Fractured Fairy Tales
In an effort to aid at-home learning, we are making selected media for this typically on-site class available here online, including pre-viewing focus questions and post-viewing discussion questions.
In the 1960s, the popular cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle often featured short segments called "Fractured Fairy Tales," in which the writers turned classic tales on their heads and shuffled around storytelling elements like characters, setting, and plot in order to present wacky and absurd retellings of stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Rumpelstiltskin. The writers are credited with inventing the concept but since then hundreds of fractured fairy tales have been imagined. Watching, reading, and writing fractured fairy tales is a fun way for students to learn about literary structure, and gain a better understanding of genre. In the lesson below, you will find two examples of fractured fairy tales that students can use as a jumping-off point to writing their very own mixed-up stories. Make sure to review the vocabulary before watching the clips. It wouldn't hurt to reread Snow White, Cinderella, or Jack and the Beanstalk ahead of time either!
CHARACTER: A person or an individual in a story
DRAMATIC CONFLICT: A struggle or contest
FAIRY TALE: A story about magical and imaginary beings or lands, often idealized
FRACTURED: Broken, cracked, or divided
GENRE: A book or story category defined by style, content, and form (e.g. mystery: a suspenseful story about a puzzling event that is not solved until the end of the story)
PLOT: The plan or main story line
SETTING: The time and place of the action in the story
SOLUTION: A way of solving a problem, or dealing with a difficult situation
Rocky and Bullwinkle: Fractured Fairy Tales: “Snow White’s Son”
Before watching, brainstorm a list of all the different types of characters, settings, problems, and solutions you frequently find in fairy tales.
Pre-Viewing Focus Question:
• This fractured fairy tale is based on Snow White as you can tell from the title. As you watch, compare the clip to the traditional tale. What is the most different about it? What is the same?
Post-Viewing Discussion Questions:
• How does this fractured fairy tale begin? Who is getting married? What do they do next?
• What does this version of the story tell us that the book does not?
• What is Joe like as a character?
• Who else has a son? What is Virgil like?
• What happens to Joe that is similar to the story of Snow White?
• Where does Joe go when he leaves the castle? What happens to him in the woods?
• How does the story end? Why can’t Joe and Flo live happily ever after?
• Find as many similarities and differences as you can.
• How would you describe the way this story is mixed-up or retold?
Adventure in the Arts: The Muppets on Puppets: "Fairy Tale Confusion"
Beginning a fairy tale where it is meant to end is just one way to fracture a story. In the next clip, you will learn about another way to do it. The program below was created by Jim Henson, inventor of the Muppets and one of the most creative and talented people ever to work in television.
• Keep track of the different fairy tales you hear about as you watch.
Post-Viewing Discussion Questions:
• Describe what happened in this clip. How does it begin?
• Which fairy tale do they start with and what other stories do you hear one after the other?
• How many do you think they told?
• What characters do you meet along the way? Are any of the character types the same in each story (e.g. a witch, a fairy godmother, a talking animal, a little girl, a prince, etc.)?
• What are the different settings in these stories? Are any of the settings the same (e.g. a castle, the woods, a little house, etc.)?
• How does the clip end?
• How would you describe what they did to fracture the Cinderella story?
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman
Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? and Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries by David Levinthal
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Happily Ever After Tales for Every Child ages 5+; streaming on Amazon Prime/HBO
Once Upon a Time ages 11+; streaming on Netflix