Top 10 Most Beloved Female Fairy Tale Characters
VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Laura Keating
You don't necessarily have to be the fairest of them all to make this list. For this list, we'll be looking at the most beloved female characters from classic western/European fairy tales. We won't be looking at original Disney creations, however. Our list includes The Frog Princess, The Snow Queen, The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Snow White, and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Popular Female Fairy Tale Characters.
Top 10 Popular Female Fairy Tale Characters
You don’t necessarily have to be the fairest of them all to make this list. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Popular Female Fairy Tale Characters.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most beloved female characters from classic western/European fairy tales. We won’t be looking at original Disney creations, however.
#10: The Frog Princess
While Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” was lots of fun, it was quite different from the Brothers Grimm original. In “The Frog Prince”, a spoiled princess loses her golden ball in a pond. A frog offers to retrieve it, if she will kiss him. She agrees, but once she gets her ball back breaks her promise. In the modern version, she agrees to kiss him, and he turns into a handsome prince. In the original though, she throws the frog against a wall in a fit of disgust and that does the trick. There is even a Russian version where the gender roles are reversed.
#9: Sleeping Beauty [aka Talia & Little Briar Rose]
There are actually a couple of variants of this story. In the most popular version, set down first by Charles Perrault and later by the Brothers Grimm, a young princess is cursed by a wicked fairy. After she pricks her finger on a spindle, she falls asleep for 100 years. The good fairies put everyone to sleep and grow a forest around the castle for protection. A century later, a prince finds her, wakes her with a kiss, and they get married. In Giambattista Basile’s version, which inspired Charles Perrault’s, it’s not quite so romantic because the King is made to believe he ate his own children.
#8: The Snow Queen
The only villain on our list, the snow queen is nevertheless a captivating character. In the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the queen of the “snow bees” captures a boy, Kai, when pieces of a cursed mirror become lodged in his eye and heart. Bringing him back to her castle, and freezing his heart further with a kiss, she will only let him go if he can spell the word ‘Eternity’ from the shards of ice in the lake in her palace. Anderson apparently based the beautiful but cold woman on opera singer Jenny Lind when she turned him down. Frozen’s “Elsa” is, of course, based on this narrative.
A consistent theme in fairy tales: while princesses are damsels in distress who need saving, little girls are usually clever and dependable. In “Hansel and Gretel”, after being thrown out of their home, Gretel and her brother become lost in the forest, whereupon they find a gingerbread house owned by a wicked witch. The witch plans on eating Hansel, and while he has his own tricks to avoid the roaster, it’s Gretel who gets the job done. When the witch asks Gretel to see if the fire is hot enough to cook her brother, she pretends she doesn’t understand the task, and when the witch demonstrates, she pushes her in and locks the door.
#6: Belle [aka “Beauty”]
Aside from the fact that her father traded her to a beast for a rose, things are actually pretty good for Belle – in a Stockholm syndrome sort of way. Although confined to the castle, she is eventually treated well. Every night, Beast asks to marry her and every night she says no, but in the end she gets a happy ending. In the Disney adaptation, Belle is bookish, brave, and intelligent. One of the first Disney princesses to actually think for herself, she is widely respected for this very reason. The ‘90s was the decade of “girl power” and Belle certainly helped to usher in that era.
#5: The Little Mermaid
The Disney movie is cute and fun, but the original “Little Mermaid” is a little bit darker. A mermaid trades her voice to a Sea Witch for a chance to become human for a prince. Apparently unable to write him a note and explain the situation, the prince falls in love with a different girl, breaking the mermaid’s heart. On the wedding barge, the little mermaid is told that she can become a mermaid again if she kills the prince, washes her legs in his blood, and then jumps back into the sea. But she can't do it and throws herself overboard where she turns into seafoam. The moral is... ladies, don’t try to change yourself for a man!
In this tale popularized by the Brothers Grimm, Rapunzel gets locked in a tower by an evil witch. One day, a prince comes along and hears Rapunzel singing and she lowers her long hair so he can climb up and save her. The witch finds out, cuts off her hair, and sends her to wander the wilderness. Long story short, the prince gets his eyes get poked out and ends up wandering blind for years. One day, the prince hears Rapunzel singing and finds her. Her tears work better than Visine eye drops, and he gets his vision back! We’re glad that Rapunzel and Eugene had a bit of an easier time in “Tangled.”
#3: Little Red Riding Hood
A little girl in a red cloak meets a wolf on her way to her grandmother’s house and naively tells him where she is going. Like Goldilocks, she isn’t quite smart enough to leave wild animals alone. When Little Red arrives at Granny’s, she fails to realize quickly enough that her grandmother looks suspiciously canine, and gets eaten. In some versions, it ends here. Nighty night, kids! One of the most enduring and popular fairy tale characters, it is a straight-up lesson in stranger danger. Red herself has been adapted dozens of times and in a plethora of forms and platforms, from video games to Broadway to fashion to romance/horror films.
#2: Snow White
Her story became the first, full-length cel animated feature, and the character has been adapted numerous times. Taking refuge in the home of seven dwarves when an Evil Queen wants her dead, there is something about the sweet innocence of Snow White that everyone just loves. Modern variations have taken the chance to deepen the character, giving her agency and background. Now if we could just do something about her prince (seriously, who looks at a dead girl and goes, “Yep, she’s the one! Gonna lock lips with a corpse.” Pretty creepy when you think about it …)
Her name is literally synonymous with happy endings! One of the earliest variations of her story first appears in a Greek tale from around 7BC. The story of a kind, hardworking girl who, through unexpected and magical circumstances, sees a tremendous change of fortune or social position has been told throughout the world. But the European version is the best known in the West, with famous details like the glass slipper first put down by Charles Perrault in 1697. Perrault’s also has a happier ending, with Cinderella forgiving her stepfamily and her sisters also marrying handsome nobles. The Brothers Grimm gave it a dark turn, but all the same: Cindy’s story is the glow-up of the ages.