Once upon a time…see? We told you that’s how today’s Wonder starts out! But this is no fairy tale. No, sir! There’s more than a hint of truth in today’s Wonder of the Day.

Do you like fairy tales? Who doesn’t? What’s not to like? Princesses, castles, ogres, evil villains…fairy tales have it all!

Of course, they’re just made-up tales, right? There aren’t really princesses and castles and evil villains, are there?

Well…you might say, “Of course not!” But let’s think about this a bit first. We know that there are real princesses in the world. And there are castles, too. Evil villains? Yes, we have those, too. Ogres? Maybe not…but maybe there’s some truth behind those fairy tales, after all.

Fairy tales have been popular with children for thousands of years. They’re usually short stories that feature fantasy characters based in folklore, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, mermaids, gnomes, giants and dwarves. They might also feature talking animals or other forms of magic or enchantment.

Fairy tales take us out of our everyday lives into magical lands filled with possibilities that excite and expand the imagination. Many times the phrase “fairy tale” is used to describe tall tales or other stories that not only aren’t true but couldn’t possibly be true.

But could there be truth behind some fairy tales? It’s impossible to know for sure so many years after some famous fairy tales were created, but some scholars believe that the Brothers Grimm might have based some of their fairy tales on real people and events.

For example, could Snow White have been a real person? Maybe! Scholars point to a couple of possibilities. The first was a beautiful girl named Margarete von Waldeck who lived in 16th-century Germany. She had a stepmother, experienced a star-crossed romance with a prince and lived during a time when small people — usually children — worked in mines.

Another possibility comes from 18th-century Germany. In the small town of Lohr am Main, a beautiful young girl named Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina was the daughter of a prince. After her mother died, a stepmother came along who many believe favored her own children over Maria Sophia.

Lohr am Main was located near the Spessart Forest and was famous for a glassworks company. The mirrors made by the Lohr glassmaking company were known for the incredible quality. Many people claimed that Lohr mirrors “always spoke the truth” and some called them “talking mirrors.”

Is any of this starting to sound familiar? The only things missing are the dwarves! The forested area around Lohr was also mountainous and known for mining. Long ago, the mine shafts were so small that only the smallest of miners could enter them. That’s why children often worked in the mines. The Brothers Grimm might have used the image of children miners as inspiration for the dwarves in their stories!

121 Join the Discussion

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  1. Hi Wonderopolis!

    Our class is still thinking about if fairy tales are real or not real. We didn’t know that some movies like Snow White are fairy tales!
    We were wondering, are cartoons fairy tales? Like Sponge Bob and Tom and Jerry?

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a white box that has something inside and has a secret code locking it, like a safe or a locker.

    • Good afternoon, Wonder Friend Froggy1! Thanks for sharing your comments with us today, especially since we’re all so familiar with Snow White and other fairy tales! We Wonder you can think of a few of your favorite fairy tales… do they have similar elements? Many fairy tales have a main character, a sinister character, perhaps a love interest, and a lesson. Perhaps some of the cartoons you watch have similar characteristics and elements!? :)

      Thank you for sharing your predictions for the next Wonder– we think you’ll enjoy it! :)

    • Alright, Wonder Friend C! We’re so excited that you shared your favorite fairy tale with us– what a SUPER connection to today’s Wonder! :) We think Rapunzel had some thick hair, if you ask us! :)

    • We loved learning about certain things that are real in fairy tales today, Izzy, and we’re so happy you joined us! Thanks for sharing your comment today! :)

  2. I like today’s wonder.
    Are princesses really real?
    How is somebody a princess?
    I’ll try to figure out what tomorrow’s wonder is- I can’t imagine!

    • Hey there, Jusin! Thanks for sharing your comment today, we are glad you’ve been WONDERing with us! While the majority of fairy tale stories are fictional, some elements are based on facts! Check out the Wonder article for more information! :)

  3. From today’s wonder of the day, we learned some fairy tales are based on true stories that really happened, also some fairy tales have some truth behind them, and some fairy tales in the Brothers Grimm happened in Germany.

    We still have one question… will we ever know if the fairy tales are true?

    Our prediction about tomorrow’s wonder of the day is … diamonds maybe because they sometimes come in white boxes and with one bar code.

  4. From today’s wonder of the Day, I learned….
    That some fairy tales might be based off of true stories and that all fairy tales aren’t completely fictional.
    I still have questions about…
    If the fairy tales ARE based of of REAL peoples lives how would they find out about these people?
    IF they ARE TRUE how would you have proof of these peoples even existing?
    How do you come to the conclusion the stories are about these people?
    Maybe whoever made up these fairy tales just thought of it and it happened and they were unaware that the person (or people) even existed?
    My prediction about tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is…
    A bike because when you get something that you have to assemble it would come in a box.

    • Hey there, Team Caisse Wonder Friends! It sounds like you’ve been WONDERing a great deal today– HOORAY FOR YOU! :)

      Thanks for sharing what you learned, the questions you still have, and your predictions for the next Wonder of the Day®. We are so proud of you! While we may never know for certain about fairy tales and their true existence, we can use our imaginations and think with our hearts. Sometimes it’s more fun to believe than to know for certain! We love imagining real life fairy tales– use your creative writing and thinking skills to create a fairy tale of your own! :)

      We love your predictions for the next Wonder… diamonds and bikes are awesome guesses! :)

  5. FROM TODAY’S WONDER OF THE DAY, WE LEARNED THAT SOME THINGS FROM FAIRY TALES CAN EXIST, SOME THINGS FROM FAIRY TALES ARE NOT REAL, AND FAIRY TALES CAN TAKE YOU TO A MAGICAL WORLD.

    WE STILL HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT IF CINDERELLA COULD BE PARTIALLY TRUE.

    WE PREDICT THAT TOMORROW’S WONDER OF THE DAY IS GOING TO BE ABOUT AN OBJECT IN A BOX AT A STORE.

  6. From today’s wonder of the day we learned, that some fairy tales are true and some are just make believe, there are princesses and castles, and how snow white might be real.

    We still have one question why do people make up make believe fairy tales?

    Tomorrow we will learn about something make believe.

    • Good afternoon, Team Caisse Wonder Friends! We like that you pointed out your favorite facts from today’s magical literary Wonder!

      We don’t know about you, but we really like make believe stories! We may never know if Cinderella was real, but perhaps different Cinderella’s personality was based off different folks and their lives! You can check out our Wonder about fiction and nonfiction tales, too: Wonder #662– When Does Nonfiction become Fiction? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/when-does-nonfiction-become-fiction/

      Thanks for sharing your super guesses! :)

  7. From today’s Wonder of the Day, we learned
    1. Snow White was a real girl.
    2. The dwarves were children miners.
    3. Snow White’s stepmother was when her real mom died.

    We still have a question, What were her mom’s and dad’s names?

    Our prediction is about spies and lock codes.

    • Hello Wonder Friends Daniel and Team Caisse! Thanks for sharing your comments today- fairy tales are great for WONDERing! :) We think it’s cool to read the opinions of all our Wonder Friends– sometimes we see things in different ways. :)

      We don’t have detailed information about Snow White’s real parents, but we can use our imaginations to create a story of our own about them! See you tomorrow! :)

  8. From today’s wonder of the day we learned
    1. some fairy tales are true such as princesses
    2. fairy tales have been very popular with children and adults for many of thousands of years
    3. a man named Lohr am Main had a glass mirror company and some people claimed that the mirrors had spoken to them

    Our question that we still have is how many castles are there in the world in all?

    I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be shoes because you can get them in white orange and (ETC) boxes

    Our other question is if you had a chance to live in a fairy tale what fairy tale would it be and why? HOPE YOU LOVE OUR COMMENT WE THINK IT IS SUPER DUPER AWESOME.

  9. From today’s wonder of the day, we learned that some fairy tales are true. What was the video for?

    Our prediction for tomorrow is more fairy tales.

    • Good morning, Wonder Friends from Team Caisse and Oliva! Our Wonder video features a student promoting her school’s theater production of Grimm’s Fairytales– we learned about the Brothers Grimm in today’s Wonder!

