The term “anti-fairy tale” was first used in German as Antimarchen by Andr_e Jolles in 1929 as a designation for fairy tales that have a tragic rather than the normal happy ending, as for example in “The Fisherman and His Wife”.
Even the most positive fairy tales have aspects of an anti-fairy tale if one applies the concept to the negative hero or antihero in such tales. The story of the stepmother in “Snow White,” for example, would be an antifairy tale of sorts, since she is shown to be an utterly evil person who finds her cruel and final punishment in the end. Seen in this light, one could consider such literary fairy tales as Ludwig Tieck’s “Der blonde Eckbert” (“Eckbert the Blond,” 1797) or some of Franz Kafka’s short stories or fables as approximating the idea of an anti-fairy tale. However, the term has also been used to refer to modern literary reworkings of fairy tales that stress the more negative scenes or motifs, since they appear to be more realistic reflections of the problems of modern society.
Such negative, cynical, or satirical reactions to traditional fairy tales in the form of poems, prose texts, aphorisms, caricatures, and cartoons and comics, for example, are interpreted as anti-fairy tales, as contradictions to the miraculous and positive messages of the original tales. Some of these texts and illustrations are indeed “grim” reactions to the traditional Grimm fairy tales, contrasting the perfect world of the fairy tale with sociopolitical issues, marital problems, and economic worries. And yet, fairy tales and anti-fairy tales complement each other as traditional and innovative signs of the human condition.