Are about creation. Why the earth/sea/day are as they are, who runs the world and how. Myths explain.
Myth In Western Children’s Literature
Myth as such is absent in the history of Western children’s literature. Unlike literature, myth is based on the belief of the myth bearers; when this belief disappears, the myth ceases to be a myth. Since children’s literature emerges long after Western civilization had lost its traditional mythical belief, this stage is not represented in children’s fiction.
– Maria Nikolajeva, The Rhetoric of Character In Children’s Literature
Are the traditional tales of the people. Folktales are often fairy tales, but not always. Folk indicates the origin of the story, while fairy indicates its nature.
Are stories of magic, set in the indefinite past, incorporating traditional themes and materials. Often about giants, dwarfs, witches, talking animals, a variety of other creatures — good and bad fairies, princes, poor widows etc. In fact, there is a standard cast of characters who appear in fairy tales.
Some fairy tales are ancient; others are modern. The tradition of the modern fairy tale began with Uncle David’s Nonsensical Story in Catherine Sinclair’s Holiday House.
Are about the achievements of real or imaginary heroes — battles long ago.
Is a modern form, belonging to the age of the novel. There are many different subcategories of fantasy. Overlaps with fairytales, though fantasy tends to be long while fairy tales are brief. Has tended to be a British speciality, at least in the 19th Century. Fantasy from newer countries have gone more for stories about contemporary life, though globalisation means the distinction is now less marked.
Fantasy took off in the decade of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and The Water Babies. (1865 and 1871.)
— for more see John Rowe Townsend, Written For Children