What is a Fairy Tale?

By Katie C

Fairy tales have not always been sweet, lovable, and kind stories. They have evolved greatly over time; originally meant for adults, these stories were about fairy sightings, much like UFO sightings of today. They mentioned specific times and places of these events and the audience was generally people who believed in fairies to begin with (answers.com). These stories also often had sad endings. Since these stories were told orally, they were inevitably changed into what is more commonly known as a fairy tale. Morals and happy endings were added, as were royalty and the role of the fairy was demoted. These stories were often full of violence and other disturbing images and events, as in Carlo Collodiís version of Pinocchio, and these have more recently been changed to be less frightening for children, like the Walt Disney version of Pinocchio. This idea of the fairy tale has evolved even more with some futuristic and science fiction stories. 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 as well as many other stories and movies use the archetypal example of the fairy tale to embed moral lessons into stories that capture peopleís attention. Collodiís version of Pinocchio and Steven Speilbergís A.I. are both examples of fairy tales by containing universal themes, moral lessons, and mystical characters.

The stories of A.I. and Pinocchio both revolve around a central figure, David and Pinocchio, respectively. Both of these characters are struggle with who they are throughout the film. David is a robot that wants to desperately be loved by his mother, and Pinocchio is a wooden marionette that is vying for the affection of his father. By trying to please their parents, each character only succeeds in hurting them. In A.I. David is tricked into thinking he can prove his love for his mother by cutting a lock of her hair off, but only manages to frighten her. There are numerous occasions where Pinocchio hurts his father in the story, but one time in particular is when he is tricked by the Cat and Fox. Pinocchio is persuaded to go with them to try and magically earn more money, and by doing so he leaves his father at home worrying sick about where he is. These are occurrences that often happen in some form in society with children today.

Along with their struggle to be loved by their parents, Pinocchio and David have some difficulties with getting along with others in society. In Davidís world there is a high animosity towards robots since many humans feel threatened that the machines will replace their role in life. He is constantly taunted by his brother and is never made to feel as if he was an actual part of the family. Pinocchio repeatedly finds himself in situations where people want to use him for something that he was not intended for, such as a cooking utensil, or as food. These situations just add to the protagonistsí frustration to fit in and cause a strong desire for David and Pinocchio to become human to be able to live peacefully with the ones they love.

These themes are ones that many people can identify with. At some point a person has felt the need to please their parents, or to be accepted by their peers. As a result of this people do irrational things. They might buy items they do not need, or do something that is wrong just because they think it will help the situation. Many different morals can be found in each of these two stories.

Many times moral lessons are embedded into narratives so that many people will hear them. A.I. heavily packed with warning about technology and how people use it. By having a Flesh Fair in the film, it shows the audience just how cruel humans can be, especially towards others not like themselves. One of the robots that was about to be destroyed in the fair said that what was happening was because history repeats itself. The Flesh Fair should remind viewers of past acts of discrimination and how wrong it was by showing the vivid visual torture of the poor machines in the film.

While warning about discrimination the movie also gives forewarns the viewer about what people do with the power of technology. If the creation of robots causes greater tension within society rather than help it, then the robots should not have been created in the first place. The suffering that is shown in David and his mother in the film help emphasize this point.

The story of Pinocchio is one that teaches some more simple lessons than the ones in A.I. It heavily emphasizes the fact that all children should listen to their parents and to good advice. The Talking Cricket provides Pinocchio with many warnings against bad behavior, but he never listens. Throughout the book he was almost used as firewood, swindled out of money, almost eaten, and turned into a donkey as a result of his insubordination. Every time he manages to get himself out of trouble he vows never to misbehave ever again. Each time he claims that he has learned that the consequences for not doing so are quite great.

Tied in with the general idea of good behavior is one that all children should attend school. By showing that a child will turn into a donkey if they are lazy and do nothing but play, it will cause the reader to ponder what it would be like in real life if they did not go to school. In the story the children are thrown into a new life in which they find awful, which like in real life the less schooling one has, chances are they will lead a life they had not planned for.

Another key element of these stories is that they contain imaginative characters. The most outrageous and entertaining characters are the ones that are in the story for only a brief time. They serve as catalysts to the story or are simply there to add to the entertainment value of the story. Gigolo Joe could be paralleled to the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio in that they both help the protagonist further their journey and to reach their ultimate goal. Joe helps David find his Blue Fairy; the Blue Fairy helps Pinocchio find his own father. Two other characters that were fairly entertaining were Teddy and the Talking Cricket. These two are similar in that they serve as a conscience to the main character in the story. Both heed warnings to try to help their respective lead characters.

Villains are also very prominent in each of the stories. In A.I. the people that scout for unregistered robots and the police could be considered as villains in the movie. In Pinocchio he meets a variety of villains such as the Cat and Fox, the man that runs the Island of Toys, and the whale. With every villain there usually is some character that is pure, and full of kindness. The Blue Fairy in Pinocchio and Davidís mother in A.I. parallel each other in this respect. They generally want to do nothing but help the main character and provide love for him. All of these characters and others help keep the audienceís attention throughout the story.

The two stories of A.I. and Pinocchio are fine examples of fairy tales. Universal topics, lessons on morality, and unique characters are all components of these stories and are essential part of the structure of a fairy tale.

© 2005