      Thanks for sharing three things that you learned with us today, and for sharing your question, too! While there are thousands of castles all over the world, we hope you’ll do some WONDERing of your own about the cool castles that exist today! We can’t wait to hear what you find! :)

      Thank you for sharing your comments and your predictions for tomorrow! We’re so lucky to have great Wonder Friends like you! You’re SUPER DUPER AWESOME, indeed! :)

  10. Hey wonderopolis could you please make tomorrow’s wonder about hockey or soccer?
    I’ve seen every wonder especially the sports ones.

  11. I learned that Snow White could be based off 2 young girls from the 16th century. And children used to mine because the mines were too small for adults to fit into.
    Also I learned that folktales could be based off of history from the past.
    I am still wondering who the Brothers Grim is.
    I think tomorrow’s will be about diamonds.

  12. Hey wonderopolis! :o

    Thoughts: Today, I think half my brain thinks fairy tales are real because kids put teeth under the pillow and get money, and things that are magic, but the other half brain thinks fairy FALES are fake because fairies don’t have TAILS! :D

    Connections: This reminds me of when I was 4 years old, I put my tooth under my small pillow in nighttime, slept, and the next morning, I saw a real $20 bill under my pillow because I think my loving parents or fairy tale gave me real money! (Thank you and bless your heart!) :)

    Predictions: What is in the secret code? Who wants to open the mystery, secret, white box? Do you have a safe place where you put your secret stuff? Did you do something wrong? ;)

    • Kathy, we are so glad you’re here today! :) Thanks for telling us your thoughts about fairies… we think it’s fun to believe even if we don’t know if they’re real. That’s why using our imagination is so WONDERful! :)

      We Wonder if you have a favorite fairy tale, or story, to share? Perhaps you’ve read Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, or Cinderella? :)

      It sounds like you’re one lucky Wonder Friend to find $20 beneath your pillow! What a valuable tooth you lost! :) Thanks for sharing your connection to our Wonder, and for leaving your predictions, too! Great guesses! :)

  13. Well let’s start out by telling you what I learned, I learned that fairy tales are not real. But they could have some truth in them. I also learned that they could be based on true stories too. I wonder if princesses do exist, I have a friend whose mom is a Native American Indian princess. I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day would be about a box of some sort that’s locked.

  14. Me and my super amazing partner thought of a conclusion “fairy tales might have existed” but we highly doubt that “folklore” or “fairy tales” are real. However we like the way you put it in such a way and describe all of reasons you think they exist.

    • Hey Team Turner A and Team Turner KK! We are so glad you’ve partnered up to Wonder with us today! We like that you’ve shared what you learned from today’s Wonder! You make a great point, Team Turner A– while the entire fairy tale may not be nonfiction, there are still bits and pieces that are true, like the characters! Princes and princesses certainly do exist, especially in the Royal Family! :)

      Team Turner KK, thanks for sharing your favorite part of the Wonder. We think it’s fun and helpful to explore all options and reasons behind fairy tales existing!

      Thanks for WONDERing with us and sharing your predictions, too! We look forward to seeing you again soon! :)

  15. I like that the statement that says: Well… you might say, “Of course not!” But let’s think about this a bit first. We know that there are real princesses in the world. And there are castles, too. Evil villains? Yes, we have those, too. Ogres? Maybe not… but maybe there’s some truth behind those fairy tales, after all. I did not know that not all fairy tales are not true I thought that they are all true and they just did it in the castle and had princesses do an act I was surprised to know that all fariy tales were not true so now I know that thanks to wonderopolis I am proud to know that all the fairy tales are not true. I learned that Snow White was a real person I thought it was just a person dressed up as her. I learned that a lot of things are not real.

  16. That was very interesting. I learned that the stories were based on real life, there are real princesses, but they are in different countries. Also Hunter just becuse fairy tales don’t have tails doesent mean they’re fake!

    • Alright, we are so excited to read the comments from Team Turner B.M. and Team Turner C.E.– WOHOO! :)

      Team Turner B.M.: thank you for summarizing what you learned today! While every detail in a fairy tale may not be true, there are lots of things that are based on truth, like you mentioned! It’s cool to hear that this Wonder has opened your eyes to fairy tales and fiction! :) AWESOME!

