A fairy tale
A picture by Gustave Doré of Mother Goose reading written
(literary) fairy tales
is a type of short story that typically features European folkloric fantasy characters,
such as dwarves, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, mermaids, trolls, or witches, and usually magic orenchantments. Fairy tales may be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends (which generally involve belief in the veracity of the events described) and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables.
Unlike legends and epics, they usually do not contain more than superficial references to religion and actual places, people, and events; they take place once upon a time rather than in actual times.
Fairy tales are found in oral and in literary form. The history of the fairy tale is particularly difficult to trace because only the literary forms can survive. Still, the evidence of literary works at least indicates that fairy tales have existed for thousands of years, although not perhaps recognized as a genre.
Although the fairy tale is a distinct genre within the larger category of folktale, the definition that marks a work as a fairy tale is a source of considerable dispute. One universally agreed-upon matter is that fairy tales do not require fairies.