Fractured Fairy Tales

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner

During the early 90s, it became fashionable in some contexts to try to rewrite or downplay aspects of older stories that would be considered sexist, racist, or bigoted in a modern context.  Although well-meaning in its intent, this concept ended up creating a great many revisionist versions of old stories that had a tendency to lose the original context of the tales with a newfound preoccupation on social issues.  James Finn Garner parodied this trend in two mid-90s collections of short stories, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories and Once Upon a More Enlightened Time.  These two novella-length collections are composed of parodies of classic fairy tales with plots and characters reinterpreted in a “politically correct” style.  Although the amount of laughs each “bedtime story” generates are uneven, the best of the stories make for entertaining, quick reads that will amuse readers looking for subversive wit.

The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley

Cover to The Great Good Thing

There are many fantasy books that lead you to other places filled with wizards, royalty, and magical creatures. They provide an escape for their readers.  But what if the characters wanted to escape?  The Great Good Thing, by Roderick Townley, is about a princess who wants something more out of her fairy tale life—if only she can get the chance.  

For ages and ages, no one had opened the book. Just as Sylvia sat weeping in boredom by the edge of the lake, pleading for something to happen, a fan of light began opening in a corner of the sky, sending flashes of color across the water. "Rawwwk! Reader!" screamed an orange bird. "Boooook open! Ooopen! Boook open!" groaned a bullfrog.

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde

What's wrong with this story:

A father tells the authorities his daughter can do impossible things AND the authorities believe him. 
A soon-to-be bride promises to give her future baby away to a TROLL. 
Said bride agrees to marry the man who's threatened to kill her if she can't keep doing the impossible. 
What would a troll do with a baby anyhow, and why would he give her all that spun gold for a tiny ring? 
Why doesn't the heroine do ANYTHING to get herself out of this predicament?!

This old fairy tale is such a ridiculous story that the author wanted to fix it. So Vivian Vande Velde set out to do so six different ways in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem. The characters never come out the same in these retellings. The troll in "A Fairy Tale in Bad Taste" has gruesome appetites. "Straw Into Gold" has our beauty and her father resorting to an elaborate con game to keep from starving to death in the days before Social Security or insurance.

The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Sue deGennaro

The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Sue

So, we all know the fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea, right? She shows up at a castle late one night in the middle of a snowstorm. The prince falls in love with her beauty (evident even under the wet, bedraggled appearance), but the king and queen want to make sure she is a real princess. So, they put a single pea under a pile of 20 feather mattresses and wait to see if she notices. And, sure enough, the real princess emerges in the morning bruised and sore from the tiny pea. The prince and princess get married and live happily ever after. Except...well, did you ever think what it would be like to live with someone like that? Someone who couldn’t even stand a pea under her mattress? What about when she was hot? Disappointed? Challenged by some problem?

The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas, by Tony Wilson, takes the traditional Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and stands it on its head. Prince Henrik doesn’t like the idea of marrying a princess who is sensitive. His brother is married to a very real, very high-maintenance princess who complains day and night about things that don’t suit her. Frankly, it’s a drag being around her, let alone married to her.

A Tale Dark and Grimm

By Adam Gidwitz

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Follows Hansel and Gretel as they walk out of their own story and into eight more tales, encountering such wicked creatures as witches, along with kindly strangers and other helpful folk. Based in part on the Grimms' fairy tales Faithful Johannes, Hansel and Gretel, The Seven Ravens, Brother and Sister, The Robber Bridegroom, and The Devil and His Three Golden Hairs.

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Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse

By Marilyn Singer

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Fairy tales, retold in poetry, are literally turned on their heads. First, read the poems forward (how old-fashioned!), then reverse the lines and read them again, giving familiar tales a delicious new spin.
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The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

By Jon Scieszka

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This book is a riotous romp through fairy-tale-land that will have readers clutching their sides happily ever after. Sample title: "The Princess and the Bowling Ball."

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Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming

By Roger Zelazny and Robert Sheckley

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It is the year 1,000, and the time has come for the Millennial contest to see whether good or evil will control humanity’s destiny for the next millennium. The demon Azzie Elbub, representative for evil, has a brilliant plan that will win both the contest, and an award for himself. Unfortunately, things do not go off as planned.

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Rapunzel : A Groovy Fairy Tale

By Lynn Roberts

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In this updated version of the Grimm fairy tale, Rapunzel has flaming red hair and is kept imprisoned by her Aunt Esme, a heartless school cafeteria worker, in a tenement apartment with a broken elevator.
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The Principal's New Clothes

By Stephanie Calmenson

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In this version of the Andersen tale the vain principal of P.S. 88 is persuaded by two tailors that they will make him an amazing, one-of-a-kind, suit that will be visible only to intelligent people who are good at their jobs.
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