A fairy tale is a short children's story involving magical elements such as witches and wizards, ogres, giants, trolls, elves and fairies. Fairy tales often have a moral lesson to them, and show good triumphing over evil or virtue being rewarded. Most of the best-known fairy tales are of medieval European origin, and many are attributed to the collecting efforts of the Brothers Grimm or the Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson, while others are of unknown authorship. However, even those whose authors are known are at least influenced by earlier folk tales.
All modern fairy tales have been retold and adapted countless times since they were first written, often to remove content deemed unsuitable for children. In their original versions, fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm in particular could often be bloodthirsty or crude, but as times and sensibilities changed, they have been altered into the forms that are well-known today. In their modern versions, all fairy tales have a happy ending (often with the words "... and they all lived happily ever after"), so that the phrase 'a fairy tale ending' has come to mean an impossibly perfect outcome to a situation.
Popular fairy tales include Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Little Red Riding Hood and many more.
Film and theater
In recent years, many fairy tales have been adapted into movies. In particular, Disney has made animated versions of many of the best-known fairy tales, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and many more. Other adaptations have attempted to put a more modern twist on the concept, for example Ever After, which shows a much more independent-minded Cinderella than the Disney version.
In England, fairy tale stories often form the basis of the pantomimes that come to theaters at Christmas time.