginary events, but Orwell’s novel is a very obvious historical allegory that deals with the history of the Soviet Union.
  • Fairy tales often have happy endings; this is not the case in Orwell’s book, which is almost entirely grim, from start to finish.
  • Fairy tales often help us forget about “the real world,” if only temporarily. Orwell’s novel, on the other hand, was designed to remind readers constantly of unpleasant realities.
  • In fairy tales, the evil characters are often defeated and even destroyed. Orwell’s novel offers no such consolations.

As John Rodden comments in his book on the novel,

Orwell subtitled Animal Farm "a fairy story," but the subtitle was an ironic joke. He meant that his beast fable was no mere "fairy story," but that it was happening, right then, in Stalin's Russia — and that it could happen anywhere.