I hate Fairyland – Madly Ever After is one of the greatest parodies of fairytales I've ever come across. Let's look at this action story and at the archplot of the Hero's Journey.
What’s I hate Fairyland about?
Synopsis from Amazon:
Follow Gert, a forty year old woman stuck in a six year olds body who has been stuck in the magical world of Fairyland for nearly thirty years. Join her and her giant battle-axe on a delightfully blood soaked journey to see who will survive the girl who HATES FAIRYLAND.
I hate Fairyland: First impression
I loved I HATE fairyland because it shows how mad a person can get if they are stuck in a world where no one takes them seriously.
You get desperate and you will lash out.
And so does the protagonist Gertrude – stuck in a huge fairyland confronted with merry creatures, weird riddles, and an impossible task all day long.
And all that torture of living in a seemingly perfect world for over 27 years!
There are two things I loved the most about I HATE Fairyland.
»I hate Fairyland ... takes the tropes from classic children’s tales and kicks them right in the balls before ripping their hearts right out.« – Horror Talk
First, how the writer turns our used perception of fairytales and all its creatures upside down. We see them as those ever-smiling beings, like those people who just let you see their grinning facade and who are so shallow and who accept every misfortune as if they didn’t feel anymore.
We wonder if we are the ones who are weird because those people who pretend there is a perfect world make us sick.
Of course, Gertrude is a character at its extreme.
Her rebellion against the fairyland world couldn’t be more vicious.
But as a grown-up we know that life’s no fairytale, so for once, let's stop with all that merry pretending and let them have it!
Secondly, I loved how well you can identify the stages of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey in that story.
It’s so well done that at the end of this article I’ll add a Hero’s Journey analysis to I HATE Fairyland.
This story was certainly a lot of fun to read.
Be it because there was always a reference to another well-known story like Shroom Patrol (Doom Patrol) or Faun of the Dead (Dawn of the Dead).
The use of curse words but making them sound magical instead:
- Where the spell ... (= Where the hell)
- Hugger Fluffin ;-)
- Muffin Fluffer ;-)
- Fluff ;-)
- Sass (= ass)
- That Gitch! (= That Bitch)
- Hug off (= Fu** off).
Haha, it was so great!
1. What’s the global genre of I hate Fairyland – Madly Ever After?
Just look at the front cover of Volume One - Madly ever after.
You have that green-haired girl with a bloody battle-ax standing on top of a killed mushroom and many more dead fairytale creatures piled up all around her.
So it’s without any doubt a story about life and death stakes. It’s an action story.
And it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that this story is a new form of an innovative thriller.
There’s the threat of damnation clearly stated:
If Gertrude does not find the key to get back to her world, she will be stuck in Fairyland forever and ever and ever.
And so she has been for almost 27 years.
Gertrude is living in her own personal hell.
She has reached the negation of the negation – a fate worse than death – because she can’t get back home to her parents anymore.
She’s kept from her carefree childhood life because she must fulfill this stupid haunting quest first to get the key. And no one seems willing to help a little girl who is trying to accomplish that quest for almost 3 decades.
But even with damnation so obvious to see, I wouldn’t say this story is a thriller.
Yes, the hero becomes the victim.
The Queen’s MacGuffin is killing Gertrude as a means to restore peace in fairyland.
But most importantly a thriller always needs an internal content genre for the protagonist.
Mostly it’s some form of worldview story when the hero releases his inner gift to defeat the villain.
But Gertrude is at the end the same person as she was before – same low moral compass, same black and white worldview and even her status is unchanged (okay, she is the queen now but that was never her conscious or unconscious goal). She is still hated by the fairyland creatures, not admired. Therefore her status has stayed the same.
Conventions of the action story
Another interesting turn of conventions in an action story you need to have the roles of hero, victim, and villain clearly defined.
Now, what about Gertrude?
She is the protagonist of the story, but that doesn’t mean she necessarily only takes on the role of the hero.
It’s a little like the thriller Perfume by the German writer Patrick Süskind.
The protagonist Grenouille was a victim of the society he was living in. (See my full analysis of Perfume - The Story of a Murderer here.)
He was also a serial killer and the villain in the eyes of society.
So were they to him – villains. And he was a hero because he tried to live up to his inner gift, even though he realized in the end that the thing he wanted (love of the people) was what he despised the most which left him suicidal.
Gertrude is the biggest and most vicious thorn in the eyes of the Queen of Fairyland.
The Queen wants to get rid of that green-haired girl because Gertrude is killing the beautiful and merry world of Fairyland.
Gertrude is not only a serial killer, but she is also a mass murderer, literally!
Gertrude can be looked at as the most vicious creature there is in Fairyland.
But is she truly the villain?
She’s the victim, isn’t she?
She was taken from her children’s bedroom, from her world, and landed hard in Fairyland where everything seems to be a merry joke to everyone.
As long as you answer with a smile the world will be good to you.
But for Gertrude, a little child who only wants to get back home, that land is her own personal hell.
So she is the victim.
And she has to become some kind of hero to survive the madness that surrounds her.
And she builds up that evil personality to somehow show that cotton candy crazy world that it can go to *fluffing *spell.
I HATE fairyland is a fantasy action story.
To determine the subgenre and plot of an action story, we look at the force of antagonism.
I HATE fairyland is an action story with a labyrinth plot. Gertrude's external object of desire is finding the key to get back home. She has to maneuver through the huge world of fairyland to somehow and somewhere find that key.
For the Queen, some could argue it’s a savior plot with a negative ending. In a savior plot the hero fights a villain who wants to destroy society (Batman – The Dark Knight). BUT Gertrude does not want to destroy the fairyland society.
She just lashes out against everyone who gets in her way. So for the Queen, it’s more a collision plot because she puts two heroes (Gertrude and Happy) against each other.
According to Shawn Coyne, the Action story is our most primal tale. It concerns survival and securing our must-have physiological requirements.
I HATE Fairyland is an arch-plot (single protagonist) external genre that turns on the values of life and death.
Most often, contemporary action stories follow the Hero’s Journey.
In the Action Genre, physical action takes storytelling precedence. The protagonist is typically thrust into a series of challenges including fights, chases or shootings. The stories are fast-paced and they tend to feature a resourceful protagonist fighting an antagonist (at incredible odds) in life-threatening situations.
2. What are the obligatory scenes and conventions?
- An Inciting Attack by the Villain or Environment.
Gertrude is pulled away from her kid’s bedroom and lands headfirst in fairyland.
- Hero Sidesteps Responsibility to Take Action.
Gertrude is not sidestepping her responsibility to accept the quest. She takes the map from the Queen and heads off to find that stupid key and she doesn’t even know what she’s up against. Even though that scene is missing the story still works because her resilience to be in fairyland is shown right from the beginning and she was just a little girl who got a task she knows probably from all her fairytale books. She knows there’s no way to deny that task, so she just sucks it up and goes for it. This foreshadows her personality that only gets stronger. She is very good at sucking up what’s coming her way, but she also gets even better in letting them have it.
- Forced to leave the ordinary world, the Hero lashes out
That’s the great and innovative thing about this story. Gertrude is lashing out against the requirement that she has to be that happy little girl that pleases everyone in order to get the key. Right from the beginning she doesn’t wanna be in fairyland but she is burdened with that task that seems too hard to get done. So she lashes out more and more because her quest makes her more and more desperate.
- Discovering and Understanding the Antagonist’s MacGuffin Scene.
After Gertrude’s encounter with Happy Gertrude meets the Queen. And Gertrude finds out that the Queen wants Gertrude to become a citizen of fairyland so that the Queen is finally able to harm and kill the little girl.
- Hero’s Initial Strategy to Outmaneuver Villain Fails.
Gertrude vs. the Queen: It’s like mocking her: You can’t harm me because I’m a guest and the rules say you can’t harm your guests. But Gertrude learns that the Queen will be able to kill her once the other girl got the key and left fairyland first.
Gertrude vs. Happy: Happy is another competitor in the quest to get the key. Gertrude thinks she can just cut Happy’s head off, but Happy blasts her away with her rainbow beam.
- All Is Lost Moment: Hero realizes she must change his approach to salvage some form of victory.
Gertrude doesn’t go on in trying to find the key, but she wants to wield the power of one of the seven evil dooms to harness the power to defeat Happy.
- The Hero at the Mercy of the Villain Scene.
Gertrude arrives just in time as Happy is about to leave fairyland. Gertrude defeats Happy through her new powers and she kills the Queen. There isn’t much of a Hero at the mercy of the villain scene in the typical sense of a John McClane tied up on a chair – like a hero’s fight is almost lost because the villain just seems too powerful or too clever. BUT if you look at Gertrude: She’s under a lot of pressure. There’s this one sparkling little girl and could get the key which would mean Gertrude would be stuck in Fairyland for all eternity. Right then, Gertrude is at the mercy of Happy. And Happy will not back down. So Gertrude’s gift is released when she’s putting all her combat skills into defeating the hordes of Lord Darketh Deaddeath to be granted to wield his power.
- The Hero’s Sacrifice Is Rewarded Scene.
Haha, for Gertrude it’s at least some form of worldview revelation. If you kill the Queen you become the Queen.
- Hero, Victim, Villain (These roles must be clearly defined throughout the story. The Protagonist must be a Hero.)
Right from the start of the story, we witness how Gertrude is pulled into fairyland against her will. We empathise with her and want her to get out of this world again. So we see her as the heroine. She’s on the hero’s journey burdened with one task – like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ or Alice in Wonderland.
- The Hero’s object of desire is to stop the villain and save the victim.
Gertrude wants to save herself because she is the victim of that fairyland nonsense.
- The power divide between the hero and the villain is very large. The villain is far more powerful than the hero.
The Queen possesses a lot of power. Gertrude is just a little girl in a strange new world. She has to face a challenge as well as creatures she was never ever prepared to meet, but she does so anyway.
In the end, the power divide turns around as Gertrude clearly moves to the dark side becoming more of a villain herself while Happy is the hero who fails to use her gift against Gertrude to outwit or overpower her. Gertrude has become too strong by harnessing the power of one of the evil dooms.
- Sub-Genre specific conventions: Depending upon the sub-genre, other conventions and tropes are required.
In I HATE Fairyland we have a lot of tropes that are commonly expected of stories about fairytales and fairy creatures like omniscient narrators, the black and white portrayal of evil and good, etc.
- Speech in Praise of the Villain.
There are several speeches in praise of the villain depending on the character who utters the words and whom the character considers to be the villain. If we look at all the fairyland creatures, the villain is Gertrude. As a reader you’re told that Gertrude is a killer right from the start:
Speeches in praise of Gertrude:
»It was a nightmare. Nothing but the green of her hair ... and the blood of my people.« – Thaddeus J. Star, RIP
»The sweet young girl, who was once filled with hope and joy, was taken over by the hateful, miserable, disgusting, revolting, wretched, horrendous, putrid ...« – the moon as the narrator
»She’s about three feet tall, green hair, with eyes that would scare the dark right out of the Nixnot.« The Queen describing Gertrude to Bruud the Brutal.
Speech in praise of Happy by Larry
»Gert? Come on! I know it’s embarrassing to get beat up by a girl who shoots rainbows ...«
Speech in praise of the villain fairyland by Gertrude:
»How am I supposed to figure all this PLUSH out when I’m forever teetering on the edge of a riddle-induced psychotic break and the dark abyss of diabetic coma? My days are filled with endless amounts of bright colors no human eye should have to take in while my nights are listening to the horrid lullabies of all the lands at the same MUFFIN FLUFFIN’ time.«
Speech in praise of the Queen by the witch Horribella:
»Here’s my card. If Queeny doesn’t kill Gert, tell her Horribella has a job for her. I could use evil like that.«
3. What are the objects of desire?
Gertrude wants to get the key to be able to get out of fairyland.
That’s her external and conscious object of desire.
There’s no internal object of desire for Gert.
She doesn’t look for power or admiration (Status), she’s not looking for meaning, loses her faith or changes her thought for the better or worse (worldview) and she’s not putting anyone’s need ahead of herself (morality).
Her external want is so *fluffing strong that it is able to move the entire plot forward.
An argument could be made that there’s some form of worldview revelation plot in the story.
»When a protagonist, with well-developed will but lacking in essential facts, experiences doubt about their circumstances which leads to a revelation of a shocking truth, they can make wise and appropriate decisions.« – Story Grid
The shocking truth for Gertrude is finding out that if there are two guests in fairyland, only one of them can leave, while the other one will become a citizen of fairyland. Meaning they would be stuck in fairyland forever. But Gertrude is definitely not making any wiser decisions through knowing that. I mean, she changes her approach and doesn’t continue on her foolish quest, but she turns to dark powers ... which in the end, suit her quite well, but mess everything up even more.
Her external object of desire is getting rid of Gertrude to be able to restore the peace of fairyland.
Her internal object of desire is saving herself from shame. She failed as a queen because it was she who brought Gertrude to fairyland. For her, it’s a status tragic plot.
4. What is the narrative device and point of view?
It’s typical for fairytales to have an omniscient narrator.
Well, to *spell with that.
Here the narrator is killed at the beginning of each chapter – more and more quickly the further you are in the story.
So each chapter starts with that omniscient narrator – be it the moon, a mouse, man or snail who wraps up shortly what has happened so far.
But from then on it is a third-person point of view.
We do not get access to a character’s thoughts or feelings.
Gertrude is speaking her mind rather freely.
Sometimes we switch POV to find out what the plans of the Queen are and how she plans on killing Gertrude or we see how well Happy masters the task of finding the key.
Having those insights as a reader means knowing more than the protagonist Gertrude does. This gives us an advantage over what she knows. If we look at narrative drive then that’s called dramatic irony.
But the story is also driven by suspense.
We, the reader, as well as Gertrude, have the same information because we don’t know where she can find the key to get back home either.
There’s also some mystery because we don’t have access to Gertrude's mind, so we do not know what she’s up to next.
We can guess, and if we say she answers violently to a threat, we will be right. But still, what’s going on inside of her is never truly revealed to us.
The story is aimed at grown-ups.
It’s certainly no children’s story.
Personally I think the story is one of the biggest parodies of fairytales I’ve ever seen, and probably the one I’m enjoying the most.
5. What is the Controlling Idea / Theme?
When we talk about action stories the core value turns around life and death.
So if we have a prescriptive or a cautionary tale the controlling idea starts either with the one or the other:
+ “Life is preserved when the Hero overpowers or outwits their internal and external antagonists.”
- Death results when the protagonist fails to overpower or outwit his/her antagonists.
In I HATE Fairyland the controlling idea could be:
Life is preserved when the hero uses the power of the darkness against the superficial mad candy colored world that drives them crazy only to find out that with great power comes great responsibility and you can’t act out like a child if you want to go home.
Note: The story has an ironic ending.
Gertrude manages to defeat her two antagonists and she gets the key, her conscious object of desire, BUT there’s a big turning point that turns on revelation as she finds out that if you kill the queen, then you become the queen of fairyland and you have to stay.
6. What are the beginning hook, middle build and ending payoff?
I hate Fairyland – Volume One consists of 5 chapters (118 pages).
Chapter One, Two, Five – 22 pages
Chapter Three – 28 pages
Chapter Four – 24 pages
Beginning Hook – Chapter 1 (5 pages = 4%)
Inciting Incident: When a green-haired girl gets sucked into the world of fairyland ...
Turning Point Progressive Complications: ... and is burdened with the task of finding her own way out of this fairytale ...
Crisis: ... she has to decide if she accepts the task or if she rebels against it.
Climax: Gertrude accepts the task but lashes out against the creatures of fairyland who can’t give her one straight answer.
Resolution: Gertrude is stuck in fairyland.
Middle Build – Chapter 1 – 5 (95 pages = 81%)
Inciting Incident: When Gertrude is still looking for the key after 27 years ...
Turning Point Progressive Complications: ... and there’s another girl who competes with her to get to the key which means Gertrude could be stuck in fairyland forever if she loses ...
Crisis: ... Gertrude has to decide if she keeps working on her hopeless quest of finding the key or if she turns to darker powers.
Climax: Gertrude starts her quest to Darketh Deaddeath.
Resolution: Gertrude harnesses the power of one of the seven evil dooms.
Ending Payoff – Chapter 5 (18 pages = 15%)
Inciting Incident: When Gertrude arrives at the farewell scene of Happy
Turning Point Progressive Complications: ... and the Queen mocks Gertrude by saying that she wished Gertrude’s goodbye would contain more death ...
Crisis: ... Gertrude has to decide if she just steps through the door and leaves or if she uses her powers one more time to get her revenge for the 27 *fluffing years in fairyland.
Climax: Gertrude kills the Queen ...
Resolution: ...and Gertrude becomes the new queen of fairyland.
I HATE Fairyland – Learn about the Hero’s Journey
Joseph Campbell, writer of the book ›The Hero with a thousand faces‹ looked at the stories across the cultures of the word going way back right to ancient Egypt, to tribes in South America, to China to Greece to Israel to ...
He found out there’s a certain structure that most of the stories told in all those places of the world who in ancient times never had the chance to let their stories be heard from one continent to the next to have many things in common.
So Campbell came up with the meta-mono-myth which is a single-story structure that people find irresistible. To the writer, this story structure is known as the Hero’s Journey.
People love the hero’s journey but, of course, it shouldn’t be used with cliché.
That’s why I’m saying that I love I HATE fairyland because it took the classic adventure quest that usually follows a single protagonist in an arch plot story structure (hero’s journey) and turned it all around.
The hero has to become the villain in order to survive that maddening world.
Stages of the hero’s journey
So let’s walk through the story I HATE fairyland (Volume 1 – Madly ever after) and pinpoint the moments that abide the Heroic Journey progression.
- The hero is introduced in the Ordinary World where...
Gertrude is in her kid’s bedroom dancing around and like almost every girl her age wishing to go on a magical adventure.
- He or she receives a call to adventure
Her bedroom floor opens up.
- He or she is reluctant at first or refuses the call, but
She’s holding on and does not want to let go to fall into the ›Rabbit’s hole‹ as you know from Alice in Wonderland.
- He or she is encouraged by a mentor to
The Queen gives Gertrude a map of all the lands of fairyland and she gets a little companion to help her on her quest.
- Cross the first threshold and enter the special world where
Gertrude leaves the castle and the brightly colored world of fairyland awaits her.
- He or she encounters tests, allies, and enemies...
Gertrude is on her quest to find the key, probably confronted with challenges each day for over 27 years, and then there’s a huntsman out to kill her. There are faun zombies wanting to eat her and at last a little girl called Happy who shoots rainbows. Almost dead, her only ally Larry saves her.
- After these trials, he or she approaches an inmost cave (a psychological challenge that he or she must contend with) that will force him or her to operate at the outer limits of his or her capacity
Gertrude is forced to understand that she won’t get to the key before the new girl will, so Gertrude turns to the darker powers to be able to reach some form of victory.
- This is where he or she will suffer an ordeal.
Gertrude is tested by the lord Darketh Deaddeath and has to defeat his hordes all by herself.
- After the ordeal is complete, he or she takes possession of the reward (a highly valuable skill)...
Lord Darketh Deaddeath grants Gertrude the right to use his powers at her will.
- But negative forces pursue the hero on the road back to the ordinary world.
The queen mocks Gertrude wishing her goodbye would contain more death.
- He crosses a third threshold back to the ordinary world and experiences a resurrection
CHANGED: Gertrude can’t cross the threshold back to her old world because she had killed the queen.
- Transformed by the experience he or she uses his or her new skill to better the world around him or her.
CLIFFHANGER: Gertrude has become the new queen of fairyland. I doubt it’s gonna be to better the world around her that she hates so much.
Next to the typical stages of the hero’s journey, there are also archetypical figures.
Those figures are roles that characters in the story can take on and that should appear if you want to integrate the heroic journey in your story structure.
Keep in mind that characters can embody a number of these archetypes. The ally can turn into a shapeshifter. The shapeshifter into a mentor etc.
Gertrude’s mentor is the queen. The queen of fairyland gives Gertrude a map and a companion to help her on her quest to find the key. She later is also the one who pushes Gertrude into her crisis because she makes Gertrude understand certain truths about the world that could endanger Gertrude’s want to get back home.
This is a role/character who marks the step/moment when the hero moves from his old world into an extraordinary world.
Sometimes they show the hero around, tell something about the land and have their own motivations why they do that
No help comes without a secret want what they hope to accomplish through their help.
In I HATE fairyland the queen takes on the role of the threshold guardian. She leads Gertrude out of the gate and lets her enter the world of fairyland.
A herald is a character/role that states the “state of the story”. It’s needed to remind the reader what the stakes for the protagonist are.
In I HATE fairyland the different narrators remind the reader that Gertrude is still in a fairytale world where she does not belong. That’s why we are constantly reminded that she is on a quest to get ouf of there.
This role is played by a character who changes sides. He’s saying one thing, but in a critical situation, their actions differ from what they’ve said before.
Lord Darketh Deaddeath seems like a great evil power who seems like he wants to punish Gertrude for killing his hordes, but he takes her in his arms. She’s the daughter he always wanted to have.
Another shapeshifter is the queen. She seems so perfectly nice, but in truth, there’s evil in her too, and she wants to kill a guest (she herself invited) in her own land.
The shadow is most often the antagonist who is portrayed as being the complete opposite of the hero.
The shadow (by definition) seems to be Gertrude although she’s the real hero who has endured over 27 years in fairyland. And her antagonist is the girl of smiles and light: Happy.
Allies are like sidekicks who stick with the protagonist no matter what happens.
Gertrude’s ally is the fly Larry. He is her only companion on her maddening quest to return back home.
The trickster is a character/role that recognizes the absurdity of their world and jokes about it. They provide comedic relief while they try to change the situation.
Gertrude is the one who makes a lot of fun about that *muffin fluffin’ world of fairyland.
Conclusion: I HATE fairyland
I loved the fairytale-like adventure quest story of I HATE fairyland.
I loved the character of the protagonist Gertrude.
I loved the world.
I loved that the writer made fun of the classical fairytales and turned those stories all around by making fun of the tropes or just killing them off (like the narrators).
The story was entertaining from beginning to finish.
It was innovative.
It was a very strong character-driven story and I can’t wait to follow Gertrude on her next try to get out of this candy-colored maddening world.
I’m so hooked!
Now that you have made it all the way to the end of my blog post, it'd be really great if you could spend two more minutes and let me know your thoughts.
Did the story work for you? What did you like the most about I hate Fairyland – Volume One – Madly Ever After by Scottie Young? What didn't you like?
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