Introduction to Fractured Fairy Tales

Everything you need to know about fractured fairy tales!

What are Fractured Fairy Tales?

Also known as ‘Fairy tale Retellings,’ they are a spin on the classics! These stories are based on fairy tales from our childhood, but with exciting twists. From Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to Rumpelstiltskin and Peter Pan, these books are packed full of the characters we know and love. The characters are more complex, and give us a chance to see things from different perspectives than we’re used to 1.

Main Characteristics

The story can be set in reality, or within a magical fantasy world. The main character is either a version of, or related to a fairy tale character with which we are familiar. Whether it be Cinderella as a cyborg (Cinder – Marissa Meyer) or Alice in Wonderland’s granddaughter (Splintered – A.G Howard), the story tends to be grounded in a version of a fairy tale. Many fractured fairy tales go against the sugar-coated, happy ending world of Disney, and give fairy tales a dark and mysterious tone – which is well.. Kind of awesome.

The plot is based in adventure, as the main character usually goes on a quest or is thrust into a world very different from what they’re used to. Within this adventure, the main character is often put into some sort of danger. There are usually well defined ‘good’ and ‘evil’ characters, who either help or try to stop the character from achieving their goal. Although different from classic fairy tales, there are still elements of romance in fractured fairy tales, as the main character may have a romantic interest on the side.

  Common Themes

Fractured fairy tales often take the stereotypical character we know, and switch their role into one that would be more common in the 21st century. What we once knew as weak, dependent feminine characters are changed into strong, independent, and quick-witted ones2. This theme of feminism is important in changing the way women are seen in the world, and is empowering for readers 3.

The constructs of good and evil are often questioned in fractured fairy tales, as we might be reading from the perspective of an evil character. This allows us to see from multiple perspectives, and connect with characters who were traditionally deemed ‘evil’ in the fairy tale we know.

The worlds that the characters live in tend to have dark undertones, giving fractured fairy tales a dystopian theme. Whether it be Wonderland or Neverland, these worlds often are not as dreamy as they seem. Nightmarish and dark, these world’s reflect what is wrong in our own, and how the characters can overcome their circumstances by fighting against them.

  1. Chance, R. (2003). Familiar fairy tale picture books transformed into teen novels. Alan Review, 30(2), 66.
  2. Hunter, Kara. (2016, April 1). Booklist: New 2016 YA Fairytales with Fierce Female Main Characters. Retrieved from
  3. Joosen, V. (2005). Fairy-tale retellings between art and pedagogy. Children’s literature in education, 36(2), 129-139