Shrek: Connecting Nostalgia to New Characters

Last week, my children watched the fourth Shrek movie and though I was busy preparing dinner and had very little time to devote to sitting down and watching it, I did manage to catch a few moments and was delighted that after all this time, Shrek can still capture the nostalgia and imagination of childhood fairy tales while spinning an entirely new story unlike the original.

The princess in the tower, guarded by the fire-breathing dragon. The three blind mice and the gingerbread man. Rumpelstiltskin, the Fairy Godmother, the knight in shining armor and of course, ogres living in a swamp. These are all things that the adults of this generation (and of generations past) grew up listening to, and the children of this generation know in the moment and enjoy as new stories… inspiring parents to read them the old.

But Shrek does tell a new story with each movie, one that hasn’t been done before as the grumpy, lovable ogre and his love interest Fiona encounter fairy tale creatures and situations and enjoy their romance throughout it. The thing that sets Shrek apart from other new fantasies told to children is the way it invites reminiscence into scenes unexpectedly and warms your heart with memories.


“Do you know the Muffin Man?”

“The Muffin Man?”

“The Muffin Man!”

“Yes, I know the Muffin Man… who lives on Drury Lane?”

This exchange between Lord Farkquaad and the Gingerbread Man is so famous because of its use of nostalgia that I’ll bet you read that in their voices, too. In fact, it doesn’t matter that the Gingerbread Man is on a baking sheet with missing legs and having his gumdrop buttons torn off by the nasty, short, hero-impersonator who compensates for his… stature… with a giant castle. It’s too funny for me to bother caring how morbid the poor Gingerbread Man’s plight was at that moment.

Biblical FanFic uses these connections we make with familiarity to create a stronger character, one with whom we immediately identify because we recognize the personification of a Biblical element through his actions or surroundings. A name, a quote, a subtle reference or setting, or even just a voice can bring up memories, connections and familiar associations in fiction.


My point is that these familiar feelings, warm fuzzies and unforgettable voices are what make us love Fairy Tale Fan Fiction and Biblical Fan Fiction so much. If I tell you a story featuring Little Miss Muffet, you know there will, at some point, be a spider who just may sit down beside her.

(I would add a picture here, but I can’t even look at spiders without feeling my stomach try to crawl out of my eye sockets.)

And if you tell me a story of a man named Moses, I will expect him to lead a fight for the freedom of many, regardless of where he is or against what foe he struggles… for me, that kind of connection makes a book (or movie or tv show) so much more personal, and I’ll think about it for much longer afterwards than if that character was named Bill.

I’d love to hear your childhood connections to stories of fiction or the Bible that show up in everyday life and either teach you something or bring a smile to your face! Comment below, and tell me your favorite accidental nostalgia!


About Nola.Sarina

I am an author of dark fantasy, horror and paranormal romance books. My dark fantasy series, The Vesper Series, is a twist on Original Sin. The series is represented by Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary Agency. I find my favorite books with new takes on all things supernatural, paranormal and biblical, including vampires, angels and demons, and am an advocate for the New Adult market category for fiction.

Posted on December 4, 2012, in Movies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I absolutely adore the example you gave from Shrek with the Gingerbread Man. It goes a long way to show that the same words can be read in very different ways, depending on the tone and atmosphere you set up within your pages. It really makes a writer think about the potency of themes, connotations and nostalgic references. What a wonderful, engaging post! ~Fiona

    • Thanks, Fiona! Yes, the tone and atmosphere can dramatically change how a reader connects with familiar text. If you were to have two characters recite a book from the bible with their own, unique dialect back and forth as a conversation, you might notice the similarity but make a new connection to it because it’s in a different voice. That Gingerbread Man scene had me laughing for weeks the first time I saw it. 🙂

      • I loved the Gingerbread Man scene, too! There were so many parts like that in the movie, that for me made it an instant classic.

  2. The first thing that comes to mind for me is the episode of the Power Puff Girls where almost the whole story is told in lines from Beatles lyrics. On a more spiritual note, I always loved Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni stories… Father Duncan finding peace and reslove through rituals of faith while he and Morgan prepared to defend their king using forbidden magic. The familiar setting and structure of the church made it all seem so real.

  3. Funny, as soon as I saw Morgan Freeman his voice popped into my head without effort. When I read the words in the caption, a smile crept on my mouth. Certain people have “that” voice. We all know them and we all wish we could do that with our voice. James Earl Jones’ voice is like that too. Gosh, thanks for the smile. Much appreciated!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Jack! 🙂 It really changes the experience of reading, to do it in a voice you know from some other source. Connects all kinds of emotions to the words. For me, Morgan Freeman puts an edge of sarcasm and authority in anything he says.

  1. Pingback: One Stupidly Smart Voice-Crafting Tip! | Nola Sarina

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