VOA日常语法2023--Happily Ever After: Settings, Actions, and Lessons in Fairy Tales

时间:2023-02-15 07:02:58



Happily Ever After: Settings, Actions, and Lessons in Fairy Tales

Recently, we discussed traditional stories called fairy tales. These stories are passed down through the generations.

We learned that these tales take place at an inexact time in the past: once upon a time or long ago. They include wonderful characters and magical elements like special numbers and talking animals!

But that was just the start of these special stories. In today's Everyday Grammar, we will consider how fairy tales end. We also will talk about the setting, the action of the story, and the life lessons a reader might learn.


The setting of a story answers questions about "where" it takes place. Since most fairy tales are very old stories, they take place in settings like forests, castles, villages, small countryside houses, or farms.

Readers need to create a picture of these places in their minds. Fairy tales use adjectives to describe the wonderous settings.

Let's look at a few examples:

In the fairy tale, Puss in Boots, the hero, is a cat (which wears boots) that enters the "stately castle" of an ogre. There, the cat tricks the giant creature into turning himself into a mouse which the cat immediately eats. In the castle, there are "spacious1 halls," which the cat will later walk through with the king.

The adjective "stately" means something that is impressive in appearance, behavior or size.

"Spacious" is another adjective meaning wide, open and with a lot of room or space. The use of special adjectives in fairy tales is meant to paint a picture in the mind that makes the story come to life.

In the Grimm Brothers' telling of Snow White, the opening setting helps describe something else ... Snow White, herself:

White snow was falling, and the cruel queen was sitting by a window surrounded by black material. She stuck her finger with her sewing needle, creating red drops of blood. The Queen asked for a child with these colors. Pale, or snow-white skin, black hair, and rosy2, red cheeks and lips.

In this telling, the setting creates a magical picture of our main character even before she appears in the story.

Let's move onto "actions" in the fairy tales


A hero or heroine might meet other important characters, fight an evil villain3, complete a magical task, or adventure, or do something three times. There are many possibilities!

The action of the story answers the question: "What is happening?" It describes the events or plot of the story. We can look at the verbs and adverbs in the fairy tale to see how the plot develops and where the conflict comes in.

Here is an example from The Snow Maiden4:

"She grew very rapidly – not only daily but hourly – into a tall, beautiful, and graceful5 girl..."

We see that the writer uses "grew" as the verb and "rapidly," "daily," and "hourly" to intensify6 the reader's understanding of the Snow Maiden's growth.

After a time, spring comes and so does conflict. Because the weather is warm, the Snow Maiden is sad, and she does not want to play with her friends in the forest. After a while, she finally agrees, but something happens...

As the Snow Maiden "was jumping over the flames after her companions, she evaporated8 into a thin cloud..."

Here we see the phrasal verb "to jump over" in the past progressive form. And we see the verb "evaporate7," which is a highly descriptive verb meaning "to disappear into nothing."

And this brings us to lessons and closings.

Lessons and closings

Not all fairy tales teach morals or lessons for our daily lives, but many do. Fables9 are such stories. They often use animals that behave like humans to teach lessons about life. These tales often end with a moral.

For example, in the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, the country mouse visits his cousin, the town mouse. In the busy town, their fancy dinner is interrupted by two large dogs.

The moral of the story is: It is better to live in peace and quiet and have a simple life, than to live in fear surrounded by comfortable objects.

The final words in many fairy tales are well known. After the hero or heroine succeeds or there is a marriage, "they all lived happily ever after."

This phrase provides a summary to finish the story and leave readers with good thoughts. We often expect "happy endings" to many of our stories, not just fairy tales.

Although many fairy tales do end this way, others might not. For example, the Snow Maiden ends sadly for the old husband and wife who wanted a child. The Snow Maiden evaporates10 while jumping over a fire.

Final thoughts

Today, we talked about fairy tale endings, which do not always end "happily ever after." We answered the question of "where" when we talked about settings. We learned how adjectives can describe those places. We also considered the actions and plots of some fairy tales. By using verbs and adverbs, writers develop stories or create interesting conflict. And, we gave some thought to the morals or lessons of the tales, especially with fables.

