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Simple narrative typically of folk origin dealing with supernatural beings. Fairy tales may be written or told for the amusement of children or may have a more sophisticated narrative containing supernatural or obviously improbable events, scenes, and personages and often having a whimsical, satirical, or moralistic character. The term embraces popular folktales such as Cinderella and Puss in Boots, as well as art fairy tales of later invention, such as those by Hans Christian Andersen. It is often difficult to distinguish between tales of literary and oral origin, because folktales have received literary treatment from early times, and literary tales can often be traced back to oral tradition.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on fairy tale, visit Britannica.com.