A happy ending is one of their generic markers. The agents who bring about miracles of hope in the stories vary from place to place, as they rise from local belief systems which belong to tradition.
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The tradition may contain imaginary elements but also traces of history: The history is itself often an imagined history: King Arthur inspired romances that in turn carry into fairytale motifs and plot devices — enchanted objects swords, mirrors, cups , tests and riddles, dangers from monsters and forests, dream journeys, and a sense of the other world near to hand. Fairy tales evoke every kind of violence, injustice, and mischance, but in order to declare it need not continue.
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The promise of the happy ending carries the tales of terrible dark deeds to their unlikely conclusion. There is the occasional well-known fairy tale that ends badly, like Red Riding Hood according to Charles Perrault. But it is an aberration, as shown by myriad popular variations in which the young girl tricks the wolf out of his prize or even kills him herself.
The most often told version introduces a hero: You have a sketch map and a rough guide; the lights are lit in the windows of that house in the deep dark forest ahead of us. We can begin to move in, listening out, eyes open, trying to find our bearings.
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