Young Writers Conference: Retold Fairy Tales

Young Writers Conference: Retold Fairy Tales

This week I gave three presentations on retold fairy tales to elementary and middle-school students at the Conference for Young Writers at SMSU in Marshall, Minnesota. I have very fond memories of this conference, so it’s fun to be able to “give back.” It was the CYW I attended when I was 13 that impressed upon me the importance of writing something every day. (There have been times when I fall short of that, especially now that I’m a mom, but I still try to keep writing part of my regular routine, even if it’s just a journal entry or book review.)

The highlights for me were two middle school girls who tried to “out-fairy-tale” each other in their knowledge of the originals when answering my questions, one of which told me she writes lots of retellings from the villains’ perspectives that are “really dark.” And an elementary-aged boy who was totally thrilled with the table full of retellings I set out for kids to look at if they finished writing early. I even heard him gushing to his parents about my stash after the conference. 🙂 I hope my son is similarly enthusiastic about books when he is that age.

Below are the thirty prompts I passed out to my students to get the juices flowing to write a fairy tale retelling. It was funny how the same prompt would devastate one student and really excite another! Feel free to use them in your own teaching or writing.

  1. What if the prince became a sea creature for The Little Mermaid?
  2. What if Sleeping Beauty woke up early, without a kiss?
  3. What if Little Red Riding Hood became friends with the wolf?
  4. What if Cinderella ran away from the ball because she didn’t like the prince? 
  5. What if the miller’s daughter never guessed Rumpelstiltskin’s name? 
  6. What if Beauty didn’t fall in love with the Beast?
  7. What if someone else (not dwarfs) lived in the cottage Snow White found in the woods?
  8. What if the witch locked Rapunzel in the tower because Rapunzel was dangerous?
  9. What if your favorite fairy tale took place in today’s world? 
  10. What if Hansel and Gretel found a house made of something BESIDES gingerbread? 
  11. What if Snow White broke the Queen’s magic mirror? 
  12. What if no one told the Emperor that he didn’t have any clothes? 
  13. What if the evil sorcerer got the lamp before Aladdin?
  14. What if the King didn’t like Scheherazade stories? 
  15. What if Beauty didn’t like the Beast as much after he turned into a Prince? 
  16. What if the Little Mermaid’s sisters convinced her not to become a human? 
  17. What if the magic wore off and Beauty’s prince started turning into the Beast again? 
  18. What if the dwarfs didn’t let Snow White stay in their cottage? 
  19. What did Sleeping Beauty dream about during her 100-year sleep? 
  20. What if someone cut down the beanstalk before Jack could get back down? 
  21. What if the “magic beans” Jack traded his cow for ended up being duds? 
  22. What if Little Red Riding Hood had something BESIDES treats in her basket? 
  23. What if the Prince and Rapunzel never reunited after the Witch banished her from the tower? 
  24. What if Cinderella’s fairy godmother never showed? 
  25. What if The Little Mermaid had to give up something else — her beauty, her sight, her hair, her hearing, etc. — instead of her voice to become human?
  26. What if Cinderella’s stepsisters were kind?
  27. What if the wolf had super lungs and was able to blow down the piggy’s house made of brick?
  28. What if Gepetto regretted bringing Pinocchio to life? 
  29. What if someone rescued the Little Match Girl?
  30. Gender-swap your favorite fairy tale. 

I borrowed a few from this list and #8 from a conversation with my friend Jenna. The rest are from me. The most challenging part was limiting myself to “mainstream” fairy tales that the students were likely to be familiar with off the top of their heads.