Why Fairy Tales Are Really Scary Tales

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Fairy tales have been a cherished part of our cultural heritage for generations. These stories of magical kingdoms, brave heroes, and happy endings have enchanted both children and adults alike. However, if you delve deeper into the narratives, you’ll find that many fairy tales harbor dark and unsettling themes. In this blog, we will explore why fairy tales can actually be seen as “scary tales” and how they often serve as cautionary tales rather than mere fantasies.

1. Morality Lessons Hidden in Darkness

One of the reasons why fairy tales can be considered scary tales is the way they tackle moral lessons. These stories often delve into themes like greed, jealousy, betrayal, and the consequences of one’s actions. Take the story of “Snow White,” for example. It’s not just about a beautiful princess and a handsome prince; it’s about vanity, envy, and the dangers of blind trust. By using terrifying elements like a wicked stepmother and a poisoned apple, fairy tales emphasize the gravity of moral choices and their potential outcomes.

2. Reflection of Real-World Dangers

Fairy tales are not just meant to be escapist fantasies; they often mirror the real-world dangers that people faced during the times when they were created. In an era where survival was uncertain and dangers lurked around every corner, these tales served as cautionary reminders. Stories like “Hansel and Gretel” warn against the dangers of wandering into the woods alone and trusting strangers. The scary elements in such tales were likely intended to make these warnings more memorable and impactful.

3. Psychological Exploration

Many fairy tales delve into psychological aspects that can be quite unsettling. Stories like “Cinderella” or “Rumpelstiltskin” explore themes of abuse, manipulation, and the desire for power. By incorporating these dark elements, fairy tales provide a space for readers to confront and discuss complex emotions and experiences. They serve as a platform for both children and adults to process these feelings within the context of a story, which can be therapeutic in a way.

4. Cultural Norms and Taboos

Fairy tales often reflect the cultural norms, values, and taboos of the societies in which they originated. These tales weren’t always intended solely for children; they were often shared among adults as well. Elements like witches, curses, and forbidden forests could symbolize societal fears and concerns. Through these scary narratives, societies could communicate their values and expectations, encouraging individuals to adhere to certain behaviors and avoid others.

5. Evolution of the Genre

As fairy tales have evolved over time, they have become less sanitized and more in touch with the complexity of human nature. Contemporary retellings often emphasize the darker aspects of these tales, acknowledging that life isn’t always straightforward or without its terrors. Authors and storytellers now recognize the value of incorporating fear and darkness into these stories to make them more relatable and emotionally resonant.


While the term “fairy tale” might evoke images of enchanting castles and magical creatures, it’s important to recognize that these stories have always contained a deeper layer of darkness and fear. Far from being simple children’s tales, fairy tales serve as cautionary reminders, psychological explorations, and reflections of societal values. By embracing the scary elements within these narratives, we gain a richer understanding of the human experience and the intricate layers that make up these timeless tales.


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