How to Fracture a Fairy Tale, by Jane Yolen

Review copy provided by the publisher. I also have the privilege to know the author a bit socially.

We’ve now had several decades–all of my lifetime, in fact–with fairy tale variations, reconceptions, recreations as a major subgenre. So the question about a collection like this can sometimes be: is there anything new to say here? Is it possible to fracture a fairy tale in a way that is not in itself a predictable part of canon at this point?

Happily the answer here is not just yes, but “yes and I will even show you a little of how it’s done behind the scenes.” I was pleasantly surprised to reach the end of the collection and find not only notes on each story but a poem to go with each–sometimes very directly, sometimes with glancing notes on the same theme. Many of these stories are from previous decades, and Yolen takes time in the notes to talk about how she thought of them then–particularly interesting when they span a cultural shift of awareness around who gets to retell tales from whom.

I’d come upon some of these stories before in other collections of Jane’s, but I’m never sorry to see “Granny Rumple” reprinted–it changed my world when I first read it, and I think it can do the same for writers and readers who encounter it for the first time now. Jane’s warmth and humor permeate these tales, and breaking familiar stories like Snow White and Cinderella in more than one way in one collection gives us even more perspective on what these tales can still do.

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