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Fairy tale characters (overview)
Fairy tales are usually structured according to a simple basic scheme: The hero / the heroine has to cope with an existential crisis, where he / she stands against (magical) powerful ones Opponent must enforce. He / she is also (magically) powerful helper to the side. Other fairy tale characters only form the "background", so to speak, i.e. they define or illustrate the framework in which the events take place, but do not actively intervene in the action themselves. A typical example is the father of Snow White, who simply accepts the bad treatment of his daughter by the new wife. His role is only to clarify the noble origins of Snow White.
Certain act in this scheme Types of fairy tale characters who can be assigned relatively clearly to one of these roles. These types have their origin either in mythology (elves, water spirits, dwarfs ...) or in traditional social structures (e.g. prince, princess as heroes, stepmother as an opponent similar to the witch). Role changes are possible, but rare. Most often the role changes between helper and opponent (for example in Sleeping Beauty, where the thirteenth fairy - as such actually a helper - becomes an opponent of the witch type).
An interesting development is indicated in some romantic art fairy tales, where helpers or opponents (often ambivalent) emerge from their supporting roles and conquer the role of the hero. A nice example is Fouqués Undine, actually a female water spirit with ambivalent characteristics who becomes a (tragic) heroine, while Bertalda, as the duke's foster daughter, actually the born heroine, has to be content with the role of Undine's opponent. And at E.T.A. Hoffmann, a malicious dwarf, Klein Zaches, called Zinnober, steps out of the classic role of the troublemaker and becomes the main character, a prototype of the antihero. The roles are finally completely redistributed in modern fairy tales, for example in Angela Carter's (Bluebeard's room) or Otfried Preußler (the little witch).
Important fairy tale characters are often too Animals; see animals in fairy tales. In the case of the animals, the assignment to the roles is less obvious, and certainly not at all clear. For example, the fox appears in all three roles (not in the same fairy tale, of course). In a certain fairy tale tradition, the type of an animal can be relatively clear, but this is seldom found because of the diverse mutual influences. A special variant of animal characters in fairy tales is the animal, which in reality is transformed into a human being. The transformation into an animal can affect all three types (hero, opponent, helper). Since fairy tales (almost) always end well, the fairy tale hero and usually also the transformed helper get their human form back in the end. The evil opponent, on the other hand, occasionally ends up as an animal.
Sometimes objects also appear as actors in fairy tales. For example, the "little table you set yourself" and the "stick out of the sack" in the role of helper. The magic mirror in Snow White is also a helper. However, as the helper of the evil stepmother, he is on the wrong side, which he ultimately pays with his life. The example of the mirror shows that in fairy tales objects can be like people - they can even die. The distinction between magical helpers, magical animals and magical objects is not very important.
Fairy tale characters, that is, concrete people in concrete fairy tales are ontological instances of the fairy tale types. Some fairy tale characters that are well known, such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella or Rumpelstiltskin, even define their own subtype, which has additional characteristic features in addition to the type properties. Sleeping Beauty, for example, is a princess (positive heroine of noble descent). She is the main character, but one who does not become active herself, but has to be kissed awake by her prince (secondary character). Cinderella / Cinderella is the prototype of the simple girl who is rewarded by fate with a prince for her particularly humble demeanor (doing dirty work without complaints). And finally, Rumpelstiltskin is the typical poison dwarf, in contrast to the helpful dwarfs in Snow White.
The following lists are incomplete and will be added gradually.
Special types of fairy tale characters
- Kite: Hybrid creatures of bird and reptile, almost always embody evil in European fairy tales and are therefore mostly the opponent of the fairy tale hero (see mythical creatures: the dragon)
- Elves: mostly appearing as a whole people, i.e. male and female; mainly as helpers, but also capriciously stubborn, people who do not like them are punished
- Fairy: female, type of helper, rarely an opponent; see fairies in fairy tales
- Witch: female, type of opponent; the witch from Hansel and Gretel is prototypical in the German fairy tale; For general information on witches, witch madness and witch persecution, see Witches in Popular Beliefs and in Fairy Tales
- King: occurs almost only in the background (the old king in contrast to the actively acting prince)
- Queen: less often as a background, more often as an evil stepmother-type opponent (the evil queen in Snow White)
- Prince / King's son: the most important hero type in fairy tales, see princes and princesses in fairy tales
- Princess / King's Daughter: central fairy tale figure, especially important as a figure to identify with, see princes and princesses in fairy tales
- Giant: evil, coarse opponent, possesses supernatural abilities, but is stupid. Example: The brave little tailor, general see giants, trolls, ogres. The monster in the fairy tale
- Stepmother: evil opponent, competitor, for more details see The Stepmother in a Fairy Tale
- Fiend: similar to the giant, but the supernatural abilities may be missing (predator, ogre)
- Water spirit
- Dwarf: Helper or opponent, see dwarfs in fairy tales
- and … Hans and Marie: Many fairy tale heroes are young men and women from the common people. Representative here are Hans and Marie. There are actually very many Hans fairy tales. In a number of variations, Hans corresponds to the "stupid" as it appears in the fairy tale The Golden Goose. The simple girl as a fairy tale heroine often has no “real” name, but is called, for example, Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella, or she is simply “the miller's daughter” like the heroine from the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin. With Frau Holle there is Marie twice, as Goldmarie (the heroine) and as unlucky marie (the anti-heroine).
- Ali Baba
- Arielle, the title character in a series of cartoons by the Walt Disney Company based on the fairy tale The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen
- Allerleirauh, also donkey skin, donkey skin, catskin, mouse skin ...
- Cinderella, also Cinderella, Cenfrillon, Cinderella ...
- Baba Jaga, the witch in Russian fairy tales
- Cinderella (Cinderella, Cendrillon)
- Däumling (thumb-size, thumbelina), a child disadvantaged by birth, either particularly small or simply the youngest of many siblings
- Sleeping Beauty, the sleeping beauty in the forest - has to be woken up by a prince
- Genie: Genie in a bottle in oriental fairy tales, for example in the story of the fisherman and the genie
- Mother Hulda
- Goldmarie, the hardworking girl from Frau Holle
- Bad luck, the lazy girl from Frau Holle
- Ricdin-Ricdon, the French brother of Rumpelstiltskin
- Little Red Riding Hood, sweet little girl who lets the bad wolf be led astray. Known in many languages, including Le petit chaperon rouge (Perrault) and Little Red Riding Hood
- Rumpelstiltskin, the magical poison dwarf as an evil opponent
- Snow White, white as milk, red as blood ... - widespread fairy tale character, known among others. as Little Snow Drop, Snow White, Blanche-neige
- Undine: female elemental spirit living in water; especially known in the implementation of Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué
- Vasilisa, the beautiful
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