What is a myth?
A myth is a story with a purpose. It tries to explain the way the world is. Myths also try to explain the relationship between gods and humans. Even though the events in a myth are usually impossible, they try to send a message that has an important social or religious meaning.
People have always tried to figure out common questions like who made the universe or questions like what causes a storm. Religion, gods, and myths were created when people tried to make sense out of these questions. For early people myths were like science because they explain how things work. They also explained other questions that are now answered through modern science.
What is a legend?
Legend has several related meanings. A legend today may be someone of noted celebrity, with larger-than-life accomplishments, whose fame is well-known. Another meaning of legend is a literary genre. In this capacity, the term legend is much-abused, used synonymously withmyth, tall tale, and history. However, it makes more sense to use the term legend — as it is, in fact, often used — to name a type of literature that falls somewhere between myth, tall tales, and history and that otherwise has no name.
In this sense, legend differs from myth, if we understand myth to be focused on explaining natural phenomena, answering questions about why things are the way they are in the natural world, because legend is focused on individuals and their accomplishments. Legend also differs from tall tales, which focus on hyperbole — and therefore humor — and intentionally ascribe inventions and innovations to a hero to whom they do not belong for the sake of the story. Finally, legend is separated from history by the fact that its content, once believed to have been true, turns out to be fictional. The heroes of legend in this sense, then, are fictional heroes or real people whose exploits aren’t quite what they’re made out to be, who were either so lifelike or so admirable that people wished they were real. This description fits the works and heroes typically associated with the genre.
What is a fable?
Fable is a literary genre. A fable is a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized (given human qualities such as verbal communication), and that illustrates or leads to an interpretation of a moral lesson (a "moral"), which may at the end be added explicitly in a pithy maxim.
Usage has not always been so clearly distinguished. In the King James Version of the New Testament, "μύθος" ("mythos") was rendered by the translators as "fable" in First and Second Timothy, in Titus and in First Peter.
A person who writes fables is a fabulist.
What is a fairy tale?
A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features folkloric fantasy characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls,dwarves, giants, mermaids, or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. However, only a small number of the stories refer to fairies. The stories may nonetheless be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends (which generally involve belief in the veracity of the events described) and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables.
In less technical contexts, the term is also used to describe something blessed with unusual happiness, as in "fairy tale ending" (a happy ending) or "fairy tale romance" (though not all fairy tales end happily). Colloquially, a "fairy tale" or "fairy story" can also mean any farfetched story or tall tale; it's used especially of any story that not only isn't true, but couldn't possibly be true.
In cultures where demons and witches are perceived as real, fairy tales may merge into legends, where the narrative is perceived both by teller and hearers as being grounded in historical truth. However, unlike legends and epics, they usually do not contain more than superficial references to religion and actual places, people, and events; they take place once upon a time rather than in actual times.
Fairy tales are found in oral and in literary form. The history of the fairy tale is particularly difficult to trace because only the literary forms can survive. Still, the evidence of literary works at least indicates that fairy tales have existed for thousands of years, although not perhaps recognized as a genre; the name "fairy tale" was first ascribed to them by Madame d'Aulnoy in the late 17th century. Many of today's fairy tales have evolved from centuries-old stories that have appeared, with variations, in multiple cultures around the world. Fairy tales, and works derived from fairy tales, are still written today.
The older fairy tales were intended for an audience of adults, as well as children, but they were associated with children as early as the writings of the précieuses; the Brothers Grimm titled their collection Children's and Household Tales, and the link with children has only grown stronger with time.
Folklorists have classified fairy tales in various ways. The Aarne-Thompson classification system and the morphological analysis of Vladimir Propp are among the most notable. Other folklorists have interpreted the tales' significance, but no school has been definitively established for the meaning of the tales.
A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Some such stories are exaggerations of actual events, for example fish stories ('the fish that got away') such as, "that fish was so big, why I tell ya', it nearly sank the boat when I pulled it in!" Other tall tales are completely fictional tales set in a familiar setting, such as the European countryside, theAmerican Old West, the Canadian Northwest, or the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
Tall tales are often told so as to make the narrator seem to have been a part of the story. They are usually humorous or good-natured. The line between myth and tall tale is distinguished primarily by age; many myths exaggerate the exploits of their heroes, but in tall tales the exaggeration looms large, to the extent of becoming the whole of the story.