Friday, April 26, 2013


“Fractured fairy tales are traditional fairy tales, rearranged to create new plots with fundamentally different meanings or messages. Fractured fairy tales are closely related to fairy-tale parodies, but the two serve different purposes: parodies mock individual tales and the genre as a whole; fractured fairy tales, with a reforming intent, seek to impart updated social and moral messages.”
The irony of this title “Fractured Fairy Tale” is that our new message is one of wholeness and confidence. The old messages are fractured!

Fractured Fairy Tale EXAMPLES:

Little Red Riding Hood

by Otrstf (Dan)

One day, Little Red Riding Hood was carrying a basket of goodies to her dear 
old grandmother, who lived deep in the woods. As she skipped along the path 
where it led through a small meadow, she idly picked flowers and sang little 
snippets of popular songs.

"Like a virgin, oohh!"

There was someone else in the meadow that day, a large, vicious slavering 
wolf. He tensed his sinewy muscles, waiting for the right instant, bunched 
himself up, and leaped! His mighty jaws went 'SNAP!' and another field mouse 
became a bite-sized snack.

"Damn Farley Mowat, anyway," he muttered as he chewed the stringy little 
beast. "I still think elk would taste better than these things."

"Hello, there, mister wolf!" she called out cheerfully to the surprised 

He suddenly became aware of the little girl standing in front of him with a 
basket in one hand and a bunch of flowers in the other. And he thought to 
fall upon her and devour her right there, but hesitated for some reason. 
Young girls who would stop to talk to a wolf were rare enough. He gulped 
down the last of the mouse and replied, "Hello, little girl. You should be 
careful about talking to strangers you meet in the woods."

"Oh, I know all about you. You're the wolf. And my mother always says, 
'Strangers are just friends you haven't met yet.'"

The wolf considered this, deciding to accompany her along her way. After 
all, he didn't have many conversations, and he could always eat her later. 
They walked along the path, Red blathering about her friends and school, the 
typical interests of a young girl; and freely dispensing homilies from her 
mother's seemingly inexhaustible supply of mindlessly happy sayings. The 
wolf was reconsidering his impulsive dietary decision, and making a mental 
note to look up the mother as well. Finally, they arrived at the 
grandmother's cottage. He was about to sink his teeth into Red's 
unsuspecting throat, when an old woman's surprisingly strong voice called out 
through the open doorway.

"Come on inside, Wolf! And you too, girl." He leaned back and closed his 
jaws in puzzlement, but felt somehow compelled to obey. The went inside. 

"Grandmaw!" Red cried out. "Mom sent me to bring some goodies for you."

"Oh, she did, did she? Let's see what's in the basket, dear." She laid the 
spicy, cured meats and sweet pastries out on the counter. "Hmmm, her 
cooking's improved, if not her intent." She gestured over each item and 
nodded to herself, dropping them one at a time down the chute to the 
waste bucket. Hesitating over some cookies, she finally shrugged and offered 
them to Red. "These aren't poisoned. She probably figured to just let my 
diabetes kill me."

While Red munched happily (and silently, the wolf thought with thanks) Granny 
looked at him thoughtfully. He regarded her back with an uneasy sensation, 
whose source he was sure was familiar, yet could not remember. He wondered 
at all the strange, complex thoughts he was having. "What's happening to me?"

"And why are you talking at all, huh? Didn't think of that one, did you. 
The spell's breaking down. You're remembering." She gestured at Red. 
"She'll be asleep momentarily. Then we'll talk." Soon, sure enough, Red 
curled up on the bed under an eider down quilt. 

The wolf asked Granny, "What are you?"

She looked earnestly into the wolf's brilliant blue eyes. "I'm a witch! Why 
do you think a frail, old woman would live deep in the woods, young man? 
What kind of occupation do you think keeps me out here? It's not for my 

"What's going on? I feel strange."

"My daughter's spells have always used brute force rather than craft. Her 
original intent when she made you a wolf was for you to eat me and the little 
girl, then be immediately killed by a 'conveniently' nearby woodcutter, 
thereby ridding her of an unwelcome mother, daughter and husband."

"But what went wrong?"

"Hah! My daughter is only an amateur witch. Turning you into a beast was 
easy, even sending you to my cabin. But the most powerful master magician 
would have difficulty making a father kill and devour his own daughter. It's 
unnatural, even if he had the mind of a beast. So it was easy to modify her 
spell with a minor spell of my own, so that Red would not flee you, an 
obvious wild animal, and to have you escort her through the woods every week 
to the house. That's the difference between power and skill, and I've got 

"So I've been doing this every week? How long?"

"Ever since Red could walk. You would carry her on your back part-way when 
she was little."

"And you've let this go on. Why don't you break the spell?

"It suits me. I get to see my grandchild just often enough, and she gets 
plenty of fresh air and exercise. And my daughter is stuck at home in town, 
a single mother." She smiled, exposing crooked teeth. "I never said I was a 
Good Witch."

"But you can't just leave me as a wolf!" He howled, and she waved her arm, 
reinforcing the spell. He felt his humanity fade, and leapt through the 
door, fleeing the strange enclosure of the cottage, into the woods.

"You make a much better wolf than son-in-law. I need a wolf. Woodcutters 
are a dime a dozen, so much so I'm running out of trees. And woodcutters 
don't do a thing for the mouse population."


Cinderella and the Prince of Darkness

‘Cindy, don’t go!’

‘I’m 18! I’ll please myself!’

‘Why wear all black to the Prince of Darkness ball? You look like a Gothic princess,’ said Philomena and Persephone, her evil steppies.

‘That’s the idea, idiot times two.’

They stared at the stranger in silk and net, black beads, black stockings, black stilettos, black gloves.

‘Cindy, this rave will be dangerous. There’ll be party drugs.’ 

‘Oh pfft! You hate me. Years of humiliation, staying home while you partied hard with never a thought for me. God, it’s my time.’

The step-sisters were horrified. Where was Cindy’s long blond hair, her vintage dresses? Who was this stranger in silken net and all-black accessories?

‘Here’s your shoes Cindy.’ Philomena shyly handed over the shiny black shoes with killer heels.
Never ever touch my shoes,' she growled.
‘What’s Mum going to say?’ 

‘Since when has your mother ever cared about me and what I want? We all know what she wants -- she wants me dead. No problem. Thanks to her if he sees my yukky hands the Prince’ll think I’m some lackey.’ She stroked her black gloves, her lifesavers.

‘Come home before midnight! Pleeaase!’
‘Or what? Or I'll turn into a pumpkin? Idiots. I'm not living in some sad fairy tale. I'm living for the moment. The party’ll be pumpin' and so will I.’
‘But Mum said we weren't allowed to go to any more of those parties. She thinks there's something creepy going on. Some girls never come home--especially the really pretty ones.’
‘Pfft! Well, you idiots will always be safe.' Cindy snickered. 'I answer to my mum, not yours.’
‘But your mum’s--’

‘…dead. You'd be surprised how helpful she can be.’


On the subway Cindy shrugged off the sniggering looks of her fellow commuters. She hung from the strap and stroked the big black cross that hung at her slender neck as she chatted to her mum. She thought about the little white dove that’d left her a message at her mother’s graveside:

 ‘Come to the Prince of Darkness party! Best-dressed prize! A private session with the Prince!’ 

She’d wept with bitter joy…


When Cindy arrived at the venue, the bouncers ushered her in like she was a foreign princess. She knew she looked amazing in her floaty black dress and sparkling black jewels she'd been crafting all these years from little pieces of onyx left over from her father's business as a boutique jeweller.

She entered through the large black doors into the cave-like room. Everyone was astonished at her beauty. Cindy's lip curled. So you can dress mutton as lamb after all.  The Prince himself, who’d been checking out the girls from his vantage point in the atrium, flew down the stairs and took her hand.

It was all going Cindy's way, but she had to be sure. ‘Why, Prince, are you dancing with me? All the girls are dying to dance with you. It’s in their eyes.’
‘Their eyes are dead. Yours blaze with life.’
‘Hmm. Not for long, I hope. I came for my date with death. I desire your lethal kiss.’

‘You want to be with me forever after?’ 

‘Yes. Mortal life is overrated.’

'I've got no argument with that. But let's dance awhile before we do the deed.'


In the Prince's private rooms, Cindy reclined on the velvet, blood-red sofa, dazzled by the crystal chandelier with ruby red droplets as big wine glasses. Never once losing eye contact, the Prince removed Cindy’s razor-sharp black stiletto. Its pair had been lost somewhere, but he only needed one to do the business.

He kissed Cindy on her black, luscious lips. 'You taste divine,' he murmured. 

