Distinguishing Fairytales & Folktales

In the past, when there were no means to preserve words of wisdom, storytelling was a favorite pastime. In every culture and during every civilization, different forms of stories in prose and poems have been passed on to successive generations to preserve the virtues and moral lessons considered worthy by the people. Fairy tales and folktales are two such types of story forms that have been used extensively across cultures. There are many similarities between the two types, which can confuse readers, and many people struggle to distinguish between a fairytale and a folk tale. This article will highlight the differences between a fairytale and a folk tale.


Folk tales are short stories that are part of a tradition of passing down generations orally. They originate from ancient times when there was no printing or electronic media to preserve them; this is why elders indulged in storytelling to the younger generation to not just entertain, but also to enlighten them with words of wisdom and moral lessons. The earliest folktales were passed from person to person through word of mouth, and they moved down generations only through human memory. Folk tales mostly talk about nature, explaining forces of nature, or they contain human characters where one is evil and the other is good and wise. These stories contained characters with which audiences could relate. As such, folktales involved common human beings with everyday problems and instances of bravery, loyalty, honesty, and other virtues for inspiration. Folktales have some moral lesson to be learned from them.


A fairytale is a short story that contains fairies as their main characters along with their magic and magical creatures. It is believed to be an offshoot or a subgenre within the genre of folktales. Fairy tales mostly begin with “Once upon a timeā€¦” and involve a battle between the good and the evil, with fairies and other magical creatures helping the good characters inside these stories that mostly end with the triumph of good over evil.

If you find it hard to tell whether it is a folktale or a fairytale, you can consider this as a thumb rule: If the story contains fairies, it is a fairytale. Fairytales in oral form have been around for thousands of years, though, in literary form, they have appeared as late as the 17th century in Italy. Fairy tales are intended mainly for kids as they relate more easily with magical characters such as elves, goblins, fairies, etc.

Key Takeaways

  • Folktales are short stories passed down orally through generations, often involving common human beings and everyday problems, with a moral lesson to be learned.
  • Fairytales are short stories containing fairies, magic, and other supernatural creatures, often considered a subgenre of folktales, and are mainly intended for kids.
  • While both forms are part of folklore and culture, the main difference between them is the presence of magical elements and characters in fairytales, as opposed to the ordinary human beings and everyday problems found in folktales.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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