      Team Turner CE: Thanks for sharing your comment with us! We really enjoy reading everyone’s comments and opinions– we all see things in a different light! If you were writing a fairy tale, where would you want the setting to be? In a castle on a mountain side, perhaps in an enchanted forest? We are glad you and Hunter have been thinking about fairies and fairy tales today! NICE WORK! :)

  17. I learned that fairy tales can be base on true stories. Another thing is that some people do not believe in fairy tales and say they are not true and I say they have no imagination. I really like fairy tales my mother tells them to me and my little sister. I am still wonding if there are really dwarves and ogres. I am predicting that the next wonder would be a serial number.

  18. I was wondering if next year we can do some thing about Autism because today and next year, today will be about Autism because today is National Autism Day…

    • Hello hello to our Wonder Friends from Team Turner C.J. and Wonder Friend U! :)

      We’re over-the-moon to know that you’ve visited Wonderopolis to explore fairy tales with us! YIPPEE!

      Team Turner C.J.: We’re glad you WONDERed about stories… and how they can be based on other stories, or tales. Stories don’t have to be true to be fun and creative– what a SUPER point! We are so glad you enjoy WONDERing as a family– using your imaginations together is WONDERful and so much fun!

      Wonder Friend U: We are so glad you shared your very own Wonder with us! It’s so cool that you’ve been thinking about Autism Awareness, especially since people around the world are affected by Autism in different ways. Thanks for thinking about awesome Wonder ideas– you ROCK! :)

  19. Wow, that’s amazing! I’ve always loved the story of Snow White. :) Even though I think fairy tales with all the magic stuff can’t be quite true, I still think it’s awesome that they’re actually based on real people. ^_^

    • Hey Wonder Friend Ran! Thanks for sharing your comment with us– fairy tales are full of fun! While some of the magic may be in our imaginations, it’s great that you shared what you learned: some fairy tales are based on real people from the past! Perhaps you can write a fairy tale of your own using someone you know as one of the characters! :)

  20. I love fairy tales!! I also love the awesome twists of fairy tales in the books: Sisters Grimm. In school I learned that many fairy tales, tall tales, and other stories like that are usually based on real people, but are not exactly like them. :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend ACT! Thanks for sharing your comment with us, and telling us about a cool twist on the classic fairy tale, too! We’ll have to check out Sisters Grimm soon! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Wonder Friend Izzyv! We are so glad you’ve been WONDERing with us… do you have a favorite fairy tale to share? :)

  21. I think, even if you don’t believe in fairy tales, you can still like them. I want to be a writer when I get older so I really like fairy tales, in fact it was two fairy tales that inspired the story I am working on now! (Those fairy tales were The Chronicles Of Narnia and The Hobbit)

    • We are so glad you’ve been thinking about what you want to do in the future, Sarah, and we hope you keep writing as much as you can! It’s an awesome way to express your creativity! :)

      Thank you for sharing the two fairy tales that inspire you– we are so excited to learn about what makes you smile! :)

  22. Hello Wonderopolis, I’m in Mrs.Caplin’s class.
    I did not know that Snow White could have been based off someone in either the 16th or 18th century. Also, I did not know that children used to work in mines.
    In the movie Despicable Me, the main character is a villain. Villain is a wonder word. In the movie Gnomeo & Juliet the main characters are gnomes. Gnomes are miniature statues, that are usually in people’s yards. Gnome is another wonder word. In the past, in math, we talked about possibilities. Possibilities is also a wonder word.
    Fairy tales used to be mostly books, but now a lot of book fairy tales are made into movies. For example, the book The Hobbit used to be a book, but now it just came out as a movie.

    • Hey there, Simba, welcome back to Wonderopolis! We really enjoyed reading your comment on Wonder Wednesday! :)

      Thanks for sharing your comment and including some awesome Wonder words, too! You did a super job of making connections between fairy tales and your favorite books, movies and even lessons in math! NICE WORK! :)

  23. I think fairy tales are a very creative way to energize the ideas of your students. After all who doesn’t like fairy tale characters?