They both enjoyed it so much, he kissed her again...and again. 'I'd like to kiss you for eternity,' he promised. 'But I want to taste your human features while they throb with life.' He licked her face, her arms, her breasts--until he was satiated.

While she swooned in his arms, muttering 'My Prince!', he quickly pricked her tender, slender white neck with her stiletto heel. She slumped in his arms.

He whispered as he feasted on her fresh, life-giving blood - 'You're forever mine now, my Princess. We'll live happily ever after. Every kingdom is ours to rule!'



Process to write your own fractured fairy tale

Step 1: Read at least 10 traditional fairy tale stories

Choose from:

Step 2: After reading the traditional fairy tales, you will choose one story that you will "fracture".

When you choose the fairy tale, plan the plot of the story and think about the following:

      * What is the setting of the traditional story?  What is the         
        setting of your fractured fairy tale?
      * Are you going to change the point of view of the original story?
      * How will you change the characters in our fractured fairy tale?
      * What is the problem in your story?  What is the solution?
      * How can you make your story funny?

Remember, there are a lot of ways to fracture a fairy tale!

      * Change the main character
      * Change the setting (time or place)
      * Tell the story from a different character's point of view
      * Make the problem of the story different
      * Change an important item in the story (for example, the glass
        slipper in Cinderella) 
      * Change the ending of the story (maybe they don't live "happily
        ever after" after all!)

 Step 3: Read at least 5 examples of fractured fairy tales.  This will give you some idea of how other authors have fractured various stories.

You can choose from the fractured fairy tales on these websites:  

Step 4: Write your own fractured fairy tale!

Your fractured fairy tale needs to meet the following requirements:
        * Your fractured fairy tale must change from the original version,
        but the overall "flavor" of the story must be similar: it must be
        clear to the reader what fairy tale was fractured.

Step 5: Compare and contrast your fractured version to the original fairy tale in a Venn Diagram.

After your fractured fairy tale is finished, compare and contrast your story to the original version: how are the stories similar?  How are they different?  You will create a graphic organizer called a Venn Diagram to show how the stories are similar and different. 

1.      Give your Venn Diagram a TITLE (the title of your story)

            2. List at least 3 ways that the original story is different from your fractured version

             3. List at least 3 ways that your story is different from the original version

4. List at least 3 things that are the same about your fractured version and the original story.


Ask yourself:

·         What key assumptions and values underpinning your chosen classic story did you wish to challenge? Why?
·         What relevant textual features and language choices of the classic story support/construct the key assumptions and values you identified whilst reading the story in its original format?
·         How did you apply the theoretical approaches in your intervention of the text?
·         Evaluate how your rewritten text offers readers an alternative position through the application of theoretical understandings.


Ernest Hemingway’s short story focuses on male selfishness and female dependence. Set in the 1920s, the story describes a conversation between a couple as they wait for a train to Madrid. Throughout, the man presses ‘the girl’ to allow him to maintain a carefree, hedonistic lifestyle. While the woman dislikes his proposition, she eventually accedes. However, her final capitulation and the outcome of their conversation are deliberately ambiguous.

Textual features in the story promote an invited reading that relationships are inherently patriarchal. The text constructs men as selfish beings who consider their authority to be valuable and a means to manipulate women. The story presents women reciprocally as both vulnerable and dependent. This reinforces a male/female binary where power is contingent on gender.

Close textual analysis under New Criticism and Structuralism helps to explain how the textual features in the story “work together” to promote this invited reading (Tyson, 1999, p.120) Throughout the story, the man’s concern for the woman is compromised by self-interest, where he monopolises the authority of knowledge to sway her decision. He asserts seven times that he ‘knows’ things that the woman does not. The man manipulates the woman and this highlights her vulnerability. In this way, the story works to reinforce a “loaded” male/female binary (Bertens, 2008, p.127). While the text positions readers to feel sympathy for the woman, underlying textual features highlight her subordinance. The ‘girl’ as she is called, is dependent on the man: she relies on him to translate her desires from English to Spanish and to pay for their drinks. Also, the woman is deferential, asking the man things like “wasn’t that bright?”

Textual features in the text also work to reinforce gender stereotypes. That is, they promote culturally acceptable denotations for the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’. While structuralists such as Ferdinand de Saussure acknowledge that there is no natural link between a word and what it denotes, they do not explore the consequences of challenging this gap (Bertens, 2008, p.102). Post-structuralist Jacques Derrida extends structuralist thought by asserting that all words have their origins in ‘diffĂ©rance’ – a process of difference and deferral that means words never achieve ‘closure’ (Bertens, 2008, p.102). For this reason, my transformation seeks to create new denotations for the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’.

