Is there a difference between a folktale and fairy tale? In the following paragraphs Arthur Henry King (1910 -2000) reveals the strength of a folktale and the emptiness of fairy tale.
Matters like these should occupy the minds of parents and educators rather than the pleasantries of sedation and distraction that are constantly in view.
We need to acquaint children with folktales, which are the classics of their own tradition. And we need to recognize that there is a great difference between a folktale and a fairy tale. A fairy tale is a make-over of a folktale. A fairy tale tries to make the world more pleasant than the folktale represents it, pleasanter than it really is. Under the impression that the world will be bad enough for children when they come to it. The fairy tale represents life as something restricted and magically protected. The fairy tale does not help children at all.
If you turn to the original Grimm’s folktales, you will find that the folk have profoundly understood over thousands of years that children must face up to nightmares and horror and cruelty. And since children have to face up to those things, the best place for them to do so for the first time is on a parent’s lap, where they have a sense of security. If children are not “terrified” on their parent’s laps, they will be terrified in their dreams when their parents aren’t there. We know enough about children from a very early age to know that they have their nightmares and their horrors and their darkness. If we don’t give them those kinds of experiences, they still have them.
By becoming acquainted with folk literature, children may be educated. By that means, they may grow up facing reality. And if they grow up facing reality, there will be no crisis of confidence between them and society.
Arthur Henry King – Arm the Children, BYU Studies 1998, page 243-244.