Shrek and the Reinvented Fairy Tale

 Shrek and friends


In his article “How Shrek Changed Fairy Tales” (May 21, 2007),  Time Magazine film critic James Poniewozik observes how fairy tales of old are a far cry from the nice, gentle treatments of the Disney animated movies.  Today, fairy tales are “parodied, ironized, meta-fictionalized, politically adjusted and pop-culture saturated,” making for glorious send ups like Dreamworks’ Shrek and its two sequels.  The morals are still there, but the damsel in distress doesn’t always wait for – nor need – Prince Charming on a handsome white steed to rescue her, the hero isn’t always a morally good lad, and the wicked witch isn’t really bad, just misunderstood.  And not that there’s anything wrong with that,   apart from the fact that the family movie market is becoming saturated with these parodies.  Fractured fairy tales are a refreshing shot in the arm versus the staid old originals.  Seeing the old formulas turned on their ears can be pretty fun.  Plus, they still have a happy ending.

Poniewozik also observes that the exposure to today’s reinvented fairy tales may take the place of the originals.  Kids get a kick out of Puss in Boots in Shrek 2 & 3, or the reinvented versions of the Three Pigs, Goldilocks and Cinderella, the likes of which appear in book form.  But have they even read or know the originals?  Are the laughs as big for them as they are for their parents and older folks, who grew up with the originals? 

Such a thought alarmed the librarian, children’s literacy advocate and purist in me.  I’m all for movie adaptations and parodies in any form – I’ve adapted literary works for film and stage myself – but they shouldn’t be taken as substitutes for the original work.  A whole generation not knowing Grimm’s fairy tales and Mother Goose in their true forms?  Not on my watch!


With this in mind, the Staff and I compiled a list of as many of the fairy tale characters as we could recall that appear in the Shrek movies and linked them to PINES title listings.  To see a list of books available at Clayton County Libraries, simply click on the character name or subject below.  The list of characters is not complete, and some titles intended for adults – likely parodies or allegories – are among the title listings.  Please ask a librarian if you need any assistance:

Puss in Boots

Three Blind Mice

The Three Little Pigs

The Gingerbread Man

Pinocchio – Original novel by Carlo Collodi and versions for young readers

Robin Hood and His Merry Men

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Little Red Riding Hood

Nursery Rhymes

Fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm

The original children’s book Shrek by William Steig – You may be surprised to know that no fairy tale characters appear in the original book at all!


The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: