Read a Selection from Jane Yolen’s How to Fracture a Fairy Tale

Fantasy icon Jane Yolen (The Devil’s Arithmetic, Briar Rose, Sister Emily’s Lightship) is adored by generations of readers of all ages. Now she triumphantly returns with this inspired gathering of fractured fairy tales and legends. Yolen breaks open the classics to reveal their crystalline secrets: a philosophical bridge that misses its troll, a spinner of straw as a falsely accused moneylender, the villainous wolf adjusting poorly to retirement. Each of these offerings features a new author note and original poem, illuminating tales that are old, new, and brilliantly refined.

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale is available November 5th from Tachyon Publications. Read an excerpt from “Sleeping Ugly” below!



Sleeping Ugly

Princess Miserella was a beautiful princess if you counted her eyes and nose and mouth and all the way down to her toes. But inside, where it was hard to see, she was the meanest, wickedest, and most worthless princess around. She liked stepping on dogs. She kicked kittens. She threw pies in the cook’s face. And she never—not even once—said thank you or please. And besides, she told lies.

In that very same kingdom, in the middle of the woods, lived a poor orphan named Plain Jane. She certainly was. Her hair was short and turned down. Her nose was long and turned up. And even if they had been the other way round, she would not have been a great beauty. But she loved animals, and she was always kind to strange old ladies.

One day Princess Miserella rode out of the palace in a huff. (A huff is not a kind of carriage. It is a kind of temper tantrum. Her usual kind.) She rode and rode and rode, looking beautiful as always, even with her hair in tangles. She rode right into the middle of the woods and was soon lost. She got off her horse and slapped it sharply for losing the way. The horse said nothing, but ran right back home. It had known the way back all the time, but it was not about to tell Miserella.

So there was the princess, lost in a dark wood. It made her look even prettier.

Suddenly, Princess Miserella tripped over a little old lady asleep under a tree.

Now, little old ladies who sleep under trees deep in the dark wood are almost always fairies in disguise. Miserella guessed who the little old lady was, but she didn’t care. She kicked the old lady on the bottoms of her feet. “Get up and take me home,” said the princess.

So the old lady got to her feet very slowly—for the bottoms now hurt. She took Miserella by the hand. (She used only her thumb and second finger to hold Miserella’s hand. Fairies know quite a bit about that kind of princess.) They walked and walked even deeper into the wood . There they found a little house. It was Plain Jane’s house. It was dreary. The floors sank. The walls stank. The roof leaked even on sunny days. But Jane made the best of it. She planted roses around the door. And little animals and birds made their home with her. (That may be why the floors sank and the walls stank, but no one complained.)

“This is not my home,” said Miserella with a sniff.

“Nor mine,” said the fairy.

They walked in without knocking, and there was Jane.

“It is mine,” she said.

The princess looked at Jane, down and up, up and down.

“Take me home,” said Miserella, “and as a reward I will make you my maid.”

Plain Jane smiled a thin little smile. It did not improve her looks or the princess’s mood.

“Some reward,” said the fairy to herself. Out loud she said, “If you could take both of us home, I could probably squeeze out a wish or two.”

“Make it three,” said Miserella to the fairy, “and I’ll get us home.”

Plain Jane smiled again. The birds began to sing.

“My home is your home,” said Jane.

“I like your manners,” said the fairy. “And for that good thought, I’ll give three wishes to you.”

Princess Miserella was not pleased. She stamped her foot.

“Do that again,” said the fairy, taking a pine wand from her pocket, “and I’ll turn your foot to stone.” Just to be mean, Miserella stamped her food again. It turned to stone.

Plain Jane sighed. “My first wish is that you change her foot back.”

The fairy made a face. “I like your manners, but not your taste,” she said to Jane.

“Still, a wish is a wish.”

The fairy moved the wand. The princess shook her foot. It was no longer made of stone.

“Guess my foot fell asleep for a moment,” said Miserella. She really liked to lie. “Besides,” the princess said, “that was a stupid way to waste a wish.”

The fairy was angry.

“Do not call someone stupid unless you have been properly introduced,” she said, “or are a member of the family.”

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” said Miserella. She hated to be told what to do.

“Say stupid again,” warned the fairy, holding up her wand, “and I will make toads come out of your mouth.”

“Stupid!” shouted Miserella.

As she said it, a great big toad dropped out of her mouth.

“Cute,” said Jane, picking up the toad, “and I do like toads, but…”

“But?” asked the fairy.

Miserella did not open her mouth. Toads were among her least favorite animals.

“But,” said Plain Jane, “my second wish is that you get rid of the mouth toads.”

“She’s lucky it wasn’t mouth elephants,” mumbled the fairy.

She waved the pine wand. Miserella opened her mouth slowly. Nothing came out but her tongue. She pointed it at the fairy.

Princess Miserella looked miserable. That made her look beautiful, too.

“I definitely have had enough,” she said. “I want to go home.” She grabbed Plain Jane’s arm.

“Gently, gently,” said the old fairy, shaking her head. “If you aren’t gentle with magic, none of us will go anywhere.”

“You can go where you want,” said Miserella, “but there is only one place I want to go.”

“To sleep!” said the fairy, who was now much too mad to remember to be gentle. She waved her wand so hard she hit the wall of Jane’s house.

The wall broke.

The wand broke.

And before Jane could make her third wish, all three of them were asleep.


Excerpted from How To Fracture A Fairy Tale, copyright © 2018 by Jane Yolen.


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