I have created an intervention into the text which provides an alternative reading of the nature of men. This is based on the post-structuralist notion that “a univocal reading [of a text] is impossible” and “that every reading has a deconstructive as well as an obvious reading” (Miller in Lye, 1998). By creating a transcript of an interview, my transformation analyses how men are also the victims of the cultural norms that determine acceptable gender roles. By establishing the interviewer as the voice of conservative masculine principles, my transformation seeks to challenge hegemonic masculinity. In this way, it draws upon contemporary text-centred and world-centred theories to validate Pierre Macherey’s claim that “the text has not said everything” and that “there remains the possibility of saying something else” (Macherey in Rivkin & Rayan, 2004, p.708).

There were moments in the base text where the totalising male/female binary “came undone” (Eagelton, 2008). Here, the man hinted at emotional sensitivity. For example, during a wayward moment of the couple’s discussion, the man urges the woman simply to “Come on back in the shade”. Despite being represented as selfish and manipulative, this maternalistic statement indicates that the man may in fact feel some concern for the welfare of the woman. Instances such as these are labelled by Terry Eagelton as “moments of aporia”, the “impasses of meaning where the text gets into trouble, comes unstuck [or] offers to contradict itself” (Eagleton, 2008 p.116). Since Derrida asserts that all binary opposites have their origins in ‘diffĂ©rance’, I was able to use this ‘moment of aporia’ to set up an alternate signification for the signifier ‘male’.

My transformation emphasises the ‘moment of aporia’ by subverting rather than inverting the male/female binary. This approach has theoretical grounding. Deconstructive theorist Rob Pope (2001) maintains that:
The role of deconstructive thinkers is not simply to invert hierarchies… but to reopen the play of differences around these terms (p.131).
His case is strengthened by Margery Hourihan’s (1997) argument that “subversion not inversion is the more socially responsible path for textual intervention work” (Hourihan in Johnson, 1997, p.52). To create meaning independent from binary thinking, Derrida puts the binary “under erasure”, allowing the privileged term to remain in place, but partially undermining it to affect a shift in reader positioning (Derrida in Pope, 2001, p.190).

To partially undermine the privileged term, I created a “hybrid” character: an authoritative male who also displays attributes inconsistent with traditional masculinity. This draws upon Homi Bhabha’s method of “hybridity” which “turns the discursive conditions of dominance into the grounds of intervention” (Bhabha in Prabhu, 2002, p.9). In the interview, the man’s authoritative diction is juxtaposed against his feminine traits, constructing him as emotionally attuned to his partner’s needs. When questioned, the man argues “I love her…I wanted to do everything I could to help her”. Thus, my transformation challenges traditional gender roles and dualistic, binary thinking, revealing “the ambivalence at the source of traditional discourses on authority” (Bhabha in Prabhu, 2002, p.9).

Another way my complex transformation forces readers to challenge totalising perspectives of gender, is through Pierre Macherey’s technique of ‘setting the silences to speak’ (Rivkin & Ryan, 2004, p.705). Macherey maintains that:
The book is not self-sufficient: it is necessarily accompanied by a certain absence, without which it would not exist…for in order to say anything, there are other things which must not be said. (Macherey in Rivkin & Ryan, 2004, p.705).
In the base text, the woman’s attitude seems to be deliberately ambiguous and the fact that women can be assertive and steadfast is silenced. In order to alter this perspective, my transformation gives the woman a voice. In the interview, she explains confidently how she has been persecuted. This subverts the binary because it reveals that the woman has control over her own choices but also shows that she is being persecuted because of her decision.

Rechronologising the base text further affects this change. By altering the temporal context from the 1920s to 2009, my transformation challenges traditional male/female roles. This is because texts “cannot transcend their own time but live and work within [a] horizon of culture constructed by ideology” (Bertens, 2008, p.147). Shifting the time period promotes an alternative viewpoint because readers approaching the text know that twenty-first century women are better equipped to direct their own destiny.

