I have been reading a lot of fairy tales lately, especially fractured ones. In my study of this sub-genre, I have realize there is not a set definition, and it is applied to many types of tales that I did not original think of as fractured. Previously, I believed works like The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs were the “definition” of fractured. According to my research, the term broadly includes pretty much all modern retellings.
I feel this sub-genre should have a clearer definition because I don’t necessarily think a tale is “fractured” if only a few superficial elements are changed. To me, there should be a switching of perspectives and/or modern characterization and message to be a good fractured tale. Also, I believe there is a difference between a multicultural tale and a fairy tale that has been retold using non-traditional cultural elements. I do not see this distinction though in the definitions and discussions I have come across so far. With all that being said, here are Five Fabulous Fractured Fairy Tales you should check out!
The Three Ninja Pigs (by Corey Rosen Schwartz):
This twist on The Three Little Pigs begins “once upon a dangerous time” there was a wolf blowing houses down. The three pigs decide to fight back, so each one enrolls in school to learn martial arts. The first two pigs quit after they learn a few moves, but the third pigs works until she has become a black belt. When the wolf comes around, he able to quickly disarm the first two pigs because they are ill-prepared. The third pig though scares him off when she demonstrates her skills. The other two pigs decided they need to finish what they started. They go back to school to finish their training and eventually open up their own dojo to train other animals. This modern retelling has a fun, snappy text and entertaining illustrations is perfect for ages 5 and up. The Three Ninja Pigs will please aspiring ninjas and anyone who wishes to “fight back” against the bullies in the world.
Gingerbread Man Loose in the School (by Laura Murray):
This picture book is broken down like a simple graphic novel with several scenes per page to capture all the action. It begins with a class making a gingerbread man. As he comes out of the oven, they leave for recess. The gingerbread man does not want to be left out though. He says, “I’ll run and I’ll run as fast as I can. I can catch them! I’m their gingerbread man!” As he seeks out his class, he meets various people like the school nurse, the gym teacher, the art teacher, and the principal. When he finally finds his class, he is welcomed back with cheers. They make him a desk, chair, and his own little house. The gingerbread man finds he is where he belongs. This tale could work well in school at the beginning of the year (especially for kindergarteners) to discuss the various staff and teacher they will encounter. Gingerbread Man Loose in the School is a must read for listeners 4-7.
Sleepless Beauty (by Frances Minters):
This fractured fairy tale takes place on a city block in more modern times. When this little beauty is born, all their friends and relatives come to celebrate. A “witch” in the apartment building is left off the guest list, but she attends anyway to put on the girl a sleeping curse with one twist…she will be awakened by a great rock star. Her parents have many sleepless nights working to make sure nothing sharp pricks her fingers. Then, on her 14th birthday, a creepy old lady arrives with a gift—a record player. The beauty pricks her finger and falls fast asleep. She outwits the witch though. The next morning her radio alarm clock wakes her up to the tune of her favorite rock star. The girl writes her “prince” of a rock star to thank him. So what ever happened to the rock star? They eventually met..and enjoyed music together. The story is written in poetic verse with some jazzy intrusions in the narrative by others. Sleepless Beauty is a witty retelling that children 8 and up will appreciate.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (by Mo Willems):
This clever tale is sure to leave kids giggling from the verbal and situational irony. For no particular reason, three dinosaurs set up their beds, chairs, and bowls of chocolate pudding. Then, they decide to leave to go “someplace else” with the hopes that “no innocent little succulent child happens” to come across their home. As they casually hide in the woods, they wait for Goldilocks to find their signs to help lead her to their home (trap). She finds her way there and fills up on chocolate pudding that has been left out (but not because it will make her more delicious). Looking around, she begins to realize she is not in the right house or story..just in time because there is a loud booming noise (which could be a passing truck or, maybe, a gloating dinosaur). Willems wraps up this tale in a creative and entertaining way. Children 8 and up will want to revisit this tale over and over again. Be sure to look closely as the pictures that offer lots of clues and humor.
Prince Henrik wants to fall in love and get married. He does not care if the girl is pretty—only that likes hockey and camping. Oh, and he like her to have a nice smile. His brother gives him advice on how to find a “real” princess using a pea and some mattresses. Henrik observes the “real” princess his brother married and decides that is not the kind of girl he wants to marry—she is fussy and overly sensitive. Instead, Henrik puts a pack of frozen peas under a single, thin mattress, hoping to find a girl who is not bothered by it. Girls come and go, but none of them sleeps well. His friend Pippa comes for a visit. They have a blast together playing hockey and riding horses, so he “tests” her and finds she is just the girl for him: She slept perfectly, even appreciating the frozen peas because they helped soothe her sore muscle from their hockey playing. Henrik asks her to marry him. She replies, “But I am not a real princess.” Henrik says, “Even better…You’ll be an unreal princess.” I loved this reimagining of the tale and what it means to be a good “princess.” I recommend The Princess and the Pack of Frozen Peas for ages 6 and up.
- Pinterest: Check out my Fairy Tale folder of ideas from around the Internet.
- Irony: Several fractured fairy tales use irony (especially Goldilocks and the 3 Dinosaurs). Depending on the age of child, teach the concept on a basic level and help child identify or teach types of irony and allow child to identify them.
- Comparison: Compare and contrast the fractured fairy tale with a traditional version. Use a Venn Diagram to record the results.
- Writing: As a class, in groups, or individually, guide children to write their own fractured fairy tale.
- Literature: Introduce the characteristics of a fractured fairy tale and apply to one or more tales.
- Research: Pick a tale to research. Learn about the origins and development of the tale over the years.