Fractured Fairy Tales – An Overview

Authors of fractured fairy tales take classic stories such as Pinocchio, Jack and the Beanstalk and Beauty and Beast and mix up the characters, plot or setting. Some retell the story from a different character’s point of view and most incorporate contemporary slang and icons into the story line. The zany outcomes offer readers a humorous twist on bedtime favorites.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fracture as a break, or a disruption in the order of a thing. In a fractured fairy tale, the story line or viewpoint is broken up and often rearranged.

Some of the earliest recorded episodes of televised fractured fairy tales aired on the popular cartoon The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle in the late 1950s and early 1960s. All of the 91 scrambled parables were written by A.J. Jacobs, who went on to write Fractured Fairy Tales, first published in 1997. Other writers of fractured tales include Marilyn Kinsella, Jane Yolen, James Garner and Jon Scieszka.

Fractured fairy tales are humorous and often satirical. The twisted tales often make fun of the fanciful language of the original tale. In Beauty and the Beast, the storyteller begins by painting a picture of a beautiful castle on a silver cloud high in the sky then tells the reader that it doesn’t matter because this story takes place in a wood cutter’s shack, but that the cloud scenario is a good way to start a story.

Some authors use alternate endings or create adventures using another character from the original tale when crafting a fractured fairy tale. A fractured version of Little Red Riding Hood might be told from the wolf’s viewpoint. Some storytellers have characters from different stories meet. You can mix and match elements when telling or writing your own fractured fairy tale.

Dozens of classic fairy tales have been retold in fractured form. These include Jack and the Meanstalk, Cinder-Edna and Sleeping Ugly. In the classic boy’s search for meaning, Pinocchio, the young wooden puppet is sent to a high-priced wooden surgeon to correct his ever-growing nose so he could star in his own television show. Later we learn that Geppetto hates kids and was only in it for the money.

Other tales can be found in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Garner, to name a few.

Some teachers use the fractured fairy tale format to teach their students how to revise, rather than simply edit, a story. By reading the original first, then the fractured tale, students learn how to give attention to ideas, organization, and voice.