Why may The Rose and the Ring be called a classical European fairy-tale? 

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fairy-tales usually involve all the elements of fantasy with familiar mythical characters like mermaids, goblins, elves and giants or items like rings, flowers, wands or gold and so on. There is always a deceitful, evil or threatening character who often forces the main characters to face their own fears, and a good fairy with no limitations to her powers. There is usually a very straightforward story-line which is complicated only by the erratic actions of the characters and the story unfolds quickly with the characters often revealing the conflict early in the story. The ending of the tale is always in favor of the greater good which has resulted in the well-known phrase, "a fairy-tale ending" when referring to positive and often romantic outcomes in real-life. 

The Rose and the Ring by William Makepeace Thakeray is a blend of satire which amuses adult audiences. The typical stock characters or archtypes which children easily relate to such as a Fairy (Fairy Blackstick), a deceitful king, an indulgent and flippant queen and others all lend themselves easily to the typical fairy-tale setting. Thakeray himself calls it a "Fireside Pantomime" designed to amuse a group of children shortly before Christmas in 1854 where-after it was published. 

Thakeray uses tongue-in-cheek humor as fairy-tales often do and in this tale the fairy has a crisis of conscience as to whether her deeds are in fact doing any good. She invokes a familiar fairy-tale when she considers her role in life and a previous deed that she has done and with which all readers are guaranteed to relate when she says, "What good am I doing by sending this Princess to sleep for a hundred years?..." suggesting that she is THE fairy from all fairy-tales (and specifically Sleeping Beauty). Even the title is similar to the Sleeping Beauty tale of The Little Briar Rose. The Fairy Blackstick then decides to use her magic wand only as a cane for walking so as to avoid any further involvement in other people's lives.

Typical fairy-tales always require the interference or intervention of the fairy to save the day. The fairy is also a person not to be toyed with or she may use her powers for her own fickle purposes such as the Fairy Blackstick who has turned Gruffanuff into a door-knob during an obstinate moment when she is refused access to the princess's christening (reference Sleeping Beauty again and an upset fairy).  

The end of this fairy-tale does not disappoint as the good fairy substitutes her wand for a coach and footmen which is obviously Cinderella-like. There is much joy and even Gruffanuff, the doorknob is turned back into a person and the fairy leaves the scene, having resolved all the issues. Thakeray's tone and style ensure a classic approach and a light-hearted response to his tale.  

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