The topic came up on the AlwaysLearning list, and this and that was said, some of which is worth putting here for further thought and discovery.
I'm grateful to those in that discussion who had the time and knowledge to find these quotes:
"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.
If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."
~Albert Einstein~ Scientist (1879-1955)
More Quotes Tomorrow I'm going to bed soon.
Some of the most commonly available fairy tales are
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Hansel and Gretel
Red Riding Hood
Many of them exist in several versions, and the main collections were in Germany and France. Some are related to traditional ballads.
Some stories are generally considered "fairy tales" but they're not of that traditional, passed-down-from folklore genre. The Little Mermaid is a literary story. Hans Christian Andersen wrote short stories, he didn't collect folklore.
I was going to explain more, but I found this and it's pretty good for anyone who cares about the technicalities and terminology:
Here's another recent article on fairy tales.
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/09/21/fear_of_fairy_tales/?p1=Well_MostPop_Emailed6, in the Boston Globe. Fear of fairy tales, by Joanna Weiss
September 21, 2008