The Story of Fairy Tales in English: From The Snow Queen to Frozen

How many versions of Snow White are there? The original version, the Grimm version, Disney’s version…and yet it’s still Snow White! How can that be? Turns out this isn’t an isolated case.

There are dozens and dozens of fairy tales, both from Europe and from other parts of the world, that is essentially the same story in different formats—and even those versions can contain multiple variations themselves!

For example, have you ever read Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen? It’s essentially the same story as Disney’s Frozen! How did this happen?

Disney’s Frozen | Fairy Tales in English

When thinking about Disney’s Frozen, it is important to note that it isn’t a traditional retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen. In fact, while there are many similarities between Disney’s story and Andersen’s original fairytale, both stories differ in significant ways.

Fairy Tales in English
Fairy Tales in English

For example, Disney’s film takes place in Arendelle and Hans Christian Andersen’s story takes place on a Scandinavian mountain called Jokulhlaup.

Into the Woods by John Yorke

If you’re looking for some great books on fairy tales (and who isn’t?), I recommend Into the Woods by John Yorke. It’s a nonfiction exploration of fairy tales across time, revealing where they came from and how they were shaped.

He shows us how we can trace modern stories back to their origins, and suggests there is real value in understanding our storytellers—the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, J. M. Barrie—as well as their stories.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time is a short story that was originally published as a book. It follows Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace Murry (along with three other characters), who travels through time and space with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which in search of their father’s whereabouts.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol is one of Dickens’s best-known works, and it is also one of his most frequently adapted stories. Perhaps that’s because A Christmas Carol is about as close as you can get to a perfect story.

Whether or not you’re a fan of Dickens, if you love good storytelling, try adapting A Christmas Carol for your students!

Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Beauty and Beast is a French fairy tale written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. It was originally published anonymously as La Belle et la Bête.

Little Red Riding Hood (and other stories) by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm

One of the fairy tales’ most famous stories is that of Little Red Riding Hood, but it wasn’t always called Little Red Riding Hood. Written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, they originally named their story Little Red Cap or Little Red Riding Hood.

This version was published around 1812. There were other versions that came before that, but they all share similarities. In a different publication from 1706, a story called Der Rabe (German for the raven) was published with similar characteristics.

How to Teach Students About Fairy Tale Connections with Printables

There are so many ways to teach students about different versions of fairy tales—and my personal favorite is by using printables. In The Story of Fairy Tales in English, students learn how to compare two versions of a story and take notes on common characteristics between them.

Print out these fun flashcards with pictures from Disney’s Frozen and classic stories like Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen and ask students to match them up based on similar characteristics.

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