Once upon a time………..these four little words reverberates in the souls of the children and flies their little mind into the imaginative world of magic, fairies, demons, witches, talking wolf who is always ready to capture small and pretty children in its enthralling and devilish jaws. These words squeeze the heart of the children while taking them into the world of fantasy. These words are the starting point of the fairy tales that children love to hear and enjoys every moment of it. They have a universal appeal and are timeless, though depicting the culture of the time in which they are written.
The fairy tales are unique in themselves and their uniqueness lies in the distinctive and thematic appeal with which they carry themselves. Despite their typical approach there is an ample scope for creativity and inculcate within children the values that are landed from generation to generation in their innocent world.
Several types of narrative styles and techniques form the part of fairy tails, yet all are distinct especially in the relationship which is developed between writer and audience. The genre lies in teaching the children and adults alike putting them into the textual journey before it starts. The basic characteristic of the fairy tale lies in the approach which the writers take in exploiting the narrative and linguistic features to the full capacity.
The traditional folk tales which used to belong to oral traditions used to depend on their exceptional characteristics like prosodic phonology, intonation, the use of pauses, rhythm, the different qualities of voice, as well as on
paralinguistic codes, among which gestures, mimicry, eye contact etc. Though written narratives cannot imply all these yet have developed their own independent style of narration. (Bruti, “Which narrative features”, 1999, para.17)
The narrative form is encoded in a linguistic form by the use of the initial/final fixed phrases. (Bruti, “Which narrative features”, 1999, para.16). The linguistic forms further depend in the genre and on the readers for which they are written. The main role of the linguistic form is to provide information with evidences in form of tales. One of the fixed phrases lies in the tradition of the opening and closing formula, a typical example of which is “Once upon a time” and “lived happily ever after”.
These expressions associate the closeness between writer and children. It creates enthusiasm among the readers and suspends their disbelief in world of fantasy in which the writer is taking them, for e.g. talking of animals, princess turning into frog
unless Prince comes to kiss her and bring her to original human form etc.
Besides these ritual formulas, the linguistic features include the maximum use of repetitions for making expressions and for the events to unfold. The repetition helps in the easy understanding of the texts, which reflects the mark of the oral tradition. Other basic linguistic features are the redundant structures and they also found similarity to the oral narratives. Ellipsis and co-ordination is the characteristic feature of redundant structure, which evolves due to the fact that writers write the stories from the children angle and organizes the information in such a manner that they brings out the actual knowledge that should be imbibed to the children.
The other beauty of the fairly tale is the absence of detailed description. The physical description of characters is given more prominence then going deep into their nature and inner attributes. This is done to give semantic clarity and uniqueness. And in many fairy tales characters never change physically for e.g. If they are young, they will ever remain young.
The author can give in many cases some spatial or temporal information, for e.g. The case of hyperbolic distances like, he rode on a horse for thousands miles. Writers also have full scope for temporal deviations that means they can temporarily deviate from the original path to put the excitement and enthusiasm among the readers with the help of creating the impact of visualizations.
Another feature that gives punch to the story is the impulse of the protagonists that is directly heard, and which derives him or her to comment and unfold the events taking place to create the influence on the readers. This feature is called as a Conative function, which according to dictionary means mental process or behavior directed towards action or change and including impulse, desire, volition, and striving.
The tenses are used frequently in the narration. The Tenses may be either “commutative” or “narrative”: A commutative attitude comes with the involvement of the speaker, and his addressees. Narrative verb brings about detached attitude. Tenses are also classified into two categories, the retrospective, which depicts the past events, and the perspective, which takes the readers to the future. Then the verbs are also used to describe the background actions.
In fairy tales, that exclusively needs to be notified is about the content or we call the theme which is ordinary i.e. it shows the reality of the life and reality of the world but its beauty lies in the context of fiction and fantasy where it is fitted which makes it more interesting and enthusiastic for the readers. It implies on the ordinary daily objects too like a mirror in which we look at ourselves. It shows the beauty of the princess but this mirror is used in a Snow White as a magic mirror having powers to show the witch her ugliness and update her about the Snow white.
In many fairy tales like in the Danish fantastic tales for children, which as told in , Den fantastiske fortælling i dansk borne literatur 1967 – 2003 , there is an extensive use of figurative language, specially natural metaphors and playing with the popular phrases and clichés. There is also distinguish between two traditions in fantastic tales, one is content oriented epic tradition and the other is language oriented experimental tradition. The first trend is more communicative and the second trend included language that is easily grasped and makes an exclusive sense to the readers. There are also linguistic games and digressions, meta-linguistic elements, which more focus on the communicative style but not the content. (Centre for Children’s Literature, Denmark).
Fairy tales are part of the children’s lives, and their world. They immerse in the children the sense of belongingness to the Supernatural elements and rejuvenate their souls and give them encouragement. Though the prince, snow white, little red ridding hood, tough princess are all fictions but are part of the children’s life so the language of these fairy tales is the language of the children.
1. Bruti Silvia, November 1999. Approaching Writing Skills through Fairy Tales, The Internet, TESL Journal Vol. V, No. 11, (Online). Available: (11 March 2007)
2. Centre for Children’s Literature, Denmark. Center for bornelitteratur. (Online). Available:
http://www.cfb.dk/site.aspx?p=766 (11 March 2007)
3. Godard Barbara, 1979. Crawford’s Fairy Tales, SCL/ELC Volume 4.1 1979 (Online). Available: http://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/SCL/bin/get.cgi?directory=vol4_1/&filename=godard.htmhttp://ww
(11 March 2007)
4. Hébert Louis, 2006. The Functions of Language, in Louis Hébert, (dir.), Signo [on-line] Rimouski (Quebec), (Online). Available: http://www.signosemio.com. (11 March 2007)