marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

plot devices in retelling fairy tales

Nothing is more difficult to deal with in retelling a fairy tale than its plot devices.  Because they have the dreadful tendency to drop them like hot potatoes the instant their usefulness is used up, and without a breath of explanation.

The king marries the miller's daughter because she can spin straw into gold, but her only problem after that is that Rumpelstiltskin wants the baby.  The king must have gotten her pregnant, but does he want no more gold?  Maid Maleen is imprisoned in her tower with a servant; they escape together and look for jobs together, and the instant they are hired, the servant is heard of no more.  The Girl Without Hands marries the king, and then a war erupts to take him away.

Wars are particularly bad.  They exist for soldiers to fight in before the story or the opening paragraphs.  They exist to separate the king from his bride so the story can go on.  They exist to ravage the kingdom where Maid Maleen comes from, or the realms on the way from the Water of Life so the prince can rescue them from famine with a never-ending loaf of bread, and sometimes to drive a queen or princess or prince from a kingdom.  

The most war-like war you will run across is one where the hero is secretly living in the princess's kingdom, and rescues the kingdom three times from an invading army.  The fun thing is that very plot works just the same if the king holds tournaments, and he shows up to fight three times and win.  It's not its being a war that's important.

There are some world-building tricks to help.  Perhaps you can base your society on Renaissance Italy where the armies mostly maneuvered and negotiated so that there were few deaths.

And of course it's useful when you want to do other points of view, but you don't always want to.
Tags: fairy tales (retelling), plot devices, point of view, world-building: military matters

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