Paper 1 Guidelines

Essay 1: Updating a Fairy Tale for Today

Please choose a contemporary (past 30 years) version of one of the fairy tales we have studied for class and critically analyze how that specific version of the fairy tale has evolved from earlier versions of the tale to reflect our current culture in significant ways. What aspects of the story have changed to fit the times? What do those changes tell us about our current culture’s values, desires, or needs? Mose importantly, why do these updates matter? What do they reveal about the culture that we live in? These final questions are the most important, as they are analytical. You do not simply just want to list updates to the story without analyzing them. Doing so means you have no arguable thesis, and your paper will not receive a good score.

Your contemporary version of the fairy tale can be Disney, Angela Carter's rewrites, something from a TV show like Once Upon a Time or Grimms, a film like Freeway that rewrites the Little Red Riding Hood story, etc. It may be from one of the books we read for class (as long as it's from the past 30 years), or you may find it out in the world somewhere. 

*Please note that although Angela Carter's tales are over 30 years old I am allowing them for this assignment.

*Please also note that you will be required to get professor approval for any version of the fairy tale that we did not read for class. If you do not get approval, your paper will receive a zero.

Please note that you must also incorporate some of the earlier versions of the tale into your essay. This can be the Grimms’ and Perrault’s narratives, or even earlier versions such as the The Story of Grandmother.

In your essay’s introduction, you should be able to tell your reader which of the following categories your version of the fairy tale falls under. Please note that most contemporary fairy tales will belong to at least one of these categories.

Feminist Revisionary (or other forms of revisionist tales)

Revisionary tales are intended to redress issues in earlier versions that are no longer culturally in vogue, particularly issues related to social justice such as gender or racial equality. For example, Maleficent is a revisionist tale that rewrites the Sleeping Beauty myth by focusing on making Maleficent a complex character instead of an evil villain.


Conservative fairy tales (like many Disney tales) often present very conservative moral messages. An example would be a film like Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which presents a double standard for men and women that women must look past appearances when dealing with a "monstrous" man, but themselves must be both morally perfect and physically, conventionally beautiful by society’s standards.

Postmodern Mash-Up

The postmodern mash-up combines multiple fairy tale characters (or timelines) into one story, often with at least part of the story set in the present day.

You should also be able to explain in your introduction who the intended audience is (adults or children), and how the story differs in any significant ways from versions of the fairy tale that have come before. You should introduce the author of the fairy tale version and what genre it is (film, TV show, YA book, movie, etc).

Your thesis should:

1) Articulate the specific changes to the story, and why they matter. Do they change the meaning or moral of the story in some significant way? What do they tell us about how society has changed?

EX: Walt Disney's Maleficent, an updated version of Walt Disney's 1950 film Sleeping Beauty, is a feminist revisionist tale that demonstrates the current cultural discomfort with women portrayed as passive heroines and evil villains. Currently, we wish to see our female heroines and villains as more complex and empowered.

EX: Angela Carter's The Tiger's Bride, a feminist revision of Beauty and the Beast, changes self-sacrificial Beauty into a more shrewd character who bargains with the Beast directly. Carter’s heroine fights against her social status as a piece of property or an object through her willful and rebellious actions toward the Beast.

Your essay will require lots of cited examples from your version of the fairy tale to support your thesis, and may also require a few examples from some of the other versions of the story you read when contrasting any points between the two. 

Your paper also needs to have at least two critical, scholarly resources in addition to the stories/films you are analyzing (so, four sources total), which should also be cited carefully. Please find these through the library's database. You will likely want to research the fairy tale itself, and in some cases the specific version may also have critical sources on it (such as Disney). You should check the essays in the back of your Norton book to get an idea of some fairy tale critics you might want to look up. 

The paper should be 4-5 full pages in length, double-spaced, MLA style. It should have a strong title and a Works Cited page (which doesn't count toward your 4-5 page count total). We will go over all of these criteria in class and we will work on your paper step-by-step, together.