Fairy tales are usually based on folklore. They deliver a story designed on a framework of common characteristics. For example, a fairy tale might tell the story of a distressed damsel waiting for a knight in shining armor to save her. Oftentimes, the knight’s sidekick supports the mission and proves indispensable. Included are usually fairies, giants and other folk-based creatures. Modern fairy tales generally end well; the damsel is saved and lives happily ever after with her savior. The fractured fairy tale changes the basic structure of traditional fairy tales and incorporates modern morals.

The Origin of the Fairy Tale

Historically, the fairy tale storytelling form was grouped with folk stories. The original name for such stories, Märchen, means little story from the past. Essentially, fairy tales were stories told based on occurrences from long ago, or “once upon a time.” The genre originated in Europe and developed from stories told by elders in the community. Eventually, writers and story collectors assisted the evolution of this form of storytelling. For example, the Brothers Grimm adapted oral stories to written form and became a prominent name in the telling of fairy tales.

During the 17th century, the fairy tale became popular in France. A large majority of women gathered in salons and later at their homes to discuss issues that concern them. As the practice evolved, people who participated in these gatherings were asked to retell stories or modify old story themes. Because 17th century women were oppressed, many of the common stories that were told involved young women who were oppressed by male figures and often times rescued by wise fairies.

Rocky and Bullwinkle: The Emergence of the Fractured Fairy Tale

In the 1960s, the popular show Rocky and Bullwinkle featured a range of fractured fairy tales. In fact, the title fractured fairy tale is attributed to this show. Some of the fairy tales stories that were changed include Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs and the Pied Piper. For example, the episode “Leaping Beauty” is a spin on the original Sleeping Beauty in which the Princess bores everyone in her community with her talking.

One of the most important components of the fractured fairy tale is that listeners connect the story’s foundation with common stories. For example, some fractured fairy tales use the same title as the original tale or add a twist to the story’s title. Essentially, the listener must be familiar with the original tale in order to appreciate the new morals or themes conveyed by the updated story.

rocky and bullwinkle screengrab

Modern Fractured Fairy Tales

As the pioneer of the fractured fairy tale, the Rocky and Bullwinkle show enjoyed a strong amount of success. Today, a number of authors, modern-day books, and films tell stories using the fractured fairy tale framework. In addition, many teachers and libraries make access to book listings available to students of all ages. The book listings include modern and traditional examples of stories told from the fractured fairy tale perspective.

One of the most popular recent productions is Shrek, a movie about an ogre who must rescue a princess. The foundation of the story contains the major plot points and framework of classic fairy tales: a distressed damsel awaits savior by a knight in shining armor atop a white steed. In addition, the damsel is trapped inside a tall tower protected by a dragon. Consequently, the ogre must slay the dragon in order to save the Princess. However, Shrek is a fractured fairy tale. The story repeatedly diverges from the traditional fairy tale story plot and includes a range of classic characters who contribute to the overall story.

Another example of modern fractured fairy tales is the book Goldilocks and Just One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson. This story’s bear winds up in the city looking for a place to sleep. Unfortunately, he ends up in an abandoned apartment. Other modern examples of fractured fairy tales include The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid TalesLittle Red: A Fizzling Good YarnPrince Cinders and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.

More information on classic and modern fairy tales can be found below: