Star in your own fairy tale

Created by Meera Chauda

What will we create today?

Transform yourself into a character to star in a fairy tale or folktale. You could create a new tale of your own, or enter the world of a story you already know.

You could be a wizard, prince, warrior princess or a magician. You could be part-animal or part-giant. Will your story be set in our world, or will you be transported to another land? What fantastical creatures will you meet and what magic will you encounter?

This is a collage activity. You will need:

  • A colour photograph, print-out or drawing of yourself. It should be a full length portrait, approximately A5 size
  • Glue
  • Collage material i.e. coloured paper, patterned paper, shiny paper, star stickers, photocopies of images
  • Any found imagery i.e. magazines, print outs or British Library images from the website i.e. Aesop’s Fables or The Infant’s Library
  • Drawing pencils
  • Scissors
  • Your imagination!

Let’s start!

Look

What character would you like to be? Could it be based on an animal, creature or person in a story you already know?

In Blackberry Blue by Jamila Gavin (2014), the title story offers us a Cinderella-esque tale of a beautiful girl called Blackberry Blue who wears a delicate ball gown created from the forest flowers. She is also protected by a thorny forest.

Blackberry Blue and other fairy tales by Jamila Gavin, illustrated by Richard Collingridge

Blackberry Blue by Jamilla Gavin

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Usage terms © Jamila Gavin, Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales, published by Penguin Random House Children’s Books (2013). Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

What could be enchanting about your clothing? Could you have wings? And what could protect you?

In I am Hua Mulan by Qin Wenjun and Yu Rong (2017), the central character is a female warrior who long ago fought bravely to protect her people. She learnt how to ride a horse and fight with a spear like her father. Mulan disguised herself as a man so she could ride off to war. Mulan’s bravery and skills won her wide acclaim but her true identity was never revealed.

I am Hua Mulan (Wo shi Hua Mulan) by Qin Wenjun, illustrated by Yu Rong

I am Hua Mulan (Wo shi Hua Mulan) by Qin Wenjun, illustrated by Yu Rong

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Usage terms 2017 text copyright © Qin Wenjun, illustration copyright © Yu Rong. First published in China by China Children's Press and Publication Group. All rights reserved. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.

Would your character disguise themselves to help someone? Will you be brave, kind or courageous?

The illustrator of the book used paper cut-outs and drawing to create the characters for this tale. She cut nearly 20 versions of the cover image of Mulan on horseback before perfecting it. So, don’t be afraid to have a few tries until you’re happy with your own collage!

What people and magical creatures could you meet in your tale? In The Phoenix of Persia by Sally Pomme-Clayton, illustrated by Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif (2019), Prince Zal is adopted by a wise and kind phoenix (firebird).

Usage terms The Phoenix of Persia © Tiny Owl Publishing, 2019, written by Sally Pomme Clayton ©2019 and illustrated by Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif ©2019. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
Held by© Tiny Owl Publishing, 2019, written by Sally Pomme Clayton © 2019 and illustrated by Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif © 2019

Could your character be adopted by a bird or animal? Or could they help you in another way?

In Yokki and the Parno Gry, a Romani folk tale by Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby, illustrated by Marieke Nelisse (2017), a white horse called Parno Gry appears and transports a family to a faraway abundant land and shows them a hopeful future. Could the animal you meet also be your transport? Where would they take you?

Yokki and the Parno Gry by Richard O'Neill and Katharine Quarmby, illustrated by Marieke Nelissen

A family of twelve and their dog, sit on the back of the Parno Gry. The Parno Gry is depicted as a very large while horse with a grey main and tail. The horse is decorated with white birds.

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Usage terms Yokki and the Parno Gry. Reproduced by kind permission of Child's Play (International) Ltd.
Text copyright © 2016 Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby.
Illustrations copyright © 2016 Child's Play (International) Ltd. First published 2016 by Child's Play.
All rights reserved. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.

Make yourself into a character to star in your own fairy tale

1. Create a full-length self-portrait

Think about how you would like to pose and your expression.