    • That’s a great point, Donna! Fairy tales are great ways expand the mind and use the imagination! We are glad this Wonder inspired you too, Donna! :)

    • That’s great, Mrs. Garrets class! We’re so glad you’ve been WONDERing with us today– hooray! We look forward to WONDERing with you again! :)

    • We Wonder if you have a favorite fairy tale, Mrs. Garrett’s Class? We Wonder if there is any truth to your favorite tales? :)

  24. We still don’t know if fairy tales are real or make believe. Some parts seem real, some not so real. We liked the explanation about the miners being young boys and could be the dwarves.

    • Hey there, Bear/Taylor! We are glad you’ve been thinking about the difference between fiction and nonfiction, and if there’s truth behind our favorite fairy tales! Nice work! Thank you for sharing your comment today! :)

  25. Thanks Wonderopolis!!!
    Me and my family love fairy tales and stuff like that!
    In fact we are watching a show called Once Upon a Time on ABC.
    We really enjoy it.
    I was excited when I saw this wonder,
    thanks so much!!!

    -Dan

    • Hey Dan, what an AWESOME connection to our fairy tale Wonder! It’s so cool that you and your family have been enjoying fairy-tale-based shows, like Once Upon a Time! We bet you’re using your super imaginations together, too! :)

      Keep up the great WONDERing! :)

  26. I was just wondering, but are all the wonders on wonderopolis, are they real or are some of them fake? Just wondering.

    • Hey Trent, we only provide nonfiction information in the Wonders of the Day, so you’re always reading about real things! We are glad you’ve been thinking about all of our Wonders! :)

  27. Well I have a quick question…………. more like a comment……………….
    no offense, FAIRIES DON’T HAVE TAILS for goodness sake!!!!!

    • Hi there, Gabriella! While many fairies don’t have tails, many stores are known as fairy tales… a tale, in this case, means a story! We like your play on words and we’re happy you’re WONDERing with us today! :)

  28. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I learned that little red riding hood might be true. Do you use a voki for the speaking part?

    your friend,
    Kyle M.

    • WONDERful, Kyle! We’re so glad that you learned something new today in Wonderopolis! The voice reading the Wonder does sound a lot like a Voki! Great connection, Wonder Friend! :-)

  29. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Do you believe in fairy tales, because I do? I really enjoy learning new things. Have you heard of Cinderella?

    Your friend,
    Kyle

  30. Some fariy tales are real but not all of them are real. Dragons fary tales are not real but other ones can be real.

    • That’s right, Miguel! Unfortunately, we know that dragons are not real. Yet, we think it would be really cool to see one! Thanks for sharing with us today! :-)

  31. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I like your fairy tales thing. How can fairy tales be real? Do you like the princess and prince? Did the brothers make kids work with them? I love fairy tales. How do you make your story? is it like a blog post.

    your friend,
    breeanna

    • Hello, Breeanna! We think it is WONDERful that you like to read fairy tales! We do like stories about princes and princesses! We think that you should try writing your own fairy tale! Be sure to share it with us, Wonder Friend! :-)

  32. Dear Wonderopolis,

    This was an amazing article. Hope I get to hear more about fairy tales.
    I love fairy tales!
    Your friend,
    Shyann

  33. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Thank you for putting this article up. I loved learning about all this information. The dwarfs and how the mining door was as big as kids. I think snow white could be real because there are no magic and dwarfs could possibly be real don’t you think? Could you put another wonder up, but new and interesting up?

  34. Dear wonderopolis,

    If they say it is a fairy tale then why dont fairys have tails?
    I wonder why. Would it be cool if fairys really had tails?

    Sincerely,
    Noel

    • Hi, Jacob! We think that some fairy tales are based on facts. Yet, we also think that fairy tales are stories told to teach a lesson to young people. Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

  35. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Can some fairy tales be real or are all fairy tales fake? MY dad says some fairy tales are true but not all. What is your favorite fairy tale? Mine is Cinderella. I like her character traits. Her character traits are brave, nice, gentle, and sensitive.

    Your Friend
    Jordyn

    • Wow, Jordyn! Based on your description of Cinderella, we would have to say that Cinderella is our favorite, too! Thanks for sharing with us today, Wonder Friend! :-)

      • You are welcome I will see you next time. Oh, and one more question. Who made fairy tales anyway? Ok, thanks for your time Wonderopolis.

