Fairy tales are a genre short narrative that usually involve, as the name indicates, fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants, or gnomes but not exclusively, and the use of magic, transformation or enchantments.
In cultures where demons and witches are perceived as real, fairy tales may merge into legends, where the narrative is perceived both by teller and hearers as being grounded in historical truth. However, unlike legends and epics, they usually do not contain more than superficial references to religion and actual places, people, and events; they take place once upon a time rather than in actual times. Many of today's fairy tales have evolved from centuries-old stories that have appeared, with variations, in multiple cultures around the world.
The name "fairy tale" was first ascribed to them by Madame d'Aulnoy in the late 17th century (in French, conte de fées).
Folklorists have classified fairy tales in various ways. Among the most notable are the Aarne-Thompson classification system and the morphological analysis of Vladimir Propp. Other folklorists have interpreted the tales' significance, but no school has been definitively established for the meaning of the tales.
In his essay "On Fairy-Stories", J. R. R. Tolkien defines fairy tales as stories about the adventures of men in Faërie, the land of fairies, fairytale princes and princesses, dwarves, elves, and not only other magical species but many other marvels.