You could ask an adult to take a photo of you.

Ask them to print it out in colour for you to collage with.

Or you could draw a self-portrait using coloured pencils or pens.

Full length photographs of a boy and girl smiling

2. Think about what sort of character you would like to be

Will you be a wizard or a princess, a demon, an animal or a magician? Will you be a hero or heroine? Will you have a magical power?

Or perhaps you will transform yourself into a character from an existing story you have always wanted to be in?

3. Transform your photograph or drawing

Draw and collage to create your character.

Collage photograph of a girl, with a red dress, wings and a crown

4. Will your character be holding a special object or animal, or could they have wings?

See the photo below which shows how you can use other images to create these elements. I’ve used images from Aesop’s Fables printed by William Caxton (1484) and The Infant’s Library (1800).

An adult could enlarge or reduce existing images and print them out for you.

Image of birds, with elements cut out into wings to collage with

5. What will your character be called?

Maybe it will start with the first letter of your name i.e. Waheem the Wizard.

What is unique to your character? What will their personality be like?

Collaged photograph of a boy, with a wizard's hat, star spangled cloak and holding a teapot

6. Now you are ready to enter your fairy tale...

Where will you go to? Will you get lost? Will somebody help you find the way? What will they look like?

How will the story end?

Hansel and Gretel stand in front of the gingerbread house surrounded by a forest
Hansel and Gretel and Other Stories, illustrated by Kay Nielsen (1925), reproduced by permission of Hodder Children’s Books, an imprint of Hachette Children’s Books, Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London imprint, EC4Y 0DZ.

Keep exploring

Now that you have your character, you could create a background or diorama/3D box of the place you are going to.

What is this imaginary land? Will there be woods or a castle? Will you meet a kind phoenix or an evil raven? What magic will happen?

For teachers

Key Stage: Key Stages 1 & 2

Subject(s): Art, Literacy

Estimated time: 3-5 sessions

Aim: To allow children to be able to imagine themselves in a fairy tale, fable or folktale. This could be a set text tale you are introducing them to. It could also be an opportunity for them to create a fairy tale of their own based on other tales.

The activity will give children the opportunity to visually transform themselves into a character. This process will allow them to embody that character and make decisions about who they are and who they would like to be. It will also give them time to think about and ask questions about the story they will feature in. At every stage of this process the child will be developing their speaking, listening and writing skills. When they have created their character, they can then move on to describing the setting(s) for their story.

Teacher involvement:

  • Look at a selection of fairy tales, folktales and fables from the website.
  • Read some tales as a class. Try and combine a few with different characters and with diverse stories and people.
  • Encourage children to share any traditional tales they have grown up with. Some tales have similar characters in different cultures i.e. the phoenix.
  • Take a full-length photograph of each child and print out. Print out a few to allow for mistakes and re-thinking. Or you could ask them to draw a self-portrait.
  • Scaffold and stage the creative process with discussion, questioning and sharing.
  • Allow children a range of collage materials to use to construct their character.

More activities

Hansel and Gretel stand in front of the gingerbread house surrounded by a forest

Story collector

Create your own collection of fairy tales and folktales from around the world, as told by you.

Read more

Illustration of a large magical white horse arriving next to a Romani family who are camping in the snow. From Yokki and the Parno Gry

Themed book list: Fairy tales and folktales

Explore tales from around the globe including Aesop's Fables, the Grimm Brother's fairy tales, James Berry’s Anancy-Spiderman and Sally Pomme Clayton’s and Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif’s The Phoenix of Persia.

David Almond's messy notes and doodles in a notebook for Skellig

Themed book list: Magic and fantasy

Browse children's books from different times and places.

Illustration of a large red and blue phoenix with finely detailed wings, from The Phoenix of Persia

Go deeper: Fables and fairytales, myth and reality

Fairy tales and folktales are so much more than entertainment. They reflect our history and culture, our fears and our dreams. When did we start to write them down and how have they changed over time?