A fairy tale is a story where magical and marvelous things can happen. In fairy tales, we can meet witches and queens, giants and elves, princes, dragons, talking animals, ogres, princesses—and sometimes even fairies! Most fairy tales take place "once upon a time" in a distant land. But some authors, like Hans Christian Andersen, use familiar, contemporary settings: for example, many of Andersen's fairy tales take place in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark and Andersen's boyhood home.
Fairy tales have been told for many, many years. The very oldest fairy tales were told out loud and passed down from generation to generation. Back then, children would listen as their elders performed the stories, much like an audience watching actors put on a play. Now, hundreds of years later, fairy tales are written and performed in almost every language.
Because fairy tales reflect the tradition and history of their cultures, different versions of the same story are told all over the world—like the story of Cinderella, which is told in thousands of countries, including Egypt, Iceland, China, England, Korea, Siberia, France, Vietnam and the United States. This is part of what makes fairy tales so wonderful—they tell a special story that we may treasure for the rest of our lives, no matter where we are from.