Twisting Fairy Tales – Classic Literature

Who didn’t grow up listening to fairy tales? Mother Hubbard, Puss in Boots, The Princess and The Pea, Snow White, Billy Goats Gruff, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Rapunzel are some of the ones I remember from childhood.

Disney has made a pretty penny by making movies out of these classic fairy tales. But one can only remake Cinderella so many times, so they take them and add a new twist to them. Think of all the films you’ve seen and how they have a Cinderella twist to them, or Robin Hood twist.

But Disney wasn’t the first to come up with the twists. I had a neighbor who wrote a paper on the varying Cinderella stories. She came across five from various cultures, Japan and India are two that I know of.

If you’re a television watcher you know that Hollywood has jumped on this twisting fairy tale bandwagon. Just look at Once Upon A Time and Grimm. What about some of the movies that have come out in the last year or so; Snow White and the Huntsman, Red Riding Hood, and more recently are Hansel and Gretel and Jack the Giant-Killer? I have not seen the later two to know much about them, but I am curious to see the twists written in the script.

I have seen Snow White and the Huntsman. I was both pleased and disappointed in the changes. I loved that Snow White encountered trolls, but I disliked that the seven dwarfs didn’t make an appearance . 😉 As for Red Riding Hood, it was all right, if you like that sort of thing. It might be a bit scary for some, but then the original fairy tale was too.

As a writer it’s hard for me to just watch a movie without analyzing certain aspects of it, and since I love fairy tales and mythology I pay closer attention when watching those sort of films. I’m constantly looking for how they’ve taken a tried and true story and made them new, fresh.

One such film came out a few years ago. I was blown away by the twist in the story. A light bulb went of in my head, this is the sort of thing editors are looking for. A tried and true story with a fresh twist. Some of you may remember the fairy tale The Frog Prince. If you don’t, then I’m quite certain you’ve at least heard about how the princess kissed the frog and he turned into a prince.

The fairy tale is best known by the Grimms, but it was probably a fairy tale made up by an impish youth to get a girl to kiss a frog, or it was a mother’s tale to scare her daughters. I mean seriously, how many Prince Charmings actually start out like a prince charming? There’s bound to be some unpleasantness between a new couple until his frog-like character turns into a prince.
Aspiring romance writers are often told to write something different. Yet, at the same time, typically, only tried and true plots really make it through the sieve.
How do you take something old and make it new all the while keeping the plot tried and true? In the following link you’ll find different variations of The Frog Prince, including the one most of us know from Grimms.
Back in 2009, my daughter and I went to see The Princess and The Frog with my mom and my niece.
*Warning possible spoil ahead.
If you’ve seen the movie The Princess and The Frog you know that when the princess, who actually isn’t a princess but dressed for a masquerade ball, kisses the frog she turns into a frogette. Surprise, surprise. It’s also set in and around New Orleans during, what I believe would have been the roaring 20’s. Surprise, surprise. And instead of being cursed by a witchy hag, the prince is cursed by a vodoo shadow man and carried out by the prince’s aging, balding servant. Now, I have to admit the whole vodoo thing caught me off guard, but I also understand it’s a huge part of Cajun culture.
So what twists do we have?
1. It’s in New Orleans, not Europe
2. It’s in the 20th century not eh 15th, 16th, or 17th
3.. We don’t actually have a princess
4.The non-princess kisses the frog prince (this brings about conflict
5. We have a horn playing alligator.
6. Frog Prince learns to mince mushrooms.
7. The Prince decides to kiss and marry a real princess to save his frogette from a life of eating insects.
8. The real princess (again not yet a real princess only a wealthy Southerner) eventually kisses the frog to change him back for her friend’s sake-love has been confessed between the two. But of course it doesn’t work
9. The Prince Frog and his frogette go down to the Bayou and have themselves a wedding (overseen by a vodoo woman).
10. They kiss after they’re married and they are no longer Frog and Frogette. Oh, because he finally kissed a ‘real’ princess.
11. They open a gumbo restaurant in New Orleans and live Happily Ever After.
Twist after twist after twist, and it obviously worked.

Can you think of any authors who’ve put a twist on an old fairy tale and made a great book? What about a movie?

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2 thoughts on “Twisting Fairy Tales – Classic Literature

  1. I love the Princess and the Frog. It’s actually loosely based on the children’s book The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker. It’s a cute book, but the only things the movie took from the book were the swamp setting, the girl (princess in the book) getting turned into a frog after kissing the frog prince, and the quest for the witch to reverse the spell.

    It’s also fun to write stories about other characters in the stories. I wrote a book about the enchantress who turns the prince into the beast in Beauty and the Beast.

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