Fairytale Protagonists: The Ones You Haven’t Heard Of
You’ve heard of Cinderella and her pumpkin carriage. Read of Snow White and her seven companions. Or followed Little Red Riding Hood through wolf-infested forests. But, do you know any obscure fairytale protagonists? In today’s blog, we’ll share some unknown folk stories. Plus, what goes into creating these narratives.
What is a Fairytale?
Also known as myths and legends, the fairytale is folklore that takes the form of a short story. Such narratives often include mythical creatures such as: dwarfs, dragons, eleven, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, mermaids, talking animals, trolls, unicorns, or witch. What’s more, they feature magic or enchantments.
Occurring in both oral and literary form, many modern fairytales have evolved from centuries-old stories. Ones which appeared, in variation, in multiple cultures around the world.
The Seven Basic Plots
In fact, all stories can be distilled down to seven basic plots.
- Overcoming the Monster. The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force (often evil) which threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist’s homeland. Ex: Beowulf.
- Rags to Riches. A classic fairytale structure. The poor protagonist acquires power, wealth, and/or a mate, loses it all and gains it back, growing as a person as a result. Ex: Aladdin.
- The Quest. The protagonist and companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location. Subsequently, they face temptations and other obstacles along the way. Ex: The Lightning Thief.
- Voyage and Return. The protagonist goes to a strange land. Then they overcome the threats it poses or learn important lessons unique to that location. Thus, they return with experience. Ex: Alice in Wonderland.
- Comedy. Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion. Comedy refers to a pattern where the conflict becomes more and more confusing, but is at last made plain in a single clarifying event. Ex: Twelfth Night.
- Tragedy. The protagonist is a hero with a major character flaw or great mistake which is ultimately their undoing. Their unfortunate end evokes pity at their folly and the fall of a fundamentally good character. Ex: Macbeth.
- Rebirth. An event forces the main character to change their ways and often become a better individual. Ex: Groundhog’s Day.
The Ones You Haven’t Heard Of
Think you know all the fairytales there are to know? Check out this list of obscure stories.
- The Wishing-Table, the Gold-Donkey, and the Cudgel-in-the-Sack. Penned by the Brother Grimm, this fairytale follows the lives of the tailor’s 3 sons and the magical items they acquire at the end of their apprenticeship.
- Tatterhood. Coming from Norway, this story tells of sister princesses who go on adventures.
- The Juniper Tree. Another from the Brothers Grimm catalogue, this disturbing myth talks of a tree that can resurrect the dead.
- The Magic Fishbone. A Charles Dickens concoction that tells of a fishbone that grants a single wish if wished at the right time.
- Jack O’Lantern. Irish in origin, this fairytale explains why we carve faces into pumpkins at halloween.