Happily, Ever After—How Fairy Tales Came To Be

Posted by Tom Oryan on February 1, 2021

Once upon a time…or I guess, just the other day, I was re-reading some of my favorite fairy tales and I started to wonder, where do fairy tales come from? And why do they exist? Well, I did a little research, and it turns out fairy tales have some pretty interesting origins. 

Most fairy tales were started as cautionary tales that parents passed down to their children in 15th century Europe. Stories like Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel & Gretel taught children not to interact with strangers, while stories like Beauty & The Beast and The Frog Prince taught children not to judge a book by its cover.

Since the stories were passed down from generation to generation verbally, many versions of the same tales were told in different regions. Additionally, different countries would have different fairy tales altogether depending on what problems and lessons were relevant for children in that area.  

It wasn’t until the early 1800s, when two German brothers, Wilhelm & Jacob Grimm, collected and published more than 200 fairy tales, that some of these iconic stories were documented. Their collection, Children’s and Household Tales was published in two volumes and quickly became a household staple. Popularizing stories like Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty.

But the Grimm brothers weren’t the only people to write and catalog fairy tales during that period. Hans Christian Andersen, a Dutch author, famously wrote and published 156 fairy tales in his lifetime including notable stories like The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling.

Andersen’s stories focused on lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity. And while these stories may continue to change and evolve over the years, it’s because of their virtue and lessons that fairy tales will continue to be cultural classics.  

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