Fairy Tales Re-Imagined

Re-imagining fairy tales and disability

Book cover for Disfigured-reimaging fairy tales

Re-Imagining Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are ancient stories. Many, if not all, pre-date written language. Found in cultures around the world, these stories have common characteristics. Disability in ancient stories is a negative. It is a trope that needs to change. It’s time to re-imagine the fairy tale.

About the book

Language is powerful, especially in fairy tales. In her book Disfigured On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space, Amanda Leduc writes about how these ancient stories do more than entertain; they teach, influence, and shape the way a reader looks at the world. Leduc examines how these stories cast disabilities and the characters who have them in a negative light. It is an influence that doesn’t end when the tale is done but has real world implications for those with disabilities.

For Leduc, this issue is personal. A brain cyst when young left her with a limp. Leduc intersperses her life story with research on fairy tales. She examines how these stories have reinforced the ideas of the disabled as not good enough or people to be pitied. Characters with disabilities are”less-than” in these tales. That belief carries over into society.

Leduc grew up with the revised Disney versions. Disney princesses are thin, strong, and physically active. These princesses get their happily-ever-afters; but disfigured characters are happy to settle for friends. Over and over again the strong and the beautiful are the only ones good enough for happily-ever-afters.


Leduc forced me to look at these familiar stories from a different angle. When there wasn’t a medical explanation for a medical issue, these stories served to give an explanation—either good or bad. But now there are explanations for many of those issues, making the tropes and stereotypes unnecessary.  By engaging with this book, I’m forced to realize the damage the stereotypes and tropes do.

Fairy tales by their nature are revised in order to fit into current culture and societal norms. But it seems when it comes to disabilities, that revising, as well as better acceptance of the disabled, has stopped as well. Leduc’s writing carries the power of one who has lived with the pain of this failure.

Disfigured takes a hard look at fairy tales, especially the deeply revised versions put out by Disney. Leduc asks thoughtful questions about these stories.  She also realizes the difficult work involved in order to enact change, but it is change that needs to take place so everyone sees their place as a valued member of society.  Fairy tales can help or hinder that change.

Book Information

Title: Disfigured On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space
Author: Amanda Leduc
Coach House Books https://chbooks.com/Books/D/Disfigured
Genre: Literary Criticism