Music Inspired By Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are versatile little things. Their basic narrative style is easy to elaborate on, making it possible to use them as the basis for new stories. But it’s not only writers they influence. Many musicians have turned to fairy tales song material.

If you’re looking for something new to listen to, then here are some of my favourite fairy tale inspired songs!

1. Storytime by Nightwish

I hadn’t listened to Nightwish much, but when I discovered this song there was no going back. It ensnared me, and they’re one of my favourite bands now. A song about stories is awesome enough, but this is just so lively and dramatic. Perfect for belting out when you’re home alone or on long drives down open roads! I love the concept of imagining a writer creating the world, and how stpories can ‘read you real’ and ‘the core of all life is a limitless chest of tales.’ Everything you read has an impact on your life, and it’s true that life is composed of stories. Things are constantly happening that are talked about, and so the chain grows and continues. Whilst this song isn’t based on any particular fairytale, it has a magical feel to it because of the imagery used (things like ‘every moonlit sight’ and imagining the world ‘within a snowflake’) and references to fantasy characters and places.

Also listen to: The Islander, Last Ride of the Day, and Escapist.

2. Candles by Daughter

 I’m a firm believer that Elena Tonra’s voice is bewitching. I’ve seen Daughter live a couple of times, and throughout both performances the audience were silent and awestruck. This band have such a clear, soothing sound. The opening verse of this song distinctly reminds me of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, with a young girl being taken away from ‘the hum of street lights and into a forest.’ She says she is scared of being ‘torn apart by a wolf in mask of a familiar name on a birthday card’, followed by the chorus which says ‘“you’re too old to be so shy,” he says to me so I stay the night.’ This hints at a sexual relationship that the girl is too young for, reminiscent of the latent themes of growing up, loss of innocence and desire in ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’

Also listen to: Peter

3. Brick by Boring Brick by Paramore

This song has been an anthem of mine since its release in 2009. Sometimes I need to keep my feet on the ground when my head’s in the clouds! Right from the first line, ‘she lives in a fairy tale’, we’re there in the story, complimented beautifully by the Alice in Wonderland-esque world shown in the music video. A warning is also given here, repeated in the chorus: ‘go get your shovel, and we’ll dig a deep hole, to bury the castle.’ It’s saying that if you don’t focus on reality enough then it won’t be the fairy tale you want, so sometimes you have to bury your fantasies and slog through life. But there’s a happy ending, as in the end you will have something ‘true’ and will ‘see it with your eyes.’

Paramore don’t have any other fairy tale related songs, but listen to Oh Star and Misguided Ghosts for more morals, pretty imagery, and metaphors.

4. Shalott by Emile Autumn

Although based on the poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ by Lord Alfred Tennyson, these powerful and poignant lyrics are also strongly evocative of ‘Little Briar Rose’ (aka. ‘Sleeping Beauty’): ‘she’s locked up with a spinning wheel, she can’t recall what it was like to feel’. I love the idea of giving Briar Rose/Aurora a voice, as she is a notoriously passive figure in folklore. But if you stop to consider her as a character there is a lot of emotion to uncover. How she lives with the curse, and has ‘been told that I’ll die before I’m old.’ How she knows that she can never do all the things she wants, and the injustice in that: ‘everyone else can watch as their dreams untie, so why can’t I?’ This whole song can also be taken metaphorically, making it applicable to contemporary life as well.

Also listen to: Rapunzel, and Rose Red

5. Puss ‘n Boots by Adam Ant

Gotta love a bit of 1980’s madness. This version of ‘Puss in Boots’ gets really creative with the story, making the cat a young girl ‘going to London looking for love and for fame.’ However, she ends up being asked to ‘keep trouble at bay’ (in the video this is people dressed a mice…) by the king, who attempts to bribe her with the prospect of being ‘queen for a day.’ The twist to this story gives it a new moral, that those in power are often no better than the trouble they’re trying to eradicate, and displays the versatility of fairy tales. Plus it’s just weird and wonderful fun!

Also listen to: Prince Charming


6. The Frog Prince by Keane

This is full of fairy tale symbols – castles, ogres, treasure and spells. But it also has a dismal message that juxtaposes the original story of ‘The Frog Prince,’ in which a prince cursed to be a frog is turned back into a prince. In this song he changes for the worse, so his crown ‘cracks and falls down’ because he ‘wandered so far’ away from the person he was.

Also listen to: Crystal Ball

7. White Horse by Taylor Swift

This song takes the stereotypical image that fairy tales are good and an idealistic representation of love. It’s about sadness during a break up, and the girl realises that ‘

I’m not a princess, this ain’t a fairy tale.’ She had high expectations of love, and expected them to be perfect as fairy tales are thought to be, but in reality most of them are pretty nasty. Life lesson learned.

Also listen to Long Live, The Best Day, and Love Story. The latter is based on Romeo and Juliet, so not a fairy tale but it has a narrative akin to one.

8. Blinding by Florence & the Machine

Another bewitching voice, this time belonging to Florence Welch, and another potential break-up song. Only this has slightly more optimistic message. Snow White’s image is used in this dark, moody tune to convey a feeling of freedom. She was ‘a tourist in the waking world’ as she as asleep, but ‘finally it seemed that the spell was broken.’ Then there was ‘no more dreaming like a girl so in love with the wrong world,’ showing how desires can change and you can want things you hadn’t considered before. There’s also a wonderful juxtaposition in the line ‘Snow White’s stitching up your circuit-boards.’ It’s saying that you can heal and be put back together, but circuit-boards are modern items and seem to contradict the old-fashioned art of sewing. But the implication is clear – that after times of suffering we can be repaired by the simplest methods.

Also listen to: Rabbit Heart, which is based on the Greek myth of King Midas.

I hope you enjoy these songs, and if you know of any other fairy tale related music then please share it in the comments!

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Amelia Starling is a writer and folklorist. She graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Creative Writing, and is Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday. She loves travelling and collecting stories, and spent 15 months living in Japan doing this alongside teaching English. Amelia blogs about folklore and fairy tales at The Willow Web. You can follow her on Twitter @amyelize.

2 thoughts on “Music Inspired By Fairy Tales

  1. YAY Nightwish love! 🙂 Hope you like the other songs! Since writing this post I have discovered other music, so I'll probably be writing a follow up sometime.

  2. OMG I AM A HUGE NIGHTWISH FAN TOO!!! They are hands down my favorite music to run to…I need to check out these other songs now, I'm not familiar with most of them!

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