Fat is Not a Fairy Tale

19 Oct

Fat Is Not a Fairy Tale

Jane Yolen

I am thinking of a fairy tale,
Cinder Elephant,
Sleeping Tubby,
Snow Weight,
where the princess is not
anorexic, wasp-waisted,
flinging herself down the stairs.

I am thinking of a fairy tale,
Hansel and Great,
Bounty and the Beast,
where the beauty
has a pillowed breast,
and fingers plump as sausage.

I am thinking of a fairy tale
that is not yet written,
for a teller not yet born,
for a listener not yet conceived,
for a world not yet won,
where everything round is good:
the sun, wheels, cookies, and the princess.


This poem is another favorite of mine, and my students. I actually have it written on my bedroom wall. I love how she uncornified puns, the visual imagery, the consistant structure and most of all the message.




 I’ve (still) been getting an awful lot of hits through the search term of the title of this poem. Apparently a lot of people are looking for a little elucidation and explanation to this poem. I’m going to expound a little on. This is not necessarily the “right” answer, but it’s definitely my answer.

Jane Yolen is taking a satirical and harsh stance on fairy tales. She starts off by taking the reader into her thoughts, letting you know that this is not reality. Through her word play on the names of popular princesses and fairy tale characters she expresses her love, or the need for healthy/ normal role models, and disdain for the cliché. She goes on with this parallelism for 2 stanzas.

The last stanza is the sharpest where while she’s still in her thoughts, she is talking directly to the reader and criticizing them. Saying, oh yeah, you think you got my point, you think you are listening to me, you’re not, you are still stuck in the same mentality, even if this did open your eyes a bit. (You’ll nod you’re head and say, “This is an amazing poem! And then skip lunch) This story was never told, the reader who would read this hasn’t even been conceived yet, and the world to which I want to tell this to has not yet been won over by my argument (that round is good, too).

Then she ends beautifully using bringing a common theme between 4 round objects to reiterate her message, each one representing something else, the sun – nature, wheels – inherently round, nessesity, and cookies – emotion, common love and affection, and traditionally round. She includes the princess in this equation, that it should have the acceptance that the previous items have. Where their “roundness” is never questioned, it simply is, and wouldn’t be otherwise.  “Where everything round is good the sun, wheels, cookies, and the princess.”  

Something to think about, consider Pixar’s Shrek. How many of you were disapointed that Fiona chose an Ogre’s body if that meant she’d have love. How many of you wished Shrek would stick to his human form. That would have been a real happily ever after wouldn’t it? Little twisted, no? Seems like Pixar’s got the right idea, don’t think most people are listening though.

Hopes this is what you were looking for. I’d appreciate if you left a comment just letting me know if this WAS what you were looking for, and if it helped 🙂





Posted by on October 19, 2008 in Poems, Teaching, Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

12 responses to “Fat is Not a Fairy Tale

  1. Jacob Da Jew

    October 19, 2008 at 5:07 pm


  2. frumcollegegirl

    October 19, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    wow where do you find these poems? they’re awesome.

    and i wish you’d’ve been my teacher…i had two great English teachers, but some lousy ones too

  3. tooyoungtoteach

    October 19, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    men…one track minded….

    I read too much, that’s my problem and my source for everything.

  4. The Babysitter

    October 24, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Great Poem!

    Very good point.

  5. Bas~Melech

    November 2, 2008 at 6:23 am

    LOL — great one!

  6. Kimberly

    November 13, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you for your analysis. That’s basically what I understood from the poem as well, but it’s always helpful to hear it confirmed from someone else. I am in English 1102 and I chose to analyze this poem because my sister was hospitalized from anorexia last year. We live in Florida, but they flew her to Denver Children’s Hospital to get the care she needed. She was only 16. She was hospitalized for 2 months. Thankfully, she is alive & is on her way to recovery.

    Basically, I can relate to the speaker of this poem because I , too, anticipate the day when everything round can be seen as good. I just wish my sister wanted that, too.

  7. Tilakshi

    July 14, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    WoW……That poem is awesome.Where do you find these ideas?Please tell me the secret.@#$?
    Anyway good point.


  8. Puddingprince101

    November 4, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Great poem. I’m going to be presenting this poem to my 9th grade class, even though I’m a guy. But hey, can’t guys understand poetry either? But I just wanted to check my analysis with somebody else, because I has a hARd inglishh teecher. Can you tell I’ve learned anything? lol But thanks, this is a great poem. Round is great! (But to the girl with the anorexic sister, thin as a pencil is fine too. Just be sure to stay healthy! And I hope your sister is okay, and you are too. :))

    Thanks for reading,


    14 yrs old

  9. ry

    March 10, 2011 at 11:00 am

    thanks this was what i was looking for. a kick start to my explication of this poem.

  10. harmit

    February 8, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    hi there! it has been helpful to read out an explication like the one on this website………….keep it up and thanks again

  11. 185 lbs

    September 4, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    i despise this poem. skinny DOES NOT EQUAL anorexic. this poem, just by using the word anorexic, trivializes everything that real people with real mental illnesses have to go through. just because someone doesn’t look like you think they should or what you want them to DOES NOT mean they have an eating disorder like anorexia. everyone grow up, show some respect, and stop over generalizing skinny people as mentally ill. stigma on EITHER END and body shaming of ANY KIND are both unacceptable.

  12. maddysstuff

    June 30, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Shrek is DREAMWORKS not Pixar! Also, the whole poem is silly. The pricesses in cartoons are stylised, ’round’ is unhealthy, and back in the days of Grimm obesity wasn’t nearly as common as it sadly is today.


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