Building a Fairy Tale

Problem Statement
Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 10 minutes

Most instructors use this exercise after "Problem Statement Fairy Tales."

1. Explain to the class that all papers are essentially stories, and all readers on some level want to be told a story. So, even though it seems a little weird, we're going to spend some time talking about classic story-telling patterns. Eventually we'll connect the stories with academic arguments.

2. Explain that because the pattern of fairy tales is so familiar, we understand which stories do and do not conform to the pattern even if the characters and situation are new to us.

3. Distribute the story below and read it aloud in stages. Read options a, b, and c for #1, then stop and ask whether each of these parts sound like they could be part of a fairy tale. If not, why not? Continue to stop and ask the same question after every number. (2a, 3a, and 4a don't work because nothing changes; 3b is questionable because we're not sure if Brussels sprouts matter to anyone in town; 4b doesn't work because we know Brussels sprouts don't matter.)

4. Based on these stories, ask the class to come up with a list of elements that the plot of a fairy tale must contain.


Building a Fairy Tale

Which of these pieces sounds like part of a fairy tale?
a. Once upon a time, there was a happy fisherman who lived in a quiet fishing village.
b. Once upon a time, there was a happy fisherman who lived in a quiet fishing village.
c. Once upon a time, there was a happy fisherman who lived in a quiet fishing village.
a. The fisherman lived out his days supporting his family with his fishing, eventually dying peacefully in his bed.
b. One day, the fisherman pulled up a fish that said to him: "Eat me if you must, but if you do, no more Brussels sprouts will grow in your village.
c. One day, a condor bigger than the biggest house in the village nested in the cliffs above the bay.
a. The fisherman died, remember? Move on.
b. The fish obviously did not understand local agriculture because the village did not grow Brussels sprouts. The fisherman's family ate the fish for dinner, with a little lemon and some rice pilaf.
c. Day after day, the condor flew over the bay, casting his shadow, frightening away fish, so that the fishermen's nets came up empty.
a. Still dead.
b. The fisherman lived out his days, eventually dying peacefully in his bed never having tasted Brussels sprouts.
c. Finally, the fisherman stole down to his boat on the bay at midnight, carrying three twigs, one oar, and a spool of twine dipped in honey.