Fractured Fairy Tales
Updated: Nov 1, 2019
Fractured fairy tales are satirical versions of fairy tales.
I love satire. It allows us to poke fun at ourselves, but it also reminds us that not a single one of us is perfect.
It also shows us the absurdities in our daily lives, and reminds us about what happens when we become too arrogant.
It’s a way of keeping us humble, because even when it’s aimed at someone else, we know very well that we say and do the same things—and that’s why we laugh.
Some of the fractured fairy tales are really funny and clever, while others…aren’t.
But that’s true of almost everything, there will always be a range across the spectrum of things that are done well from those that are not.
One of the really interesting things about satire, is that it also exposes the ideas that we’ve adopted without realizing it, and without really thinking them through.
A story like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen isn’t itself a satire, but her character, Mr. Collins, is a satirical character. That character demonstrates what a member of the clergy should be, by way of negation. He’s just slimy! He sides with the rich and powerful as a means of gaining money and prestige.
Being able to see the parts of ourselves that we have in common with a character like Mr. Collins first allows us to see that in ourselves, reflect on what we need to change, and how we can make that change happen.
To begin that process, we have to realize that there is something very wrong in the way Mr. Collins acts and thinks. And in order for us to see that, we have to already have some idea of how someone should act and think in the situations where Mr. Collins behaves badly.
How Can We Know This?
Through both learning and experience.
We don’t just learn by knowing what things are, we also learn by what things are not, because some things can only be known when compared with their opposite.
I know what direction left is, but only because I also know what direction right is. The same is true with up and down, less and more, rich and poor—and I’m sure you can think of many other examples.
Each of these are opposites, but without their opposite they wouldn’t be anything at all. They would be meaningless.
We also learn through contrast. If I have paint on a wall that looks white, I may not notice that it has pink, gray, or yellow tints in it. If I hold up something that’s pure white, or black, blue, purple, red, green, or another color next to it, then it’s often easier to see the presence of the other color mixed in.
The knowledge that comes from both of these ways of learning is necessary to understand satire.
Satire relies on our ability to see that the behavior of characters in a story is not what it should be.
Sometimes it’s the opposite, sometimes it’s just a shade off. In either case, it should make us laugh at the absurdity while also making us think about what should have been said or done by that character.
Fractured Fairy Tales
These are works of satire, so some are great while others aren’t. I’m not writing a book review on any of them individually.
As a genre, they’re written for adults and children, and the issue I have is for the ones written for children.
The reason is that children are still learning about how people are and are not supposed to act, and what stories are, and who the characters in stories are.
When they’re introduced to satire in stories, they may laugh, but they don’t really get the joke—and sometimes they may act out what they see in the stories.
They don’t yet have the foundation needed to understand satire because they haven’t acquired any real understanding of good/bad or right/wrong or how people should act in different situations.
In the case of the fractured fairy tales, they may not even know the stories that the satire is based on. Children take stories at face value, so a child may even think that the behavior that is the satire is actually how the character (and the child) should act.
I’m sure more than one father has regretted reading “Hop on Pop” to his kids, even though it’s fun—and funny—book.
The type of satire that Dr. Seuss used in his books is different from the fractured fairy tale style of storytelling.
His books certainly have a message, and there’s definitely satire in his stories, but each of the stories are unique stories. He didn’t take an existing story, and change it to satirize it.
That’s why kids and adults can enjoy the story, although each understands it at different levels.
Fractured fairy tales rely on the reader’s familiarity with the original fairy tale.
When the author makes changes in the storyline and/or characters, the readers get the joke because of that familiarity. So if the reader isn’t familiar with the original tale, then the entire point of the story is lost, and the reader has a very different experience with that story.
I’m neither condemning nor praising fractured fairy tales, but in my opinion they’re best understood by older kids and adults, but not by very young children.
This is the end of the "Fairy Tale Fridays" series, and I hope you enjoyed it!
I'm not done though...I do have a new "Fiction Friday" series starting next week: Magic in Christian Stories!
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List of Posts:
Fractured Fairy Tales (this post)