Let's close with some homework. Do you remember the fairy tale you chose a few weeks ago? Answer the following questions: Where does the fairy tale take place? What verbs and adverbs are used to talk about the action or plot of the tale? Is there a moral or lesson? What is it?

After that, consider: How does the fairy tale end? Is there a "happily ever after" ending? Or is it sad?

Words in This Story

character –n. a person in a story, book, movie or play

magical –adj. something with impossible powers

castle – n. a large building, usually with thick walls where people like kings and queens live

boots –n. (pl.) tall shoes that protect the lower part of the leg

ogre – n. a horrible giant monster in fairy tales

sewing needle – n. a thin piece of metal that is used with thread to make or repair cloth material such as clothes

pale – adj. light in color

task –n. a job or something that must be done

graceful –adj. moving in a smooth and attractive way

companion - n. a person or animal you spend time with or enjoy being with

evaporate –v. to go away suddenly, to disappear or vanish; v. to change from a liquid into a gas

lesson –n. something learned through experience or taught to affect future behavior

fancy –adj. not plain or ordinary, but costly11 or desirable

comfortable – adj. giving physical ease

phrase –n. two or more words that do not form a complete sentence but that express an idea



1 spacious YwQwW     
  • Our yard is spacious enough for a swimming pool.我们的院子很宽敞,足够建一座游泳池。
  • The room is bright and spacious.这房间很豁亮。
2 rosy kDAy9     
  • She got a new job and her life looks rosy.她找到一份新工作,生活看上去很美好。
  • She always takes a rosy view of life.她总是对生活持乐观态度。
3 villain ZL1zA     
  • He was cast as the villain in the play.他在戏里扮演反面角色。
  • The man who played the villain acted very well.扮演恶棍的那个男演员演得很好。
4 maiden yRpz7     
  • The prince fell in love with a fair young maiden.王子爱上了一位年轻美丽的少女。
  • The aircraft makes its maiden flight tomorrow.这架飞机明天首航。
5 graceful deHza     
  • His movements on the parallel bars were very graceful.他的双杠动作可帅了!
  • The ballet dancer is so graceful.芭蕾舞演员的姿态是如此的优美。
6 intensify S5Pxe     
  • We must intensify our educational work among our own troops.我们必须加强自己部队的教育工作。
  • They were ordered to intensify their patrols to protect our air space.他们奉命加强巡逻,保卫我国的领空。
7 evaporate inexc     
  • Clearly,the star wars problem was not going to evaporate.显然,星球大战问题并没有不了了之。
  • It will evaporate like a spirit.它将来总要像幽灵一样化成云烟。
8 evaporated evaporated     
adj. 浓缩的,脱水的,蒸发干燥的 动词evaporate的过去式和过去分词形式
  • Heat until all the water has evaporated. 加热直至水全部蒸发。
  • The water soon evaporated in the sunshine. 水在阳光下不久就蒸发了。
9 fables c7e1f2951baeedb04670ded67f15ca7b     
n.寓言( fable的名词复数 );神话,传说
  • Some of Aesop's Fables are satires. 《伊索寓言》中有一些是讽刺作品。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
  • Little Mexican boys also breathe the American fables. 墨西哥族的小孩子对美国神话也都耳濡目染。 来自辞典例句
10 evaporates 2774a3a5981d38ffe5cee4cb61064df7     
v.(使某物)蒸发掉( evaporate的第三人称单数 );消失,不复存在;使脱水
  • Heat evaporates water into steam. 水受热变成水蒸气。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • As the water evaporates, a crust of salt is left on the surface of the soil. 随着水分的蒸发,地面上留下了一层结晶盐。 来自辞典例句
11 costly 7zXxh     
  • It must be very costly to keep up a house like this.维修这么一幢房子一定很昂贵。
  • This dictionary is very useful,only it is a bit costly.这本词典很有用,左不过贵了些。

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