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The story of Shrek and its sequels contain and reference many different fairy/folk tales. However, I am not familiar with the story of Fiona - a woman imprisoned in a dragon-guarded castle who is cursed to transform into an ogre every night, and will only settle on a form after true love's first kiss.

Is this based on a preexisting story or were Fiona and her story written just for the movie?

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It's deconstruction. It's based on all the fairy tales of beautiful princesses guarded by dragons... AND all the fairy tales of frogs turning into princesses upon the kiss. Parodied. – DVK-in-exile May 14 '14 at 1:36
My wife wrote essentially the same story when she was a kid so we suspect that somehow the script was leaked from her primary school to Hollywood. – Stefan May 15 '14 at 12:24
up vote 16 down vote accepted

The movie itself was based on the 1990 book of the same name by the noted children's book author, William Steig, which was a playful inversion of the convention that the ogre is the villain and the human being is the hero.

The general name for a story that performs such an inversion is a revisionist fairy tale --another notable example is the book and musical Wicked which takes the villain of the Wizard of Oz as the protagonist.

As for the idea of a princess or prince enchanted to spend some or all of their time in a non-human form, it's a very common fairy tale trope --compare Beauty and the Beast, Swan Lake and The Golden Bird.

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So it was based on a preexisting story, even if it wasn't as classic a tale in the same sense as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty (the other two princess tales played by the magic mirror in the movie). – Xantec May 14 '14 at 14:16

The story is based on deconstruction/parodying of couple of well known tropes:

  • HumanityEnsues (with the original story being Aesop's Cat-Maiden where a cat is turned into a human)

  • Princess in a Tower/castle

    Shrek: Go over there and see if you can find any stairs.
    Donkey: Stairs? I thought we was lookin' for the Princess.
    Shrek: The Princess will be at the top of the stairs in the highest room in the tallest tower.
    Donkey: Well, what makes you think she'll be there?
    Shrek: I read it in a book once.

  • True Love's Kiss/Magic kiss

  • Animorphism (with the archetypal story of the Frog Prince)

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So to summarize, you're saying that No the story of Fiona was not from a preexisting fairy tale? – Xantec May 14 '14 at 1:59
It was... but reversed – DVK-in-exile May 14 '14 at 2:08
Note that the "I read it in a book once" line probably refers to the beginning of the movie, where Shrek reads this story from the book which he uses as toilet paper. – oliver May 14 '14 at 10:03
@oliver - Nope. It's (as pretty much 90% of this film) a fully-aware use of a trope (in this case, "Genre Savvy") – DVK-in-exile May 14 '14 at 10:16

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