November 30, 2018

Fairytales outside of Disney | How to Fracture a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale
By Jane Yolen
Published on November 5, 2018
320 Pages
Fantasy, Short Stories, Retellings

This book was provided to me from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I swear on my bookshelf that this has not affected my opinion of the book.

Fantasy legend Jane Yolen presents a wide-ranging offering of fractured fairy tales. Yolen fractures the classics to reveal their crystalline secrets, holding them to the light and presenting them entirely transformed; where a spinner of straw into gold becomes a money-changer and the big bad wolf retires to a nursing home. Rediscover the tales you once knew, rewritten and refined for the world we now live in―or a much better version of it.


For better or worse, fairy tales are ingrained into our society. The ideas of a Prince Charming or a Fairy Godmother, along with hundreds of other character archetypes and tropes, are derived from these classic tales. However, not all of these tales have happy endings or even necessarily apply to today's world.

The point of How to Fracture a Fairy Tale is to turn these original stories on their heads, to either reveal a new perspective, adapt them to modernity, or to emphasize the darker versions that Disney left out of their animated movies. 

On the whole, I enjoyed the stories. Unfortunately, the goal of "fracturing" these tales was a little lost due to the obscurity of some of these tales. I enjoyed pretty much every story, but I would only say that I was able to recognize the original tale out of half of them. One one hand, that means I was introduced to a variety of new stories and there is a diversity of cultures and characters represented in the retellings. The downside was the slight confusion while reading the stories. 

Thankfully, there is a helpful, informative appendix in the end that explains each tale, its origins, and how it was changed. While I appreciated the effort, this guide came a little late as I was lost while reading some of the stories.

In addition to the confusion, some tales were not as exciting or provocative as others. Some just seemed aimless, without a satisfying ending. I could recognize that the stories were changed from the original, but at points it just seemed like change for change's own sake. In the end, many of the stories were merely fractured, with tiny parts changed, instead of completely breaking with tradition.

To end on the bright side, here is a break-down of my favorite stories from the collection:

Best Stories

1. Sun/Flight

A retelling of Icarus with a poetic description of his tragedy and the problems he would have faced if he survived his fall. The story of Icarus is one of my favorites in Greek mythology, and this miniature retelling does the original justice and genuinely surprised me with the ending.  

2. Snow in Summer

As the first story, retelling of Snow White started the collection off in a strong manner that was just not sustained. This twisting of the original tale reveals another side of Snow White and her struggles as she was not as pure as we were taught to think. 

Out of the "Disney" stories, this one was the most fractured compared to the retellings of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in the collection. 

3. Godmother Death

Even though I was not familiar with the original tale for this retelling, I enjoyed the idea of Death as someone's godmother. There was a reversal of roles with Death not actually bringing death (for the most part, at least). 

Outside of my top three, the stories were alright. When I come back to them in a month or so, I don't think I would be able to remember what they were about. These stories were the diamonds in the rough and kept me reading the collection despite the less-than-stellar counterparts.

If you are a fairy tale aficionado or just interested in learning the history behind modern perceptions of classic tales, then Jane Yolen's investigative approach to retellings is for you. A more casual fan of fairy tales, especially of the Disney variety, may not find the collection on the whole to their liking due to the obscurity of some stories. There are some gems in this collection if you have the patience to find them.

What fairytale would you love to see fractured? What is your favorite fairytale retelling? Are you a fan of short stories? If so, leave me more recommendations!

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