Fairy tales and fables can make an enormous impact on kids’ early development. They help children understand their own hopes and fears, and they also model important values such as kindness, courage, and generosity.
So, what are some of the best to share with your children?
Read on to see a list of 20 popular fairy tales that can add a bit of magic to your child’s life.
Famous Fairy Tales
Let’s kick off our list with some famous fairy tales that are known throughout the Western world.
1. Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood’s mother sends her to her grandmother’s house with a basket of goods, warning her not to speak to any strangers along the way.
When a wolf asks where Little Red Riding Hood is going, she ignores her mother’s advice and tells him the truth. He goes to her grandmother’s house and disguises himself as her grandmother so he can eat her, but she manages to get away.
2. Jack and the Beanstalk
Jack sells the family cow at the market in exchange for magic beans. The beans grow into a giant beanstalk that leads up into the sky.
Jack climbs the beanstalk and finds a giant who tries to chase him. Eventually, Jack manages to get away, and he even steals the giant’s treasure in the process.
3. The Ugly Duckling
A family of ducklings always laughs at one of their siblings because he doesn’t look like them. The ugly duckling feels sad and lonely.
When he grows up, he sees his reflection and realizes that he looked different from his siblings because he actually wasn’t a duck at all. He was a swan.
4. Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel are a brother and sister whose evil stepmother abandons them in a forest. Deep in the forest, they discover a house made of gingerbread and candy and begin eating.
The house belongs to a terrible witch, who plans to devour them. But the children manage to escape back to their home.
5. Goldilocks and the Three Bears
A young woman named Goldilocks enters a house in the woods. Inside, she finds three bowls of porridge: one too hot, one too cold, and one just right. She also finds three beds: one too hard, one too soft, and one just right.
When she wakes up, she finds out that this house belongs to three bears, who are distressed that she ate their porridge and slept in their beds.
Rumpelstiltskin is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. It’s about an imp-like man who helps a girl spin straw into gold in exchange for her firstborn child.
When her first child is born, the girl is desperate not to give it up, and the imp says she can keep her child if she can guess his name. The girl’s first guesses all fail, but she finally figures out that his name is Rumpelstiltskin.
7. Three Little Pigs
Three little pigs decide to build their own houses. The first pig builds a house of straw, the second builds a house of sticks, and the third pig, who is the most hardworking of the three, builds a house of bricks.
When a wolf comes along to eat them, he easily blows down the straw and stick houses. Only the brick house survives.
Common Fairy Tales
Some fairy tales recur in different iterations around the world. Many have even been adapted into popular feature films by companies like Disney.
Here are common fairy tales that have been retold in countless forms.
Cinderella is an orphan who grows up with her wicked stepmother and stepsisters.
Her life changes when she attends a ball hosted by the prince of the kingdom. In some versions of this fairy tale, Cinderella receives help from a fairy godmother, while in others, she’s helped by a fairy tree.
She departs the ball at midnight, leaving behind a glass slipper, which the prince uses to search for her. When he finds the girl whose foot fits in the slipper, he marries her.
9. Sleeping Beauty
A princess gets cursed by an old fairy to prick her finger on a spindle and die at the age of sixteen.
Instead of dying, she sleeps for a hundred years, as does the rest of her kingdom. At the end of the century, she’s awoken by a prince, who frees her kingdom from the curse.
A lonely barren couple will do anything for a child, so the husband steals a plant called rapunzel from a witch’s garden and feeds it to his wife. The wife gets pregnant, but when the witch finds out, she demands that they give her the baby as payment.
The witch raises the baby girl as her own daughter, locks her in a tower, and names her Rapunzel. Rapunzel has long golden hair that the witch climbs up to enter the tower.
When a prince falls in love with Rapunzel, the witch finds out, cuts off her hair, and casts her into the wilderness. But Rapunzel and the prince eventually reunite and live together happily.
11. The Frog Prince
A frog offers to help a princess retrieve her precious golden ball, which she’s dropped into a pond. In exchange, he asks for three things: to eat from her plate, live in her castle, and be her friend.
The princess agrees to the frog’s demands. Afterwards, the frog transforms, because he turns out to be a young prince who had been turned into a frog by an evil witch.
12. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
An evil queen always asks her magic mirror who’s the fairest of them all, and the magic mirror always compliments her. One day, though, the mirror answers, “Snow White.”
Snow White is a beautiful girl with skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony. The queen sends a huntress to kill her so she can remain the fairest.
13. The Little Mermaid
A mermaid falls in love with a human man, but she can’t be with him because they come from different worlds. She bargains with a sea witch to trade her fish tail for legs so she can be on land with him.
The original story by Hans Christian Andersen is much sadder and ends with the little mermaid dissolving into sea foam because she refuses to kill the man she loves.
Next, let’s look at some popular folktales and household tales that have been passed down for generations.
14. The Princess and the Pea
A prince refuses to marry any woman who isn’t a real princess. To test his potential brides, he hides a pea beneath twenty mattresses because he thinks only a real princess could feel it.
Sure enough, a princess he tests says she couldn’t sleep because of the hard object in her bed, so the prince marries her.
15. The Red Shoes
“The Red Shoes” is a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale originally published in 1845.
It’s about a girl who loves her new red shoes so much that she wears them to church, even though she’s not supposed to. Because she’s so enamored with her shoes, she gets cursed to dance in them forever, and she has to dance and dance even when she doesn’t want to anymore.
16. The Six Swans
An evil queen marries a king who already has seven children: six sons and a daughter. The queen doesn’t want stepchildren, so she sews six magical white shirts and tosses them onto her stepsons, which transforms them into swans.
The daughter finds out she can lift the curse by making six new shirts for her brothers out of a painful stinging nettle plant, as long as she doesn’t speak for six years. She undertakes this heroic task and manages to free them.
17. The Three Billy Goats Gruff
Three billy goats try to cross a bridge that’s guarded by a terrifying troll, who wants to eat anyone who crosses.
The smallest goat goes first and convinces the greedy troll to wait and eat the second goat, who will be larger and yummier. When the second troll comes along, he convinces the troll to wait for the third goat. At last, the biggest billy goat gruff comes along and defeats the troll.
List of Fables
Fables often impart a moral lesson that can teach important values. Here are a few great fables to share with your kids.
18. The Golden Goose
A man owns a wonderful goose that lays golden eggs, which he can sell at the market for a fantastic price. Soon the man gets impatient because the goose only lays one egg a day, and he’s greedy for more.
To try to get more gold, he decides to cut the goose open and take the golden eggs right out of its belly. Sadly, of course, he finds nothing inside, and the dead goose never lays eggs again.
19. The Shoemaker and the Elves
A poor shoemaker is unable to afford to keep his business running on his own. One day, he goes to bed and wakes up to find a pair of new shoes in his workroom.
When he watches his workroom overnight, he finds out that elves are making shoes for him. He makes them winter clothes out of gratitude to thank them for their help.
20. The Emperor’s New Suit
A vain emperor hires a tailor to make him a new suit for a parade. The tailor tricks him by giving him empty air and telling him it’s a suit made of cloth only stupid people can’t see.
Because nobody wants to admit they’re stupid, everyone at the parade pretends they can see the suit and compliments the emperor. Only a child is innocent enough to point out that the emperor isn’t wearing clothes at all.
There you have it—our list of the most popular fairy tales for you to try.
Good luck, and happy reading!