Folk and fairy tales are a distinct type of text. They are very formative stories for most children today. They originate from a variety of sources and have no ‘original’ structure. They are changeable and heavily dependent on the time and place of their telling. Often the story exists as a form of escapism for readers. Many times the stories have moral messages that shape the actions or dreams of its readers.
Often referred to as ‘Old wives tales’, fairy tales can circulate in a variety of versions that have elements that reflect important matters of the day. Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson developed a classification system for the variations of folk tales. They are described by their AT designation (373, Tatar). Folk and fairy tales were also passed along through the generations by word of mouth. This allows the story to be changed and adapted as it is retold again and again.
Within folk and fairy tales, certain types of characters are always present. Fairy tales have changed over time, but there are many recurrent themes that still resonate. They can have a universal application to any location in the world. Most fairy tales begin with the phrase, "Once upon a time". This adds to the whimsical and magical quality of fairy tales. The hero can be either male or female and is often young and also must contend with a villian. In many tales the villian is a stepmother or other type of monster (ogre, giant, witch, etc.). By the end of the tale, the story is succinctly resolved and there is often some type of moral message that the reader is expected to learn from. There is always a happy ending, in which the hero wins and the villian is defeated; hence the phrase "And they all lived happily ever after".
Through the use of allusions, symbols, and motifs, folk and fairy tales help to teach both the young and old how to live their lives.