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?

  • 8
    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. May 14, 2014 at 1:36
  • 5
    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, 2014 at 12:24

3 Answers 3


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, 2014 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)

  • So to summarize, you're saying that No the story of Fiona was not from a preexisting fairy tale?
    – Xantec
    May 14, 2014 at 1:59
  • It was... but reversed May 14, 2014 at 2:08
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    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, 2014 at 10:03
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    @oliver - Nope. It's (as pretty much 90% of this film) a fully-aware use of a trope (in this case, "Genre Savvy") May 14, 2014 at 10:16

While I am ludicrously late to the party, I'd suggest that Fiona's condition may well have been inspired by the 1985 movie Ladyhawke. Since the book version of Shrek came out in 1990, the timing seems suggestive.

In the film, the female protagonist is cursed to take the form of an animal (a hawk) by day and a woman by night.

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