Fracturing Fairy Stories and Nursery Rhymes

“The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of the traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gate should be shut and the keys be lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays

Fracturing Fairy Stories Creative Writing“The fairy tale journey may look like an outward trek across plains and mountains, through castles and forests, but the actual movement is inward, into the lands of the soul. The dark path of the fairy tale forest lies in the shadows of our imagination, the depths of our unconscious. To travel to the wood, to face its dangers, is to emerge transformed by this experience. Particularly for children whose world does not resemble the simplified world of television sit-coms … this ability to travel inward, to face fear and transform it, is a skill they will use all their lives. We do children–and ourselves–a grave disservice by censoring the old tales, glossing over the darker passages and ambiguities…” — Terri Windling, “White as Snow: Fairy Tales and Fantasy,” in Snow White, Blood Red

Students love fractured fairy tales because the stories are familiar. When teaching children how to write a fractured fairy story I invariably begin by reading favourite fairy stories such as The Three Little Pigs and then present classic fractured versions to ensure that they understand the genre.

Following steps such as those outlined in T. P. Jaggers site, we work with a story such as Little Red Riding Hood or a Nursery Rhyme such as Humpty Dumpty. The results are a lot of fun and everyone enjoys reading and sharing their responses.

On the premise that there is no reason for the children to have all the fun I also work with Fractured Fairy Stories in Writing for Wellness courses. Participants spend time recalling and writing as much as they can remember about their favourite childhood fairy story and consider how this tale has actually impacted on their lives. Then we work to ‘adjust’ the narrative.

Another activity is to spend some time remembering the infamous scenes with the evil stepmother asking the famed “mirror mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful of all?” Then we use this ancient image to consider other things characters may see in the mirror and what truths the demonic mirror might reveal.

Some Examples

Cinderella’s Life after the Wedding by Megan Warren

Goldilocks Was A Punk by Lisa Phoenix

Fractured by A. M. Moscoso

The Invitation by A.M. Moscoso

Little Red Riding Hood and friends out with the big bad wolf by Heather Blakey



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