by A.J. Jacobs



181pp/$10.95/December 1997

Fractured Fairy Tales
Cover by Jay Ward Productions

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Youmay not recognize the names of June Foray or Daws Butler, but there is a good chance that you would recognize their voices, or at least some of their voices.  These were two of the talented actors who provided voices for the characters who inhabited the different segments of "Rocky and His Friends" and the later "The Bullwinkle Show."  One part of those shows which made a lasting impression on anyone who saw them were the "Fractured Fairy Tales," narrated by the soothing voice of Edward Everett Horton and performed by the above named artists and Bill Scott (with occasional help from Paul Frees and Julie Bennett).  These shorts form such an impression that the original voices come to life when reading the transcripts collected by A.J. Jacobs in Fractured Fairy Tales.  

The standard formula used throughout the Fractured Fairy Tales, twenty-five of which are collected in this book, was to take a standard fairy tale and put a twist on it, frequently involving bad puns.  The stories were written in a folksy style, as if they were being told by a favorite uncle who was aware of any misunderstandings his story might cause and be ready to take advantage of those misunderstandings in telling the story.  This tone comes across exceedingly well throughout Fractured Fairy Tales.

Ward Productions, who produced the original shows, created 91 Fractured Fairy Tales, frequently revisiting stories when they came up with a new slant.  While this book has just under a third of those stories, Jacobs elected to include some of those revisitations by providing the reader with both "Beauty and the Beast" and "Cutie and the Beast" as well as multiple tales based on Rumpelstiltskin and King Midas.

Although the tales were meant to be topical when they were first aired in the 1960s, they remain topical today, although with references to "Faraway Hamlet 90210" at the end of "Pinocchio," it seems that Jacobs did take the liberty to update some of the references to make them more understandable to today's readers who may not have been alive when the cartoons first aired.

Each fairy tale is only a few pages long, making a quick reading of one or two of them easy in a moment when the reader doesn't have a lot of time.  Even when the stories don't make the reader laugh out loud, they do bring a smile to the reader's face as the reader recognizes the ludicrousness of the situation and the wonderfulness of the wordplay which is incorporated into the Fractured Fairy Tales.

While not as wonderful as actually watching the 91 episodes of Fractured Fairy Tales, many of which are currently not available on VHS or DVD, the book Fractured Fairy Tales manages to capture the feel of those long ago cartoons with all their chaotic zaniness.  For anyone who has watched "Rocky and His Friends," the book is a great piece of nostalgia while it is a fine introduction to those who have not yet had that pleasure.

The Witch's Broom The Flying Carpet
The Frog Prince Beauty and the Beast
Rumpelstiltskin Aladdin's Lamp
The Seven Chickens The Absentminded King
Sir Galahad The Goblins
The Tale of a King Cutie and the Beast
Hansel and Gretel Prince Hyacinth and the Dear Little Princess
Pinocchio Son of Rumpelstiltskin
The Elves and the Shoemaker The Enchanted Gnat
Thom Tum Jack and the Beanstalk
Princess and the Pea The Enchanted Fish
Son of King Midas King Midas
The Golden Goose  

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