If you ask most people what the first story they remember being told as a child, chances are, they’ll give you the name of a fairy tale. We’ve been reading our children fairy tales for hundreds of years, and you can probably name a couple dozen. Cinderella. Snow White. Hansel and Gretel. Sleeping Beauty. Little Red Riding Hood.

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Those are the first names that come to mind, right? And it’s no wonder; those are some great, classic stories, ones that a lot of us grew up on. But the world of fairy tales is much, much wider than you may realize. There are literally thousands out there, so it’s a bit disappointing when the same few get all the attention. These are seven of my favorite underrated fairy tales… that you’ve probably never heard of.

7 Underrated Fairy Tales

#1 SNOW WHITE AND ROSE RED

Snow White and Rose Red; 7 of the Greatest Underrated Fairy Tales You Will Really Love

Photo: Snow White and Rose Red by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1911

“We will not leave each other.” “Never, so long as we live.”

Origin: Germany

No relation to Snow White of the seven dwarfs! (Though there is a dwarf in here… an evil one, to be precise.) This is a story about two sisters, who are opposites in every way except their love for each other. Loads of fairy tales feature sibling rivalry, so the loving and supportive relationship between Snow White and Rose Red is a deeply heartwarming change of pace. One winter’s night, the two sisters decide to shelter a talking, intelligent bear from the cold, and this sets them on the path towards their happily-ever-after. This is a sweet, simple tale of sisterly love and the wonderful things that can happen when you offer help to someone in need.

Read it here.

#2 THE SEALSKIN

Origin: Iceland

This story has a few variations, but this one is my favorite. This story serves as a sort of precursor to The Little Mermaid, following the marriage between a human man, and a selkie. Selkies are beautiful, immortal women who live as seals in the water, but shed their sealskin to walk on land. But even selkies who marry human men will get homesick, and pine away for the sea. This is a melancholy, simple tale, but it’s extremely effective. Give it a read; you won’t be forgetting it any time soon.

Read it here

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#3 THE LOVER’S GHOST

Origin: Hungary

For those of you who like a bit of darkness before you get to your happily-ever-afters! A young woman’s beloved goes off to war, and she, of course, promises to wait. But when years go by and he doesn’t come home, she consults her godmother for advice. With the help of her godmother’s magic, she’s able to find out what happened to her beloved… and doesn’t like the answer. This story is spooky and somber, but it ends on a happy note and features a remarkably proactive protagonist. Plus, her main ally is a witch — how cool is that? No damsels in distress here!

Read it here

#4 THE FOX SISTER

“The man’s wife discovered that she was pregnant, and in time she bore a beautiful girl. The man was happy. But when the daughter was about six years old, strange things began to happen…”

Origin: Korea

A spooky, traditional Korean folktale about the legendary kumiho — a beautiful, evil spirit that takes the form of a nine-tailed fox and eats human hearts. In the story, a man with three sons desperately wants a daughter. One night, he prays, “Give me a daughter. Even if she’s a fox.” And if there’s one lesson to be learned from fairy tales, it’s be careful what you wish for. This is one of my favorite non-Western fairy tales; it’s stuck with me from the very first time I read it. I’d love to see more stories featuring the kumiho — as this story perfectly demonstrates, she makes for one creepy, powerful villain.

Read it here.

#5 THE ENCHANTED MAIDEN

Origin: Portugal

This is a Cinderella-esque tale of three sisters. The elder two marry princes, while the youngest ends marrying a peasant. This causes the girl’s sisters to refuse to associate with her, leaving her alone. Or at least, up until the youngest sister’s daughter is born, and is blessed by fairies with beauty, grace, and riches. Oh, but don’t worry; it’s not long before karma comes knocking. Like I said before, this story reminds me a lot of Cinderella, which is why I’m surprised it’s not more popular. It’s a lovely story about the dangers of superficiality, and it’s one I think a lot of you will enjoy.

Read it here.

#6 THE THREE SPINNERS

The Three Spinners; 7 of the Greatest Underrated Fairy Tales You Will Really Love

Grimm’s Household Tales, 1912.

“Let me have your daughter with me in the palace, I have flax enough, and there she shall spin as much as she likes.”

Origin: Germany

An underrated story from the Brothers Grimm themselves! I’d describe it as Rumplestiltskin but turned on its head. A young woman is lazy and refuses to use her spinning wheel. But now, she’s found herself in a bit of a bind — specifically, the Queen has put her in a room full of flax and told her, if she spins it all in three days, she can marry the prince. Fortunately, three old crones come to the girl’s aid. This story is extremely light-hearted and lacks the gory and, well, grim atmosphere the Brothers are famous for. I especially love how, for once, the ugly, older women aren’t wicked witches tormenting the beautiful maiden. Instead, they get to be her allies.

Read it here

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#7 HANS, WHO MADE THE PRINCESS LAUGH

Hans, Who Made the Princess Laugh; 7 of the Greatest Underrated Fairy Tales You Will Really Love

Painting by Vasnetsov

Origin: Norway

A sweet, simple story about a princess who never laughed… and the young man who becomes determined to change that. I’m a sucker for the old “defrosting the ice queen” trope, and this is pretty much the ultimate example of that. And when you read along with Hans’ ordeal as he tries to get the princess to at least crack a smile, it’s hard not to smile, too. There are many variations on this story floating around out there, but this one is my favorite.

Read it here

Like I said before, there are literally thousands of fairy tales out there — these seven don’t even scratch the surface. If there are any underrated fairy tales you wish would get more love, tell me about them in the comments! I’d love to check them out! 


Featured image: Sleeping Beauty oil painting by John Collier

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