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Happily ever after

June 17, 2011

Let’s talk fairy tales. (Or faerie tales, but I think those might actually differ.) 

The draft I just finished was a retelling of a fairy tale and I’m scratching my head over one thing: does a fairy tale need a happy ending?  Grimm’s tales were not all happy. But when you say “fairy tale”, people seem to want the happily ever after. On this story, the down ending came naturally. I had to do some research to find a happy version.  I suspect I can work off of it.

I think I’ll leave it to the editor to make the call on this one, offering a happy ending rewrite if he prefers (more leeway for that with an invitation than say a cold slush sub). But I still want your opinion: does a fairy tale need a happy ending?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2011 12:55 am

    Nope. I don’t think it needs a happy ending. Think of the ‘Little Mermaid’, now that’s sad. But even if it was a rule, I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that a good story can break any rule it wants.

    Good luck.

  2. June 18, 2011 7:19 am

    I think you should take the cue from the story itself. After all, what elements are you using that make you decide, “This is a fairy tale?” I suspect at least one is the moralizing element; but whatever they are, those elements should give you a hint as to how the story ought to play out. There’s no definitely no right or wrong way; and even an ambiguous ending could still fulfill the moralizing aspect which is usually attributed to fables.

  3. June 18, 2011 5:42 pm

    I think a happy ending is unnecessary, as long as the reader can see it coming so they are adequately prepared. Some fairy tales have a downer ending because the protagonist didn’t pay attention to clues or warnings given ahead of time so they pay for their folly in the end, and I’m fine with that.

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