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How to Cite a Fairy Tale in MLA Format


Documenting research using the MLA style is an essential part of writing in the humanities. Use the same standards of citation for fairy tales as for all sources, but pay careful attention to the details of your original source in order to fully document the tales. Doing so gives your work greater credibility, as it highlights the authority of your research and helps your readers find the sources to pursue their own research along the lines you began.

Anthologies: Works Cited

You will locate many fairy tales in anthologies. In the seventh edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, the first element of the Works Cited listing is the author of the tale that you are citing, not the editor of the anthology in which the tale appears. So, for instance, if you are citing Charles Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood from Folk and Fairy Tales, edited by Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek, your Works Cited entry begins with Perrault's name (last name, a comma and then the first name), then the title in quotation marks. Next, provide the title (italicized and followed by a period), editor data (with Ed. and then the editor's name, followed by a period) and the publication data of the anthology itself (the city where the anthology was published, followed by a colon, then the publisher, a comma and the year of publication). Give the page numbers where the specific tale appears, and close the listing with the format: Print. The entire Works Cited list should be in alphabetical order, and each entry should use hanging indents, with the second and subsequent lines indented a half-inch.

Websites: Works Cited

The Internet provides access to many fairy tales, both in collections and individually. It is important to exercise some caution when evaluating the reliability of these sources, but citing them relies upon the same basic principles as citing any more conventional source. Because most fairy tales have an author, simply list that name first (in last name, comma and then first name format), followed by the title of the tale in quotation marks, then the overall site title in italics, any version numbers (such as revision or volume numbers or posting dates), publisher information, publication medium (Web) and the date you accessed the information. Separate each of these items by a period. The seventh edition of the MLA Handbook does not require the use of urls, or web “addresses,” because they are often long and don't last, but if your instructor or supervisor prefers you to include the url, place it at the end of the listing. If there is no date, replace the date with n.d.; if there is no publisher available, replace it with n.p.

No Author

If you are citing a fairy tale without a known author, follow the same guidelines for the specific type of source, but omit the author’s name. Do not write “no author.” In this case, the first item in the Works Cited listing will be the title of the tale in quotation marks; proceed with the rest of the entry depending on its type.

In-Text Citation

Follow the same basic principles in providing parenthetical citation and in-line attribution for your tale, focusing on the author of the tale itself, not the editor of the anthology or creator of the website where you found it. A good general rule is that the first element of your Works Cited listing is the same piece of information you give in your in-text citation. In the example of Red Riding Hood, you would give Perrault’s name and the page number you referred to in your parenthetical citation. Websites generally do not have page numbers, so the attribution will feature only the author’s name, or the tale’s title if there is no author. If the website numbers paragraphs or sections, use those numbers in your parenthetical citation.

About the Author

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.