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What is a Fractured Fairytale?

To understand what a fractured fairy tale is, you first need to know the difference between a fairy tale and a nursery rhyme.

Many children and young adults aren’t sure. Just last week, our newspaper ran a picture titled “Children Celebrate Nursery Rhymes.” Being a past Pre-K Director, it caught my eye. However, I wanted to call the newspaper to correct their error. The children were dressed as “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” clearly a fairy tale, not a nursery rhyme.

For years, I taught children’s literature to prospective teachers at a technical career center and community college. So let me put my teacher hat back on to clear up this misconception.

Fairy tales are simple stories that have been passed down orally from generation to generation. Originally, told by adults as entertainment or to teach a lesson as the family sat around the hearth, many of the stories were derived from real life situations. The addition of a fantastical creature such as a dragon, fairy, elf or witch disguised the poor soul who the story was about.

Each time the story was told it was embellished. When Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm gathered these oral traditions for their volume of fairy tales they were trying to collect the cultural wisdom of the Germanic tales. ***Key word - collect. They did not write them.

Twenty-three years later, when Hans Christian Anderson compiled his fairy tales, they were known as literary tales because they came from his imagination and he wrote them down as authors do today. ***Key word – wrote. He was the author.

So what then is a fractured fairy tale?

It’s a story that still uses magic and fantasy and has problems to be solved, but…

1. Well-known fairy tale characters meet and mix their stories together to create a new story of their own.

2. Settings, plot elements, and points of view alter the story to make a new, usually humorous, story (think Shrek).

3. May be told from a different point of view than the original.

And a nursery rhyme?

Generally known as Mother Goose tales, nursery rhymes generate appeal from rhyme and rhythm and bright humor. By the very nature of the term ‘rhyme’ each Mother Goose tale has words that sound alike. Rhyme usually relates an interesting and simple story and the humor is varied from the ridiculous and exaggerated to total nonsense.

ie. Mary, Mary, quite contrary, or Humpty Dumpty.

Varied language patterns in the repeating rhymes offer children the chance to actively participate in the story with or without hand motions.

ie. Itsy, Bitsy Spider or Jack and Jill

A rhyme has the repetition of the same or similar sounds most often at the ends of two or more lines. Rhyming lines should have a similar number of syllables and a specific rhythm.

For my "fractured fairytale" MG poetry collection titled Once Upon a Twisted Tale I took characters from well-known fairy tales and put them in a situation they would never be in, but I told the story in rhyme. So I created a new category – fractured fairy tale rhymes.

ie. A hunter, who had saved a princess from an evil Queen

came upon a pond with a most uncommon scene.

Seven lovely maidens were bathing there one day,

then they donned their feather cloaks and as swans, flew away.

The hunter is from “Snow White.” The maidens are from “The Swan Maidens.” And the story goes on to incorporate “The Three Feathers.”

So, now, any questions? Check out Once Upon. a Twisted Tale for more great examples of fractured fairy tales and rhymes. And it's on sale at Amazon this week. If you like it, please leave a review. Thanks a bunch!

28 views4 comments


Great post! I love your Twisted Tales!

Gayle Krause
Gayle Krause
Apr 26, 2023
Replying to

Thanks, Ellen. I "love" fractured fairytale rhymes. I'm considering doing another collection. :)


I've read Once Upon a Twisted Tale and it's a wonderful way for young readers to learn about the original fairy tales and how the tales can be spun into new ones. Fairy tales are not static, they evolve and grow as people do.

Gayle Krause
Gayle Krause
Apr 26, 2023
Replying to

You are so right, Rainchains. People evolve, why not fairytales? Mixing them up and putting them to rhyme is a perfect progression. :) Thanks for commenting.

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