Prompt 226 Text, subtext & hypertext


Hi poets,

I watched the featurette of the movie, Into the Woods, earlier today. It inspired this prompt.

Your challenge is to retell a fairy tale in a poem. You could do it in a straight fashion, sticking to the facts of the story, but then try to employ humor, satire, interesting characterization and a moral.

Our inspiration for these inventive retellings are the following source poems from Anne Sexton’s Transformations (2001). She retold 17 Grimms fairy tales, including “Snow White,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Rapunzel,” “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” “The Frog Prince,” and “Red Riding Hood.”

How do you differentiate your story from the standard text? Let’s take them one by one as example.

1) You could try writing a coda:


Her poem tells the coda of the Cinderella story like this:

Cinderella and the prince
lived, they say, happily ever after,
like two dolls in a museum case
never bothered by diapers or dust,
never arguing over the timing of an egg,
never telling the same story twice,
never getting a middle-aged spread,
their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.
Regular Bobbsey Twins.
That story.

2) You could totally redefine a character on your own terms.


Here’s what she said of Rumpelstiltskin when the queen uttered his name and he failed to claim her firstborn.

He laid his two sides down on the floor,
one part soft as a woman,
one part a barbed hook,
one part papa,
one part Doppelganger.

The dwarf as her doppelganger…hmmm.

3) You could satirize a central character.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Like what Anne Sexton did to Snow White:

Snow White, the dumb bunny,
opened the door
and she bit into a poison apple
and fell down for the final time.

4) Your poem could be an allegory.

Red Riding Hood

The allegorical tone is revealed by Sexton’s lines:

Killed by his own weight.
Many a deception ends on such a note.

In a story about propriety, what does Little Red’s rebirth mean? She and grandmother helped stuff stones into the wolf’s belly. What sort of moral weight does this action hold?

The poem’s ending makes my hair stand.

Those two remembering
nothing naked and brutal
from that little death,
that little birth,
from their going down
and their lifting up.

5) You could do the hypertext thing with a theme.

Into the Woods is a criss cross of fairy tales and thus a hypertextual story. It’s an interesting interweaving of stories with a theme: Be careful what you wish for.

I hope you have fun with fairytales. The stuff of fantasy. Once again, you’re required to step into the woods. Eat your heart out. Again.


15 thoughts on “Prompt 226 Text, subtext & hypertext

  1. Pingback: Not the Same Three Little Pigs | The Chalk Hills Journal

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  3. Excellent idea for a prompt, Irene! Thank you!

    I tried this before…it was tricky for me, I’ll have to think on this one…I’ve been listening to Grimms every-morning while I exercise…oh, and also…I just watched something tale-ish…it’s Winter’s Tale…I really enjoyed it!

    Happy Thanksgiving to all, (that celebrate), I’m grateful for RWP and its poets. šŸ™‚

  4. Pingback: The frog prince | orange is a fruit

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