Fairy Tale Re-Write
This is not your magnum opus, just a fun way to engage with the possibility we find in re-writing our stories. So don’t loose sleep over this or freak out and disappear. We all have stories that we operate under–stories that say we’re this or that or not enough of one thing or the other–stories that say “If only I were ______, then I”d be________” and we live under these. They limit us, they frighten us, and they take up big space in our consciousness. This assignment helps us to see that changing those stories is as simple as that. If I tell myself that I’m not smart enough or not good at math and so I can never go to med school, guess what, I’ll continue to do poorly in math. Or if I tell myself that I’ll finally find a boy friend who loves me for who I am, after I lose 40 lbs, guess what, even if I lose 50 lbs, I won’t attract someone who loves me for who I am because I’m telling a story that I’m not good enough to be loved right here, right now. These are stories we want to locate and revise for ourselves but we’ll practice with fairy tales, parables, fables or myths. This assignment is due 10/31 3 pages.
Now that you have read Til We Have Faces, a complete revision of the myth of Psyche and Cupid, you are going to try your hand at revision:
This project examines the power of original stories and the act of revision illustrates the sometimes necessary consideration of alternative viewpoints and voices other than the governing narrative voice a majority might accept as right or truthful just because it’s the loudest or the most widely expected.
Choose a well known fairy tale and rewrite it based on the criteria explained below. You must choose a fairy tale in its original form–preferably something you know well from childhood. It can be a Disney movie that you loved when you were little, or still do, but it must be in its original form–many fairy tales have already been revised and rewritten. Be sure to choose something manageable–Lord of the Rings is too long.
Shrek is a good example of what not to choose as it is a complication of fairy tales that have been rewritten already. If you don’t remember any fairy tales, then do some research online. Look at classic roots of all our well known fairy tales in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, or Hans Christian Anderson for ideas. This is simple research you can do yourself.
Once you have selected a fairy tale, read it carefully several times. Stories in all their forms always teach something, assert the “truth” of the perspective it lends, pass along a cultural value, impose a political or social agenda or serve to solidify an ideal (for many fairy tales we see gendered ideology at work–think princess in the castle or night in shinning armor).
Fairy tales illustrate for us the power and enduring nature of some stories. Some questions to think about as you plan your project–why is it that a story written in 1812 such as Rapunzel is still well known today? Not only do we still know the story and most of us can tell it, but Disney recently re-wrote it as the movie Tangled. What gives a story so much power? What ideals did the original damsel in distress narrative confirm culturally about women and rescue? What aspect of these ideas of gender and weakness were overturned by the revision in Tangled which depicts an intelligent young woman who figures out how to escape the tower herself? You don’t need to watch Tangled, nor do you need to formally answer these questions. They are put here just to illustrate the thinking that supports this project.
For this assignment you will retell the story to create new meaning, destabilize a predominant lesson or theme from the story, or make some significant critical remark through your revision. Perhaps you will tell the story from the perspective of an otherwise voiceless character, perhaps you will tell the story from the perspective of the villain so we learn what motivates his or her behavior in the story. Perhaps you will tell the story through the eyes of an objective bystander or play with time and update the story and place it in the present or the future. Another way to approach this assignment is to imagine a new ending but watch out for this option so you don’t make the mistake of just tacking on a few paragraphs to a story that does not show any other revision. Give yourself permission to fully disrupt the original narrative.
When you have completed this part of the assignment and met the requirement of 3 pages, you will conclude with a separate paragraph that discusses the changes you made to the original story and what those revisions can teach us.