Definitions vary, but a few parameters seem to be universally agreed-upon. One, a fairy tale does not have to contain or deal with the doings of faeries. Two, a fairy tale is not always meant for children. Three, the setting and time period are vague. Fairy tales happen Once Upon a Time.
They do not always end at Happily Ever After.
There are books and systems devoted to classifying and analyzing these stories, discussing social, psychological, and spiritual implications. While I may mention these in passing on certain days, my focus is on the story, the world of dream-logic the fairy tale superimposes over our own. To me, a fairy tale is an expression of an alternate and more fantastic reality, one that may have died long ago but still reaches tendrils into our own world to remind us how things were Once Upon a Time. In the world of fairy tales, the fox can talk, the red shoes can be deadly, and the old woman begging for bread may just be a queen in disguise.
My plan is to launch my projects starting on March 7, 2011.
In the meantime, a list of stories and other sources for inspiration and reference follows. I will be using stories from as many different cultures as I can find.
A selection of common fairy tales (this is by no means comprehensive):
Jack and the Beanstalk
Vasalisa the Wise
The Bremen Town Musicians
Little Red Riding Hood
The Brave Little Tailor
Hans my Hedgehog
The Little Match Girl
The Ugly Duckling
The Hand of Glory
The Magic Carpet
Books and authors of interest:
Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters, by Kathleen Ragan
Gudgkin the Thistle Girl, by John Gardner
Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Film and Television:
The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson)
Labyrinth (Jim Henson)
Mononoke Hime (Studio Ghibli)
Spirited Away (Studio Ghibli)
Shrek (Dreamworks, based off the book by William Steig)
The Last Unicorn (Rankin/Bass, based off the novel by Peter S. Beagle)
The Princess Bride (William Goldman)
The Storyteller (Television series by Jim Henson)
Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics (Anime series by Nippon Animation popular in the late 1980's--I watched it on Nickelodeon. Now I've just dated myself.)
Please feel free to comment with your favorite fairy tales and any related books, sites, film, etc.