        YOUR FRIEND AGAIN
        JORDYN

        • Great Question, Jordyn! Fairy tales began as stories handed down from generation to generation. No one really knows for sure where the stories originally came from. Yet, we need to thank the people, like the Brother’s Grimm, for writing down those stories for everyone to share. Keep WONDERing, Wonder Friend! :-)

  36. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Can all fairy tales be true? Do you think they all can? I think no sometimes no because the dragon ones can not because everyone knows that dragons are not real or can they?… no they can’t

    your friend,
    Atiana

    • We agree, Atiana! It is hard to say, but we think a lot of the fairy tales we read are made up stories. However, a few fairy tales are based on real people. Cool, huh? Thanks for sharing with us today! :-)

  37. Thank you wonderopolis the link was cool. Wonderopolis please come to are blog. You can type this in google.com Mrs. Moore’s class blog.

  38. Dear Wonderoplis,
    I wish dwarfs were real, but we never know!
    I hope they are so we could play in the snow!
    If you have snow in your state.

    Your friend,
    Devaunte

    • Hello, Devaunte! What is your favorite fairy tale? It sounds like it could be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Is that it? We really like that one, too! Thanks for sharing with us today! :-)

  39. Dear Wonderopilis,

    I think Fairy Tales can be real!
    I saw signs in Australia that had
    fairies on it! Construction Workers
    would’ve known because they are
    the ones who put it up. That’s crazy!

    Your little friend,
    Kailey

    • Wow! That is really interesting, Kailey! Now, we Wonder if there could be fairies on signs in Australia! Thanks for sharing with us today! :-)

    • Oh, that is an interesting thought, Elijah! Maybe if we could find a portal to go back in time, we could find out if fairy tales were real. Great! Thanks for sharing with us today, Wonder Friend! :-)

  40. I learned that fairy tales can be real, but ogres can’t. I like fairy tales. They are very funny. I like princesses, because they are nice and careful.

    • WONDERful, Brianna! We like fairy tales, too! We really like to read about them! Thanks for sharing with us today, Wonder Friend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Can fairy tales be true?
  • Was Snow White a real person?
  • Can you make up your own true fairy tale?

Wonder Gallery

912Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Once upon a time, it was time to extend your learning about fairy tales by checking out one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • What better way to extend your learning about fairy tales than…you guessed it…reading some fairy tales! Find a book of fairy tales at your local library, or jump online and find some fairy tales to read. Do you have any favorites? What are they? What types of fairy tale characters do you like the best? Why? Which of your favorite characters do you think could be based upon real people?
  • If you suspect that a fairy tale character might be based upon a real person, how would you go about proving it? Think of the scientific method. Based upon your observations, what educated guesses might you be able to make? How would you prove your hypothesis? What evidence would you need to gather? Think about these things and discuss them with a friend or family member. Walk through the steps and do some basic research. Does your research appear to support your hypothesis or not?
  • So what do you think? Can fairy tales be true? How about putting on your imagination hat and proving that they can be true? What are we talking about? You’re going to come up with your own fairy tale based upon the truth. You can write it down, say it aloud or even perform it as a short play. It’s up to you. First, start with the truth. Think of some friends and family members of yours. We bet some of them might be real characters from time to time, so go ahead and turn them into characters in your fairy tale. Come up with a basic storyline that’s a true story that really happened. Then add in some magic, perhaps some talking animals and a fairy or a castle. Before you know it, you’ll have your own made-up fairy tale that’s based upon a true story! This may or may not be how the Brothers Grimm came up with their fairy tales, but you never know! Maybe this is exactly how it happened! Most importantly, have fun and enjoy turning your friends and family members into true fairy tale characters!

Still Wondering

For tons of fun, check out ReadWriteThink’s A Recipe for Writing: Fairy Tale Feasts lesson. After examining recipes written based on children’s favorite fairy tales, children research a recipe related to their favorite story, book or fairy tale and include it in a classroom recipe book.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day comes in a white box with only a bar code!

 

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.