Fairy tales have been with us for a long time. They are so old they predate written records, which makes it rather difficult to tell when people started telling them. Still, scholars have used various methods to investigate the matter.
In one case, The Guardian and other news sites reported the conclusion that some fairy tales reached as far back as 4,000, 5,000, and even 6,000 years ago. That doesn’t mean they have remained identical throughout. Instead, people have continuously updated them. As such, there is no reason why you should be the exception to this rule.
Check out these fairy tale writing prompts if you need some inspiration:
1. A farmer has been conscripted to fight in a war. Fortunately, his mother is a witch.
There is no reason why witches have to be evil. It isn’t hard to imagine one using their powers for their loved ones.
2. A farmer has been conscripted to fight in a war. Fortunately, his dog gives good advice.
Magical animals can give surprisingly good advice.
3. A farmer has been conscripted to fight in a war. Fortunately, his good nature enables him to make trustworthy friends.
Friends are important. They can offer assistance in our times of need.
4. A fairy offers a wish to a young monarch in gratitude for his excellent hospitality.
Hosts and guests exchange gifts in certain cultures. A gift from a magically-powerful figure can catalyze a grand adventure.
5. A fairy offers a wish to an aged monarch in gratitude for her excellent hospitality.
An aged monarch presumably wouldn’t ask for the same thing as his younger self.
6. A fairy offers a wish to a peasant couple in gratitude for their excellent hospitality.
Hospitality is relative to the host’s means. As such, it is very much possible for poorer individuals to be good hosts. Indeed, there is more than one story extolling the hospitality of poorer individuals for precisely that reason.
7. The tyrant has been overthrown. Now, his surviving supporters have flocked to the nearest claimant.
The cycle of revenge can lead to successive rounds of civil wars. Thanks to that, the overthrow of a tyrant isn’t necessarily followed by a happily ever after.
8. The tyrant has been overthrown. Now, the rebels have to change the system rather than replace their predecessors.
Systems have a momentum of their own. As such, there is a real risk of rebels overthrowing the system before proceeding to slot themselves into their predecessors’ places, thus resulting in no real change.
9. A village offers a sacrifice to a receptive monster.
A wide range of cultures used bargaining to exercise control over the uncontrollable. We tend to value ourselves. As a result, it was disturbingly common to see cultures offering up their own in times of direst need.
10. A village offers a sacrifice to a not-so-receptive monster.
With that said, a monster doesn’t necessarily have to be receptive to a human offering. Perhaps it rejects the victim because it has no use for them. Indeed, the monster might even find a measure of sympathy for the victim.
11. The cowardly prince is asked to ride out to rid his land of a powerful monster.
Learning to overcome fear is a classic.
12. The cowardly prince is asked to ride out to rid his land of a cunning monster.
Monsters aren’t necessarily mindless. The matching of wits is also a classic.
13. A dying man reveals the location of a fabulous treasure to his children.
As CNBC reports, a relatively low percentage of siblings will fall out over money. However, when they do, they often do so because of inheritances and other issues related to their parents. This is an easy setup for a moralistic tale reminding people why it is best for family members to talk things out.
14. A dying man reveals the location of a fabulous treasure to the general public.
Of course, a more general reveal is just fine if you only care about setting up an adventure story.
15. The young prince has announced his intention to get married. Families rush to offer their daughters.
Princes are in high demand in the marriage market. This is the kind of scenario that generates fierce competition.
16. The old king has announced his intention to get married. Families rush to offer their daughters.
Kings are also in high demand in the marriage market. History makes it clear that was true even when they were old. Still, the reactions of the young women expected to get married to them can make for interesting setups.
17. The local ruler has revealed that his child’s spouse will be chosen by lot.
It is hard to imagine choosing a spouse by lot. Luckily, it isn’t impossible. For instance, there might be so many powerful suitors that leaving the matter in the hand of the divine is the best way to avoid offending anyone.
18. The local ruler has revealed that his child’s spouse will be chosen by contest.
A contest is also a very appropriate solution for a fairy tale.
19. A noble is cursed for mistreating their guests.
The ancients took hospitality with deadly seriousness. Fairy tales can be a bit more lenient in this regard by just cursing characters who violate the rules of hospitality. Presumably, this is supposed to teach a lesson of some sort.
20. A noble is cursed for mistreating their subjects.
Rulers who mistreat their subjects are also often described as people who get cursed.
21. A noble is cursed for getting drunk and disorderly in a holy place.
The same is true for anyone showing a lack of respect in a place where respect is supposed to be shown.
22. A farmboy meets a princess from a fantastical, far-off place.
An ordinary boy meeting an extraordinary girl is about as conventional as it gets. Still, the classics are the classics for a reason.
23. A farmgirl meets a prince from a fantastical, far-off place.
The reverse scenario of an ordinary girl meeting an extraordinary boy also sees a great deal of use. However, it isn’t quite as common as the other way around, so it still has a touch of novelty to it for certain audiences. Other pairings can be even better in this regard.
