Fractured Fairy Tales

by | Apr 12, 2007 | Approaches to Writing

Now that my students’ short stories are finished, we’ve decided to tackle some fractured fairy tales.  Do you remember them?  From Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends?  Unless you’re at least as old as I am, probably not.  In a Fractured Fairy Tale (FFT), you take your standard, government-issue fairy tale and change it around somehow.

It’s that ‘somehow’ that’s the hard part.

Of all the FFT’s from the R&B&F series, maybe half of them are worth watching twice, and maybe ten percent are laugh out loud funny.  If Jay Ward and company found this a challenging form, you can imagine how much trouble it gives the kids.

The first thing they want to do is change the details.  Instead of having Cinderella go to a ball, they want her to go to a Goth nightclub.  Right there they run into the two biggest problems.  One: Changing details does not change the outcome of the story.  Two: The whole reason that FFT’s are funny at all is because they play with the audience’s expectations.  We all know the story of Cinderella.  But if too many details get changed, the audience no longer recognizes the story and the whole conceit of having ‘fractured’ a time-honored tale falls apart.

To do one of these things well, one key is to keep as many details as possible.  What you change is the motivation of one or more characters.

One of the best of the R&B&F tales is a reworking of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in which the wolf has sworn off the eating of riding hoods.  He has even joined Riding Hoods Anonymous, and carries around an inspirational booklet to help him through those moments of temptation.  Remember the film Finding Nemo?  The sharks solemnly reciting “fish are our friends” until Dory gets a bloody nose which sends the sharks into a feeding frenzy?  I’ll bet you thought that was an original idea.

It’s funny to have a carnivore who refuses to eat meat.  In the FFT, the problem becomes that Red does not believe the wolf, so when he offers to carry the basket to grandma’s she gives him a basket of explosives instead.  In another FFT version of the same tale, the roles are reversed.  Little Red sells riding hoods, and a customer has ordered one made of wolf skin.  The details, though, remain intact; but it is now the wolf who skips merrily through the woods with a basket of goodies on the way to grandma’s house.

When I’ve done this project before, we’ve put on the finished products as puppet shows.  Unfortunately, we won’t have time to do that this time around.  The end of the school year is approaching, which for the kids is like blood in the water.  They’re getting kind of crabby, and what they don’t want to do is focus on instruction.  We’ll be lucky to even get these suckers written down.


The weather has been miserable lately, so while I haven’t too gotten crabby yet, being stuck inside has not been conducive to writing.  That’s my excuse, anyway, for the recent dearth of blog entries.  Rather than try to come up with a topic, tomorrow I think I’ll inflict my own fractured version of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ on you.  After that, maybe I’ll give you ‘The Prince and the Peabrain.’