Changing the genre of the base text also helps to promote an alternate viewpoint. This is because genres are limited and restrictive. Post-structuralist Tzvetan Todorov (1978) theorises that “individual texts are produced and perceived in relation to the norm constituted by that codification” (p.157). This notion is extended by Derrida (1992) who maintains that “as soon as the word genre is sounded…a limit is drawn. And when a limit is established, norms and interdictions are not far behind” (p223). Under New Critical theory, the base text fits into the ‘tragedy’ genre. This limits meaning because readers assume that – consistent with the traditions of the tragedy genre – the outcome of the couple’s discussion will be negative and mutually unsatisfactory.

Because genre can both limit and contribute to meaning, my transformation draws upon the discursive properties of a ‘radio interview’ to reposition readers. It exploits listeners’ preconceptions that radio interviews elucidate issues, rather than making moral statements about them. Given that the radio interview follows a question-and-answer format, my transformation takes advantage of the fact that listeners expect that the interviewee’s answers are spontaneous and truthful and therefore a more honest representation of the nature of men. Also, changing the genre of the base text frees it from the “norms and interdictions” of the tragedy genre (Derrida, 1992, p.223). That is, it removes the presumption that the couple’s end decision will inevitably be negative or mutually unsatisfactory.

Textual cues in the base text lend themselves to a world-centred transformation grounded in masculinity studies. Taking its lead from feminism, masculinity studies is dedicated to what have often been viewed as implicit facts: that most societies are patriarchal where men have historically enjoyed social, political and economic supremacy (Adams & Savran, 2002). Thus, the starting point for a world-centred masculine deconstruction is acknowledging the “centrality of men’s power and privilege and [recognising] the need to challenge that power” (Kaufman, 1994, p.157). This not only advances the female perspective, but recognises that the social construction of masculine power is “the source of the malaise, confusion and alienation felt by men” (Kaufman, 1994, p.157). My transformation seeks to deconstruct the idea of a homogenous, dominant masculinity by showing that patriarchal structures are also repressive to men.

In my transformation, the man’s initial curt and dispassionate responses in the interview are revealed to be performative; a method of self-preservation and a shield against the interviewer’s emotional interrogation. This validates philosopher Judith Butler’s argument that gender is not essence but a performance (Butler in Aboim, 2010, p.32). While the man’s responses at the beginning of the interview are authoritative and dispassionate, later his response reveals compassionate and caring tendencies. This undermines the notion of hegemonic masculinity by showing it as a process whereby men “come to suppress a range of emotions, needs, and possibilities such as nurturing, receptivity, empathy and compassion” Kaffman, 1994, p.148). Psychoanalysist Carl Jung supports this strategy by asserting that:
No man is so entirely masculine that he has nothing feminine in him. The fact, is rather, that very masculine men have – carefully guarded and hidden – a very soft emotional life, often incorrectly described as “feminine”. A man counts it as a virtue to repress his feminine traits as much as possible (Jung in Connell, 1994, p.20).
By revealing that the man is emotionally attuned to the woman’s needs, my transformation reveals the way in which “sex roles” are permanently “being done and undone” (Butler in Aboim, 2010, p.32).

Also – through a power play between the interviewer and interviewee – my transformation highlights that masculinity is defined by “fluid difference rather than fixed identity” (Aboim, 2010, p.14). This notion that masculinity takes on “multiple, hybrid, even paradoxical forms”, extends Butler’s notion of “sex roles”; a theory often criticised for favouring dualistic thinking (Aboim, 2010, p.5). According to Scott Coltrane (1994), the plurality of gender is best highlighted by “focusing on men’s emotions” and “studying men in groups” (p.55). The contrast between the interviewer’s arguments grounded in science and reason, and the man’s emotive diction foregrounds the plurality of gender, again decentring hegemonic masculinity.

I further undermined hegemonic masculinity by giving the woman a voice. This is because adding her defence challenges the still entrenched societal expectation that men be held accountable in the public domain. While my transformation shows that the man feels pressured to justify his partner’s choices, it also gives the woman an opportunity to express how she has been persecuted. This is consistent of the aim of masculinity studies to also improve outcomes for women (Renzetti & Curran, 2003, p.3).

In my complex transformation of the base text, I employed various text-centred and world-centred theories to dismantle the existing male/female binary. By placing the base text ‘under erasure’, I was able to challenge the notion of hegemonic masculinity and impose an alternative reading of the nature of men. In this way, my transformation validates the post structuralist notion that texts are “irreducibly plural, an endless play of signifiers which can never be finally nailed down to a simple centre, essence or meaning” (Eagleton, 2008, p.120).

Queensland Studies Authority

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