The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
is a book of spoof fairy tales
written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith.
The sardonic narrator, Jack (of "and the Beanstalk" fame) relates to the reader warped takes on a number of classic fairy tales, including "The Princess and the Bowling Ball," "The Tortoise and the Hair" and others. But his production is plagued with problems from the very beginning... literally. Before the book even begins, the bossy Little Red Hen shows up on the front paper and demands Jack tell her story (she's also on the back of the book, complaining about the UPC and wondering "Who is this ISBN guy?"). The table of contents goes missing, only to end up as the punch-line to one of the stories. And when Jack finally gets around to telling his
story, the Giant shows up and threatens him.
So, "Fairly Stupid" is the best way to describe these tales.
- Blessed Are the Cheesemakers: Proof positive that cheese is inherently funny.
- The Cameo: The Wolf from The True Story Of The Three Little Pigs plays the part of The Big Bad Wolf in "Little Red Running Shorts." Or at least, he would have if he hadn't left in a huff with his co-star after Jack spoiled their entire story.
- Cassandra Truth: In "Chicken Licken" no one listens to Jack when he comes to warn them of impending danger. Namely, that the falling sky they were all worried about was in fact the missing table of contents.
- Chekhov's Gun: In "Chicken Licken", Jack interrupts the story midway through, claiming he forgot the table of contents. It falls and squashes everybody at the end of the story.
- Comedic Sociopathy
- Either/Or Title: Cinderumplestiltskin or The Girl Who Really Blew It
- Fission Mailed: Jack moves the end of the book up a few pages while trying to escape from the Giant.
- Fractured Fairy Tale
- Funny Background Event: In the illustration for "Cinderumpelstiltskin", which follows a chapter in which Jack tries to distract the giant with a Nested Story, you can see out the window that the giant is falling from his beanstalk yawning as Jack, still clutched in the giant's hand, yammers on.
- Hoist By Her Own Petard: At the end of the book, the Little Red Hen's loudly squawking about how she's going to eat all the bread that no one helped her bake. The noise wakes up the sleeping Giant, who promptly decides he could go for a chicken sandwich.
- Hostile Show Takeover: The giant during "Jack's Bean Problem".
- Kill 'em All: The end of "Chicken Licken."
Chicken Licken was half-right. The sky wasn't falling... the table of contents was. It fell and squashed everybody.
- Nausea Fuel: In-universe, the smell of the Stinky Cheese Man.
- Nested Story: "Jack's Story".
- No Ending: "The Tortoise and the Hair." See Overly Long Gag. It even wraps up with "Not The End."
- No Fourth Wall: Examples abound, almost too many to count.
- Case in point? "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! I forgot the Table of Contents! I forgot the Table of Contents!"
- No Indoor Voice: The Giant. Lampshaded by Jack: "Could you please stop talking in uppercase letters? It really messes up the page."
- Overly Long Gag: In "Jack's Story," the following passage fills up three-quarters of the page with the font getting progressively smaller and smaller and smaller until it hits the end of the page.
Once upon a time there was a Giant. The Giant squeezed Jack and said, "TELL ME A BETTER STORY OR I WILL GRIND YOUR BONES TO MAKE MY BREAD. AND WHEN YOUR STORY IS FINISHED, I WILL GRIND YOUR BONES TO MAKE MY BREAD ANYWAY! HO, HO, HO." The Giant laughed an ugly laugh. Jack thought, "He'll kill me if I do. He'll kill me if I don't. There's only one way to get out of this." Jack cleared his throat, and then began his story.
- Postmodernism: It, along with The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (also by Scieszka and Smith), were arguably two of the first postmodernist picture books.
- Rage Against the Author: The characters of "Little Red Running Shorts" get ticked off by Jack and decide to leave rather than finish their story.
- Running Gag
- Self-Deprecation: "Who will buy this book anyway? Over 40 pages of nonsense, and I'm only in three of them!"
- Spoiler (in-universe): Jack manages to ruin the ending of "Little Red Running Shorts", to the characters' dismay.
- Spoof Aesop
- Stylistic Suck: The Giant's Story, which is literally made of pieces cut out ransom-note-style from other fairy tales and makes pretty much no sense.
THE END... of the evil stepmother... said "I'll huff and snuff and... give you three wishes." ...the Beast changed into... seven dwarves... happily ever after... because a spell had been cast by a wicked witch... once upon a time.
- Swans A Swimming: "The Really Ugly Duckling" thinks he's actually a swan. Nope, he's just a really ugly duckling, who grows into a really ugly duck.
- Tempting Fate: At the end, when the Little Red Hen is going off on another tirade about how no one helped her bake the bread or tell her story, she then asks: "Who thinks they're going to help me eat the bread?" The Giant does when her shouting wakes him up. With her in between the slices.
- Unexplained Recovery: On the flaps of the 10th anniversary dust jacket, the Little Red Hen shows up yet again to whine about her lost story, despite the fact that she gets eaten by the Giant at the end of the book.
- What Could Have Been: Sort of. When the Table of Contents squashes the Chicken Licken cast, The Boy Who Cried Cow Patty can be seen on the ground. Now, in the paperback version, this story can't be found anywhere. In the hardcopy version, however, it can be found on the flaps of the dust jacket.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: The Stinky Cheese Man acts as though he's in a straight retelling of The Gingerbread Man, oblivious to the fact that no one can put up with his unappetizing smell.