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Exploring Perspectives in Fairytales

Hi everyone, I’m Ms Atifa, an English teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. Today, we’ll be exploring perspectives in fairytales creatively!

First, what exactly is a perspective? A perspective refers to a character’s observations of what is happening within a story. When you write in first-person point of view (using “I”), you can choose to take any type of character’s perspective in your writing. For instance, you can take the perspective of a student, teacher, or a doctor.

A fairytale often follows the perspective of a protagonist, such as Ariel in The Little Mermaid. A protagonist refers to the main character in a story, most often the ‘good’ person or the ‘hero/heroine’. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is an antagonist, who is the villain or someone who opposes the protagonist in one way or the other. In the case of The Little Mermaid, the antagonist is Ursula, a sea witch who dabbles in trickery and eventually tries to endanger Ariel.

However, in recent years, there have been several movie adaptations of fairytales which focus on the perspective of a character who is not the expected protagonist. For example, have you ever watched the movie Maleficent?

In the old Sleeping Beauty animated movie, Maleficent is depicted as an antagonist who curses Aurora to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. She is shown to be intimidating, selfish and vengeful. Her revenge was triggered by the fact that she was not invited to a ceremony celebrating Aurora’s birth.

However, in the Maleficent movie which came out in 2014, the movie focuses on Maleficent’s perspective in the fairytale instead. The movie lends an empathetic backstory to how the powerful fairy, Maleficent eventually became villainous. It shows that the reason she secludes herself from others is because King Stefan, Aurora’s father, was in love with her. However, he was soon overshadowed by his ambition to become a king. As a result, he amputated her wings while she was sleeping in order to become King and left her. Although Maleficent still curses Aurora out of hurt and revenge, the movie shows how she eventually regrets it and tries to save Aurora. She also ended up forming a close bond with her.

Isn’t this an interesting perspective? Simply exploring another character’s perspective in a story could allow you to explore many aspects of the plot that would otherwise remain undiscovered. It might also reveal certain aspects of the character that we never knew were there, leading to a much deeper understanding of him/her. It might even make some minor characters appear more real instead of just being seen as a stereotype or caricature.Now, why don’t you try exploring a fairytale through the perspective of a character other than the protagonist? Think of a fairytale you enjoy or have heard of, and write a paragraph to depict a scene from the original story. However, this time, write from a different character’s perspective. For instance, in Little Red Riding Hood, you can depict the scene where the wolf meets Red at her grandmother’s cottage from the wolf ’s perspective.

As an example, I will show you a paragraph based on a scene from the Cinderella animated movie which I wrote from one of the step-sisters, Drizella’s perspective. In this scene, Cinderella’s step-sisters meet Prince Charming at the ball before Cinderella appears. Take a moment to pause and read through the passage on your own.

Flashing a wide grin, Prince Charming entered the castle in his sharp suit adorned with glistening golden buttons. Glancing at my sister, I smirked slyly. We knew that if either of us were to gain his interest, we could become an even wealthier family and make Mother happy. When it was finally my turn to meet him, I sashayed confidently towards him and gave him my best curtsy. However, in response, he gave me a quick, forced smile before gazing at someone in the distance. Indignantly, I spun around to see who it was. My jaw dropped when I saw a goddess-like lady with chiseled cheekbones and the kindest eyes I had ever seen. The kindness she exuded reminded me of someone, but I could not figure out who it was. She donned an elegant, flowing dress the colour of a crystal blue sea, and was roaming around as if she was lost. At that moment, I knew that once again, my younger sister and I would fail to make Mother happy.

See how writing from Drizella’s perspective allows us to flesh out her feelings and thoughts, which were otherwise hidden in the original tale? Doing so also allows us to explore the reason why she treats Cinderella so cruelly – i.e. perhaps it stems from her strong desire to please her mother.

Now, you try! Pick a secondary or minor character from your favourite fairy tale and retell a scene from the original story from this character’s point of view. Remember to include the character’s thoughts and feelings when writing from his/her perspective. However, if fairytales don’t really interest you, you can try writing from the perspective of a character who doesn’t have the main spotlight in a movie, show or novel that you like or are familiar with.

Isn’t exploring perspectives in fairytales interesting? When it comes to writing school compositions, this is also something that you can consider. Instead of sticking to the usual perspective of a student or child, why not explore other perspectives?

Depending on the topic, you could put yourself in the shoes of another person, such as a fireman, athlete, or a teacher. For instance, for a topic like ‘A Disappointment’, instead of writing as a child who disappointed his/her parent, you can try to write from the perspective of a parent who disappointed his/her child instead. It is definitely something worth exploring and if done well, can be a refreshing change for the teacher marking your essay! Of course, at the end of the day, make sure to keep the story relevant to the topic that you are writing on.

I hope that you’ve learnt more about perspectives today, and more importantly, will consider writing from a different perspective when you attempt your next writing assignment. Bye for now!

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Ms Atifa

In her time teaching, she has incorporated elements of drama into her classes to engage her lower primary students. She tries her best to get to know all of her students and is always keen to find out each of their interests and hobbies. She believes that each student has personalised needs, and aims to make lessons fun and helpful for all of her students.

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