24. An elderly couple opens an oversized fruit to find a child sleeping within.
Children with magical origins often go on to have grand adventures in these things.
25. The crew of a fishing ship pulls a chest from the sea. It contains a mysterious stranger grateful for the rescue.
Here, the stranger can be either benevolent or malevolent, as the story demands.
26. The king’s mistresses have been found hiring witches.
Access to a king’s ear was an extraordinary prize. As such, people were known to resort to extreme measures to get it and keep it. For instance, History Extra says the reign of Louis XIV of France saw a huge scandal because of people hiring witches. Supposedly, those people included at least one of his mistresses.
27. The king is frightened by the possibility his mistresses have been hiring witches.
It isn’t hard to imagine a king becoming frightened by the thought of his mistresses hiring witches to interfere with his thinking. Something that could have dangerous consequences for everyone around him.
28. The prince has been accused of using witchcraft.
Royals weren’t necessarily safe from such accusations. Everything depended on the strength of the bonds between them and the people making the decisions.
29. The princess has been accused of using witchcraft.
Men could be accused of witchcraft. However, The Conversation reminds us such accusations were directed against women more often than not. As such, accusations directed against a princess could play out differently from accusations directed against a prince.
30. The local ruler’s out-of-favor child finds a sympathetic ear in the local witch.
As mentioned earlier, witches aren’t necessarily evil. Just because royals tend to be depicted as going against witches in fairy tales, that doesn’t always have to be the case.
31. A girl finds out she is the descendant of royalty. The times are peaceful.
This is an easy way to set up a story about not taking pride in meaningless things. The royals got around a lot. Just about everyone should have at least some royal descent.
32. A girl finds out she is the descendant of royalty. The times are not so peaceful.
Claims of royal descent become much more dangerous in times of turmoil.
Sealed chests stir the imagination.
Water damage sets in fast. As a result, a pristine palace at the bottom of a lake is as spooky as much as anything else.
35. Excess rainfall washes away part of a hill, thus revealing a passage leading downwards.
Passages leading downward are often associated with otherworlds and underworlds.
36. A child meets three magical animals while running away because they are spoiled.
Magical animals aren’t necessarily friendly.
37. A child meets three magical animals while running away because they are treated poorly.
With that said, magical animals are an easy way to set up helpful companions with distinct characters and memorable powers.
38. The prince has fallen in love with a rival claimant.
This writing prompt could go in a wide range of directions. Successfully wooing the rival claimant might unite their claims. Even so, chances are good there are those standing against such a union.
39. The princess goes around in full armor. This results in rumors about what she looks like beneath the steel.
Going around in full armor would be very strange, to say the least.
40. The princess befriends the dragon.
Since dragons are often intelligent, it stands to reason that a princess could befriend a dragon.
41. The princess gains the ability to turn into a dragon.
Princesses often had little say over their destinies. One imagines this would have been quite different if they could turn into a giant, fire-breathing monster.
42. A farmer finds a magical hoe that does a day’s work in an instant.
Labor-saving tools are much-prized for a reason. It shouldn’t be hard to imagine trouble coming from this.
43. A farmer finds a magical hoe that does a day’s work in an instant. Shortly after, a fairy visits asking about her missing hoe.
Something valuable is an easy way to test character.
44. A man tries to trap a swan-maiden bathing in a pool by stealing her magical coat. This goes poorly for him.
Swan maidens show up in a lot of fairy tales. Tricking and otherwise mistreating them seems like a terrible idea. Country Life says swans aren’t as dangerous as folk tales claim. However, they are aggressive social creatures. As a result, mistreating a swan maiden seems like the kind of thing that ends with the fool getting jumped by an entire group of her friends.
45. The prince of the sea is exiled to live on land as a punishment for hubris.
People often imagined the sea as a copy of the land-bound world. As a result, it is a natural choice for the homeland of exiled royalty.
46. A greedy merchant is cursed to tell the truth whenever he tries to cheat someone.
Ironic punishments are very common in fairy tales.
47. An ungrateful homeowner refuses to pay respect to the fairies who keep their home clean and well-maintained.
Relationships are reciprocal. People forget that at their cost.
48. A mother goes on a faraway quest for the sake of her child.
A lot of parents will go to great lengths for their children. It could be interesting to make them the protagonists of fairy tales.
49. A prince is cursed so that he is handsome half of the time and hideous the rest of the time. His spouse must choose when he is one and when he is the other.
This is yet another easy way to set up a test of character.
50. A farsighted grandmother stashed away a most unexpected solution to her family’s woes.
Sometimes, hoarding can pay off. Of course, this could also be a case of someone with magical powers using them to protect their family.
You can also read:
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- 50 Awesome Dialogue Writing Prompts
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- 50 Awesome Mental Health Writing Prompts
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