Fairy tales were not originally for children, but were violent and had adult themes. They were told and passed on orally (by word of mouth) from generation to generation. In the 18th century, they became a popular form of children’s literature.
- Story is usually set in the distant past, beginning with “Once upon a time…” or “There once was…” There is no specific time or place.
- The characters are usually mortal heroes/heroines – they may be royal (kings, queens, princes, princesses) or characters who rise up from poverty/hardship
- Plot focuses on one main problem, dilemma or event – often involving a battle between good and evil.
- Elements of magic or fantasy.
- Story results in a happy ending, usually through a celebration such as a wedding or feast
Subverting the Conventions
However, not all fairy tales strictly follow the conventions of the genre. Some composers deliberation subvert (reject) the conventions in order to create something different interesting.
Read Roald Dahl’s version of Cinderella here: http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/55895-Roald-Dahl-Cinderella
- List the major changes Dahl has made to the traditional version of Cinderella.
- What conventions of fairy tales has Dahl followed? What conventions has he broken?
- What was your reaction to this version of the tale? Did you think it was humorous? Why?
Write your own version of a traditional fairy tale by reversing the conventions and expectations of the reader. You may find Dahl’s rhyming verses and interesting way to write or you may write a prose piece. Consider the main events in the tale you choose and the roles the characters play. In what ways could you change them or reverse the traditional conventions of the tale? For example perhaps Snow White does not get rescued by her Prince or Rapunzel’s hair is not strong enough to climb on.