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How Shrek Made Us Rethink “Happily Ever After”

How Shrek Made Us Rethink “Happily Ever After”

We have all wished for some form of a happy ending like in the fairy tales we grew up with. You meet a person, you fall in love, you get married and spend a long life happy and sharing adventures together. The prince gets the princess, and together they rule a magical land filled with singing rabbits and frolicking deer. While it would be amazing to have some friendly field mice make you a dress, fairy tales have not always been so bubbly or satisfying. Stories such as Shrek and Disney’s Enchanted have given us all the elements we look for but in a unique way. Here are some ways these stories have made us rethink “happily ever after” and why that could be a good thing.

Traditional fairy tale authors such as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen weave tales that are passed down from one generation to the next. These oral stories were then eventually written down and perhaps altered over the years. Stories such as Sleeping Beauty tells us about love at first sight, when two young people see each other for the first time. A jealous queen then puts a curse on the girl, who can’t be awoken unless her true love kisses her. No one rests until the evil queen is gone forever so that everyone can live “happily ever after.” In Shrek, a modern twist on the traditional fairy tale, the protagonist is not a prince but an ogre. This 1990 book turned movie franchise follows him reluctantly leaving his home to protect it from being taken over from fairy tale creatures exiled by the ruler Lord Farquaad. Shrek does indeed save the princess, but he is anything but a prince. He displays what many of these stories look for: a brave person who risks everything to restore peace to the land, or in this instance to himself. The Ice Queen, which Disney renamed Frozen, also has a few differences from your normal fairy tale. The quest is performed by a princess who can take care of herself. She wants to help her sister, the queen, who has been in hiding for years. Together, the sisters help each other save the day and prove that you don’t need a knight in shining armor to help a damsel in distress — she can help herself. In the ABC show Once Upon A Time, based on the graphic novels Fables, the Ice Queen’s story is a combination of both Hans Christian Andersen and Disney versions. This is another example of a show taking familiar tales and giving them a twist. For example, the villains want a happy ending and show a deeper character than just someone hell-bent on revenge.


Stories such as Shrek have been transformed into blockbuster events. As we wait for Shrek 5, we see that the ogre has gotten his own version of a happy ending: a wife, children, his beloved swamp, and fairy-tale friends who drop in constantly. Shrek also shows you that it is all right to look and be different. Shrek is often the subject of jokes because of his looks and behavior. His story shows people that you don’t have to be what society calls “good-looking” to find someone who loves you. The ogre also faces a great deal of prejudice. Though he may falter, he stays true to himself, which helps win the heart of his princess and one true love. Once Upon a Time, just like Shrek, shows people that villains can change and find others who will love them and their flaws as well. The Evil Queen who wanted to destroy Snow White and Prince Charming becomes a part of the family and falls in love, which helps shapes her into a loving, kinder person. It displays hope that anyone can be happy if they can change for the better.


Such unconventional stories can help people in the real world realize that our differences are what make us special. Fairy tales teach children that good will be rewarded and, whether you are an ogre or a handsome prince, if you are kind and remain true to yourself, you will find happiness. Some stories show us that what we do can affect our lives and the lives around us. Every story isn’t 100 percent happy, and that’s OK. These tales remind us that we can still find solid footing in life if we hold on to our beliefs.


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