The Moral of the Story Is

Never talk to strangers
never stray from the path
never refuse to share your lunch
never disobey the witch
never obey the witch
never have anything to do with witches
except for when you do
never stay out after midnight
never run away from magical earthquakes
never sleep under a spliced apple tree at midday
never listen to your mother
never let yourself become overcome by curiosity
always be curious
always cross the river first
always cross the river last
never eat anything in fairyland
never lie to the devil
never make a deal with the devil
but listen to him carefully if you do
never refuse to help the injured rabbit
never venture forth without cheese in your pocket
never be afraid to kill the ogre
and the ogre’s wife
and the ogre’s children
not necessarily in that order
never prick your finger on a spindle
never forget your golden carding combs
never promise anything to a small man with a complicated name
never stop before the end of the story
unless you like having a sheep’s head
which I’m assuming you don’t
but also
never assume

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Frog

It croaks
and hops
and catches flies
and I hate it
and will obey it
reluctantly
until I throw it against the wall
and am forced to marry it

Fairy tales
I tell you

Potato

My potato
is going to be king
with the sceptre and the crown and everything
because it answered the riddles
and completed the impossible tasks
and won the princess
which is actually pretty good
for a potato

Your potato
is terrible
while mine has accomplished all the things
and thus your potato
should slink away home in shame

All hail the potato
king of potatoes
wielder of the rule of law
singer of the song

It is hard for the princess
though
as every time she glances
at her potato husband
her stomach
begins to growl

Shiver

He didn’t know
what fear was
so he went to find out
and saved a princess
and she dumped fish on him
and they lived happily ever after

This is
a typical fairy tale
except for the lack
of cannibalism
and incest

Someday
someone will notice
that fairy tales are not
about true love

Until that day
little girls will continue
to be forced into princess dresses
with ruffles

Happy Endings

Once upon a time there was a princess
and she sat around until some prince turned up to rescue her
and when he did
they both lived happily ever after

Once upon a time there was a poor girl
youngest sister to two other poor girls
and she went the hell out into the world
and found herself her own prince
which was fine with him because someone had turned him into a bear
and he found that very uncomfortable

Once upon a time there was a bear
living by itself in the forest
perfectly happy
and never turned into anything by anybody

Once upon a time there was a boy
who listened in awe as his Ph.D.-candidate older sister
deconstructed the first fairy tale in this poem
which she said was a bowdlerised version influenced by Disney
and not an accurate reflection of the oral tradition

And they lived happy
and died happy
and never drank out of a dry cappy

The end

Story Structure

There was once a girl named Cleolinda
because that is a properly unexpected name
that makes her unique
but I won’t tell you anything else about her
except that she was good and kind and sweet.
That will make you like her immediately
right?

So Cleolinda was persecuted by everybody
because she was good and kind and sweet
and also beautiful
of course.
Her stepmother hated her.
Her stepsisters hated her.
Her female classmates hated her
because her male classmates didn’t.
But Cleolinda didn’t realise she attracted all the boys
because she had no idea how beautiful she was.
Isn’t this a great story?

Then bad things happened
and I’ll tell you just how Cleolinda felt about them
without actually showing her doing anything that would
make her feel the feelings
since that would take too long
and probably involve dialogue
and I don’t really
know how to write dialogue.

In the end
everything turned out all right:
that one boy Cleolinda secretly liked liked her too
and he was hunky and rich and all the girls wanted him
and you are going to sigh with longing
as you read about how
this boy and Cleolinda flung themselves into each other’s arms.
The good characters won the lottery
and bought a candy house in Paradise.
The bad characters fell into a fiery pit
that suddenly opened in the middle of the suburbs.
The terrible dictator was changed by the power of Love
and freed his people in a ceremony
that lasted for five days
and involved a fizzy drink made from the evil stepmother’s tears.

And the surviving characters lived happily ever after
without any moral ambiguity.