What is a Fairy Tale?
A story that uses magical elements to progress the story in order to show the negative effects of magic and its true evil.
Elements of most Fairy Tales
- Protagonist - Fights for the good
- Antagonist - Fights for evil
- Magic - used to assist protagonist but typically backfires
How is Magic used in fairy tales?
Magic is typically used to help the protagonist progress faster and is typically used to benefit the cause the protagonist supports. However, in many fairy tales, such as in Malinda Lo's "The Twelfth Girl", magic is used to make the protagonist's life better, however, the protagonist ends up suffering because of the magic that she spent pursuing the entire time. This string of events represents the true evil in magic that fairy tales are trying to portray.
Furthermore, the magic in Jon Skovron's "The Raven Princess" is another representation of evil magic. The story begins with a princess being cursed by her mother to turn into a raven. The story then begins to follow a young man who is the story's protagonist. He goes on a magical, whimsical, quest to save the princess from her curse. In the end however, all of his efforts are in vain, as the princess chooses to remain a raven. This results in him wanting to become a raven with the princess. In the end, both the princess and the protagonist become ravens all because of an evil curse.
Additionally, in Ellen Hopkins's "Before The Rose Bloomed: A Retelling Of The Snow Queen" the magic in the story is connotative to evil from the beginning. The magic in this story comes from a demon, who wants to be with a beautiful woman on earth. This woman refuses his affections and the demon creates a magical mirror that when looked at, takes any beauty out of the reflection. The mirror breaks and a piece is lodged in the woman's heart. She is no longer able to see anything beautiful in the world, and will only be fixed if she can find someone to melt her frozen heart. In the end of the story, her heart is never melted and she is left to wait for someone who can melt her heart.
One other example of evil magic in fairy tales is presented in Tessa Gratton's "Beast/Beast". This story takes a twist on the well known story of "Beauty and the Beast". However, unlike the well known version, this version turns Beauty into a beast as well. In this story, Beauty is captured and reveals that she has a strong hatred for her father and her step sisters. This strong hatred carries over to her oppressor and she even results to violence in her attempts to escape. Eventually though she understands that both her and the Beast are being trapped and her hatred slowly turns to affection. This is how Beauty slowly transforms into a beast. The story ends without a concrete explanation of what she chose to do but the reader can safely infer that she chose to stay with Beast.
In addition to all of these, it seems that older women are presented in a negative way in many fairy tales. For example, in Julie Kagawa's "The Brother's Piggett", an older woman lives in the woods and receives much dislike from those around her, calling her an evil witch. This turns into an ironic twist when the main characters are killed by the witch's niece who was the true witch. The message this story is trying to deliver is to never judge someone by their looks. This ties in with Elizabeth Blair's article that discusses the reason why older women are connotative with evil in so many fairy tales.
Is Magic Evil?
In many fairy tales, the element of magic is present to help progress the story. On some occasions it is to help the protagonist, other times it is to slow the protagonist down. However the most common way that magic is used in many fairy tales is to bring harm to the main character. This presents the question of the true intention of magic in fairy tales. Are stories trying to show younger audiences that magic is to be left alone or is it just a tool used to help make the story more interesting and progress faster? In conclusion, it is reasonable to believe that magic is used as both a lesson to younger audiences and a tool to help progress the story. Not only does magic present more problems it is supposed to solve, it also helps progress the story in a smooth and interesting way.
Blair, Elizabeth. "Why Are Old Women Often The Face Of Evil In Fairy Tales And Folklore?" npr books, http://www.npr.org/2015/10/28/450657717/why-are-old-women-often-the-face-of-evil-in-fairy-tales-and-folklore?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20170420&utm_campaign=npr_email_a_friend&utm_term=storyshare. Accessed 20/April/2017
Gratton, Tessa. "Beast/Beast." Grim, edited by Christine Johnson, HarlequinTeen, 2014, 201-227.
Hopkins, Ellen, et al. Grim. HarlequinTeen, 2011-2014.
Hopkins, Ellen. "Before The Rose Bloomed: A Retelling Of The Snow Queen." Grim, edited by Christine Johnson, HarlequinTeen, 2014, 165-199
Kagawa, Julie. "The Brothers Piggett."Grim, edited by Christine Johnson, HarlequinTeen, 2014, 229-255.
Lo, Malinda. "The Twelfth Girl." Grim , edited by Christine Johnson, HarlequinTeen, 2014, 71-104
Skovron, Jon. "The Raven Princess." Grim, edited by Christine Johnson, HarlequinTeen, 2014, 107-135