Fairy Tale Rewrite - writercize #9

Witches, goblins, fair maidens, horses, magic spells, evil stepmothers, glorious kings ...

Fairy tales are a lovely way to pass stories and lessons from one generation to the next, bridging age gaps and cultural differences.   Through fairy tales we learn about romance and love, heroism, fear, honesty, danger, the innocence of youth, all within a framework allowing magic and imagination to permeate the story.  One high school English teacher used to call accepting that magic the "willing suspension of disbelief."

Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm Brothers are probably the best known fairy tale authors, but much of what they wrote for children was simply writing down and publishing a version of the stories handed down around a kitchen fire for centuries before.

Most fairy tales focus on one character and build a supporting cast around the lead.  Today's writercize shifts the focus onto one of the supporting characters (i.e. Cinderella's stepmother, one of the Seven Dwarfs, Prince Charming, the Big Bad Wolf from The Three Little Pigs).

writing exercise:  Pick a well-known fairy tale and retell it from the perspective of a supporting character.  You may choose to write in either the first or third person and you have full creative control over how closely you follow the original storyline.

PS - If you're looking for a fun, interactive retelling of classic fairy tales per Grimm, check out Grimms' Fairy Tales on the National Geographic website.  Very fun!

(To see the writercizer sample response based on the story of The Princess and The Pea, click "read more.")
writercizer response:

(retelling of The Princess and The Pea with focus on the Queen)

A Queen's Luck

There once was a queen who loved her son dearly.  She raised him to be a charming and likable sort.  Athletic, handsome and well-read, he was a royal catch.  He loved his mother and doted on her every need.

There was only one problem.  The queen's son absolutely refused to marry.  He had courted princesses from around the globe, but always seemed to find a reason not to marry.  This one had a mustache, that one burped, this one laughed like a horse, that one cowered at the sight of her own shadow.  None were refined enough to be marriage material, and the courtships ended hastily.  

The queen was getting older and she wanted to see her son wed and give her grandchildren before she was too ancient to enjoy them.  Not that she could blame him for lack of trying.  What sort of a kingdom would she oversee with an imperfect daughter-in-law?  After all, she had raised him to be a fine specimen, and a fine specimen he deserved in return.

Following a lengthy discussion one evening between mother and son, when it was decided that in order to expand the family, they would just have to come up with a list of all the princesses he had courted and propose to the one with the least offensive offenses, there came a knock on the castle door.

knock, knock, knock.

It was well past midnight, and it was pouring down rain.  Perhaps it was one of the animals butting up against the castle for cover.  The queen and her son began to put out the fire and walk up the stairs.

Knock, Knock, Knock.

No need to open the door to the wind and the rain for some farm animal.

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK.  "Someone, please, LET ME IN!"

Though it was late and the queen was tired, she reasoned that farm animals could not shout in human sentences, and particularly with a female voice that, albeit loud, sounded rather lyrical.  The queen was tired from her conversation and she wanted to sleep, but she knew that she could not in good conscience leave a woman out in the cold rain overnight.  She turned around and walked down the stairs, grumbling along the way.

"What do you want?" she growled as she opened the door.  "Do you not realize it's the middle of the night and I am the queen of this land?  Go bother the constable down the road; he's always on duty."

The queen looked at the woman standing before her.  Her hair was pitifully wet and stringy, her eyes were puffy, her dress splattered with mud and boots caked in slime.  She was a sorry sight, but hardly a queen's responsibility.

"I do apologize, your Highness.  It's just that my coach broke down and my horses are hurt and my driver can't see a thing.  I was just attending a ball two kingdoms over and was returning home when the storm hit.  Please, may I stay here, just one night?" the young woman asked.

A ball - impossible, the queen thought, but she held her candle up to the stranger and looked her over carefully.  Though muddy, the dress was made of the finest satin and lace.  Her hands were small and shivering, but the nails were nicely manicured.  A faint scent of lavender wafted from the maiden to the queen's nose.

"Who are you, and why should I allow you to sleep in my castle, surrounded by my family's prized posessions?" the queen asked.

"I am a princess; my family rules over the next valley.  The ball was for my engagement to a prince, but he was smug and feisty, so I left in haste and am running home to tell my parents I'd rather die an old maid than marry such an uncouth man.  Please take pity on me; allow me to sleep here.  When I arrive home, I promise you will be rewarded handsomely for your kindness.  My father will send you the most beautiful flowers from our valley floor and your kingdom will be filled with vibrant colors and smells."

The queen felt a little wary of this so-called princess, but could see that under her bedraggled appearance, she seemed articulate and wore fine clothes.  Her fingernails showed promise of good grooming habits.  She decided to let the young lady in and allow her to sleep in the castle.

Still the queen needed to know if she was a princess.  Tonight she would test her sensitivity.  If the  young woman passed the test, in the morning the queen would introduce her to her son the prince.  If the story were true, this was a princess as picky about choosing a mate as her son, and perhaps just as perfect.  If they were a match, it would save an awful lot of time listing his past courtships and ordering their defects.

"Come in," she said.  "Tonight you will sleep in our guest room.  I hope you don't mind heights."

The queen ordered two of the guards to pile mattress upon mattress upon mattress in the guest bedroom.  When they had stacked no less than a dozen mattresses on top of one another, they were instructed to put a pea underneath the bottom mattress.  If the woman was sensitive enough to feel the pea through all those mattresses, she must be a princess.

The queen led the young lady down the hall to the bathroom to wash up and then showed her to the guest room.  

"See you in the morning," the queen said coyly.

All night long, the queen lay awake wondering if she had finally found her son's mate.  All night long, the princess lay awake tossing and turning, trying impossibly to get comfortable on top of the teetering mattresses.  Disturbed as she was to sleep, she was thankful to be indoors and away from the rain and the wind.

As soon as the rooster crowed next morning, both women bolted out of bed. 

Meeting in the hall, the queen could see that there were bags under the young woman's eyes.  

"How did you sleep?" she asked.

"Terribly," the princess replied.  Politely, she added, "no fault of yours.  I just couldn't get comfortable, but I appreciate your hospitality."

The queen knew the young lady was the princess her son sought.  Sensitive enough to feel the pea, she was thoughtful in her complaint of discomfort.  

The queen immediately called to the chef to prepare a fine breakfast and woke her son from his peaceful slumber.  By the end of breakfast, the two were promised to marry.  They began wedding preparations immediately.

The prince was pleased that the princess getting stuck in a torrential downpour seemed to be her only downfall.  The princess was pleased that the she found a better suitor than the clod two kingdoms away.  And the queen was pleased to know she would hear the pitter patter of grandbaby feet before she reached her deathbed.

In a nod to their beginnings, the princess set the pea in her engagement ring in place of a diamond, which can still be viewed in the castle museum today. 


  1. no - boo. :( send again, send again! i'm so curious about this prince charming and his internal battle!

  2. "This one had a mustache, that one burped, this one laughed like a horse, that one cowered at the sight of her own shadow."
    This had me laughing! Very enjoyable read!


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