Tuesday 9 October 2012

How Three Dyslexics Shaped the Modern Fairy Tale

Celebrating National Dyslexia Awareness Week 2012
How Three Dyslexics Shaped 
Modern Fairy Tale

Here is my second blog in celebration of National Dyslexia Awareness Week 2012.  Part of raising people awareness about dyslexia is to change people’s perceptions of it – and what better way to do this than celebrate the achievements of dyslexics. Now there are so many dyslexics who have achieved so much it was difficult to know where to start but given the premise of my blog 1.writing, 2.Fairy Tales, 3. Dyslexia – so this had to happen.

A Celebration of three men that was instrumental in the shaping of modern fairy tales who were dyslexic; Walt Disney, Hans Christian Anderson and Roald Dahl

Hans Christian Anderson 1805-1875

Hans Christian Anderson was like many dyslexics, creative by nature. He was in his early years an actor, and he was an avid paper artist. He had the fortune to have his education funded by Frederick VI -  King of Denmark, but like many dyslexics, he found schooling difficult.  Despite the hurdles imposed by his dyslexia, Hans went on to become an author, his most famous and most notable works, being his Fairy Tales, which include ‘the little Match Girl’, ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Thumbelina’.  His fairy tales are inspired whilst preserving the darker elements of their forefathers.  

1952 his life was made in to a musical called ‘Hans ChristianAnderson,’ and his fairy tales have inspired many re-writes, dramatizations, animations and movies on IMDB there is list of at least 230 movies based on his works. His works still inspire next year will see the realse of two animations based on his tale ‘The Snow Queen’ one of the same title by Wizart animation the other by Disney called ‘Frozen.’

Walt Disney 1901 -1966

Walt has been cited as being dyslexic, although it has never been definitively proven.  It is apparent that he had difficulties at school after which he went to pioneer animation making the first feature length animation ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ in 1937. Disney although not the most sensitive in his adaptations of classic fairy tales, had a creative commercial vision changing people perception of fairy tales. Walt for instance was the first to bestow names and personalities to the dwarfs.  Under his supervision, many fairy tales were given the ‘Disney Makeover’ and now long after his death the Disney Corporation is still rolling them out – with the recent ‘Tangled’ and upcoming Frozen.

Roald Dahl 1916 – 1990

Short story and screenwriter turned children’s author. Roald Dahl ‘s children’s book are some of the most loved for people of my generation and are still adored by children today. Many of them have been adapted for small screen and in to movies and even musicals. Roald was dyslexic, and  one of his methods to combat it was to write on Yellow Paper. Roald also wrote a book called ‘The Vicar of Nibbleswick’ where the protagonist is dyslexic; the book was illustrated by Quinton Blake and released in 1991 with proceeds going to Dyslexia Institute in London (now Dyslexia Action).

Roald made an impact on the perception young people had on fairy tales when he realised ‘Revolting Rhymes’ and ‘Rhyme Stew’, where he had re-written many well know fairy tales, with his particular humour – who can forget Red Riding Hood whipping a pistol from her knickers? When they came out parents were shocked – I recall many heated conversations between my parents and other adults about how ‘inappropriate’ they were. However to us kids of the time they made stuffy predictable fairy tales exciting.

So here we go a celebration of three king of Fairy Tales, whom were all Dyslexic! But before we go here’s just one more bit of fairy tale wisdom by another dyslexic…


  1. Great post! I had no idea Roald Dahl was dyslexic, but I have a pad of his yellow writing paper here after a visit to his museum. It's funny how parents were outraged about his rewriting of fairy tales - considering the traditional ones were meant to be instructive I guess parents would frown upon versions that turned them on their heads. I love them!

  2. Hi Childtastic Book Masters

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting. The yellow paper is great isn't it - so much friendlier and less intimidating than white! The Roald Dahl museum is great too - my kids loved the story telling!