Fairy tales are a subcategory of folktales -- tales told as fictional entertainments (as opposed to myths or legends, which are told as truthful in some fashion). They have been defined as:
A tale of some length involving a succession of motifs or episodes. It moves in an unreal world without definite locality or definite creatures and is filled with the marvelous. In this never-never land, humble heroes kill adversaries, succeed to kingdoms and marry princesses.
– Stith Thompson, The Folktale, 1977
Fairy tales are folktales that are not just explicitly magical, but also take place in a magical universe where no one is surprised by talking animals and the like.
While fairy tales are today considered benign children’s tales, the recorded folktales -- which developed long before modern notions of childhood "innocence" came into being, and were told for adults and children alike -- often contain dark and violent occurrences. Like many folk narratives, they may be cautionary tales, about what happens when the desired dominant cultural norms are violated.
"Three Little Pigs" – in an early version the third pig kills and eats the wolf.
"Snow White" – in the Grimms' version, after Snow White marries the Prince, he forces the wicked step-mother to put on iron shoes, which have been heated in a fire, and dance until she dies.
"Red Riding Hood" – In the version by Charles Perrault (1697), Red Riding Hood is not rescued but is eaten by the Wolf. In other recorded folk versions, Red rescues herself by tricking the wolf into letting her leave the house to relieve herself.
Fairy Tales in Supernatural
The episode 3.05 Bedtime Stories focused specifically on fairy tales.
- Wikipedia entry on Fairy tales
- Sur La Lune Faory Tales Recorded versions of many fairy tales, including essays and interpretations
- Original versions of stories by the Brothers Grimm
- Folktexts An enormous collection of folktales from around the world, organized by tale type; D.L. Ashliman, the author, is one of the foremost folktale scholars in the world. Great for browsing.
- Website for Angela Carter – renowned for her examination of gender and sexuality in fairy tales. She also re-interpreted many fairy tales from a feminist perspective in The Bloody Chamber