Fairies are a well-known archetype of folkloric character that appear in many fairy tales, the most famous being Thumbelina, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. These magical stories are named after these legendary beings. Their presence in these tales increased due to the popularity of the literary fables of Madame d'Aulnoy and Charles Perrault.
In ancient legends, fairies take on many forms but during the Victorian era, they were depicted as beautiful creatures resembling women with the opalescent wings of real and imagined insects, the most popular being butterflies. In fables, fairies are enchanting, winged beings with vast magical powers that rival or even surpass the skills of witches. Fairies are associated with nature and often dwell in woodland areas.
They could change their shape and would test mortals. Those who show them kindness are awarded with wonderful but sometimes strange things like beauty or precious objects falling from the person's mouth. Those who were wicked or rude were punished with vile things like ugliness and toads appearing every time they speak. While most fairies are good and helpful, there are some who are nasty or downright wicked like the Wicked Fairy Godmother from Sleeping Beauty.
Depending on the version, not one but eight fairies appear in this tale. At the christening of a king and queen's long-wished-for-child, seven good fairies are invited to be godmothers and to bless the baby princess. Each fairy is presented with a golden plate and drinking cups adorned with jewels. The first six fairies bless the princess with special gifts of beauty, grace and intelligence. Before the seventh fairy can present her gift, the old eight fairy enters the palace, outraged at being overlooked. The seventh fairy hides behind the baby's crib and out of the dark fairy's sight. The Wicked Fairy Godmother cursed the princess to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. When she disappears, the seventh fairy tries to soften the curse. The wicked fairy's magic was too powerful for the seventh fairy to break so she changes death to one hundred years of sleep and the promise that the princess will awaken once she receives true love's kiss. True to the fairies' words, the princess, Briar Rose grows up to be a good, kind, graceful and intelligent woman. On her sixteenth birthday, she discovers a hidden passageway to a tower. Within it is an old woman spinning. The woman is really the evil fairy in disguise. She asks the princess if she would like to try spinning. Briar Rose pricked her finger and fell into a deep sleep. As the king and queen mourn their daughter, the seventh fairy puts the entire kingdom under a sleeping spell so the princess would not wake up an orphan. Over time, the castle gardens grew into a forest so big that only the top of the castle could be seen. Many princes tried to awaken the princess but all failed. In some versions, the dark fairy cursed the forest to attack anyone who entered so her curse would remain unbroken. The sleeping kingdom was eventually forgotten and many told myths about the castle. One day, a prince saw the castle and ventured forth to see the truth. The hundred years had ended and the forest of briars parted for him. In one version, the dark fairy and the seventh fairy fought while the prince journeyed to the princess's chamber. He awakens her with a kiss and the whole kingdom is freed from the curse.
When Cinderella is about to lose all hope, her fairy godmother appears to bring her a happy ending. The fairy appears three times. Each time, she changes a pumpkin into a coach, a rat into a coachman, lizards into footmen and mice into horses. Cinderella's rags are changed into splendid gowns adorned with jewels. On the third night, Cinderella is given the famous glass slippers. Before Cinderella leaves, the fairy godmother warns her to leave before midnight as that will end the magic. On the third night, true to her words, at the stroke of midnight, the gown and coach reverts to their true forms but the slippers remain glass. Cinderella loses one and the prince uses this to find her and they live happily ever after.
The swallow delivers Thumbelina to a large meadow filled with fairies who are ruled by a king. The king and Thumbelina fall in love and he presents her with her own set of wings.
A fairy curses the prince to become a hideous beast until someone learns to love the man behind the beast. Depending on the version the fairy is evil and punishes the Beast for not loving her or she punishes him for his cruelty. In the oldest version of the tale, Beauty is the merchant's adopted daughter and is really the hybrid child of a king and a good fairy. Beauty was hidden as an evil, jealous fairy wished to kill her because the king loved another fairy.
A wicked fairy queen is jealous that a princess is named Fairer-Than-A-Fairy and wishes to capture her and enslave her. A wizard cast a spell over the castle, preventing the fairy from taking the princess.