This weekend, I finally got around to seeing Into the Woods. Years ago, I saw the play the film is based on with my high school drama club on Broadway. Of course, because Into the Woods is a Disney film, there were a few things from the original musical that didn’t make it to the big screen (the fate of Rapunzel, the Baker’s Wife’s encounter with Cinderella’s Prince, etc.). Despite those changes, the overall theme of the musical remained intact.

Into the Woods

Revisionism and Why Writers Should Rewrite Fairy Tales

Reimagining existing stories or genres of stories through a different lens is called revisionism, and it can be a great creative exercise.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been frustrated by the changes that have been made to modern fairy tales. Sure, everyone feels good when there’s a happy ending, but life doesn’t exist in a happy ending bubble.

Take the Disneyfied version of The Little Mermaid or Rapunzel, and bring it back down to earth.

Or take a modern “fairy tale”, like the Twilight series or Fifty Shades of Grey, and bring it back to the world of reality with a healthy dose of pragmatism and a female protagonist who is secure in who she is.

While we all enjoy a dose of escapism from time to time, sometimes it can be refreshing to bring the fantasy back into reality.

Into the Woods is a Fairy Tale Transformed

For those of you who have seen Into the Woods in either of its iterations, you’re well aware of the fact that wishes have consequences, and they come with a price.

The exploration of what comes after happily ever after is a welcome change from the fairy tales that we hear as children, where princesses need to be rescued, relationships progress from meeting to marriage in a matter of hours, and the story always ends happily (at least, it does for our heroes).

Into the Woods forces the characters to actually deal with the repercussions of their choices and wishes, and brings elements of what it’s actually like to be human into the second act.

Similarly, The Wicked Years book series explores the politics of Oz outside of the Wizard of Oz book and film world that most of us are familiar with, and it does so with a much darker and more cynical lens.

Reality is far different than the fairy tales we consume as children. Life continues beyond the happy ending. Fairy godmothers don’t swoop in at the first sign of tears and wave them away with their magic wands. And as a writer, it can be a fun exercise to bring a beloved fairy tale back down to earth.

What is your favorite “revised” fairy tale? Share in the comments section.

PRACTICE

Take a scene from an idealized fairy tale and reimagine it in a more realistic manner. Write for fifteen minutes and post your practice in the comments, and check out the work of your fellow writers.

Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.