Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2022

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author's Department

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Illustration & Visual Culture

Degree Type



“Twisting Tales” is a guidebook examining fairytales and the realm of fairytale adaptation. To begin with, I define fairytales by expanding on Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories”. By defining fairytales as abstracted tales set in the realm of Faerie, adaptations of fairytales become an avenue in which to explore world building and narrative, which fairytales naturally lend themselves to. The guidebook also explores more troubling tropes and trends in the fairytale, particularly those regarding women. Marcia K. Lieberman’s essay “Someday My Prince Will Come”critiques heroines in fairytales and serves as a dialogue for the role of the female protagonist in fairytale adaptations. The question of how adaptations interact with their source material is a core question here, and the guidebook suggests that the best adaptations are made out of affection for their source material, and are designed to sit alongside the original tale, not replace it. The relationship between fairytales and their adaptations is further fleshed out through world-building and a sense of place. W.H. Auden’s Secondary Worlds sheds light on how the development of a specific time and place for a fairytale adaptions can improve the story and lend a sense of believability to the narrative. In the midst of framing these fairytale adaptation guidelines is a case study of the process of writing and illustrating my own book, Once Upon Three Swans. Discussions of the ballet Swan Lake as the fairytale source, as well as other existing adaptations of Swan Lake factor into this. The specificity of time and place is accomplished by crafting a world modeled after Tudor England, utilizing tapestries as a device for the visuals, with Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Tudor as a source. The essay presents readers with a tool to navigate, evaluate, and create fairytale adaptations on their own, and encourages creators to craft a variety of adaptations stemming from a love of classic fairytales.



Program Chair

John Hendrix