Monday, July 24, 2017

On Fairy Tale Retellings

Fairy tales.

Fun, sweet children's bedtime stories.

Fairy godmothers, true love, and happy endings.

Or not.

Rapunzel's twins and the prince's blindness due to having his eyes poked out with thorns.

Cinderella's stepsisters cutting off their toes to fit in the slipper and getting their eyes pecked out by birds.

The Little Mermaid having her tongue cut out, feeling like she's stepping on knives, and turning into sea foam in the end.

Rumpelstiltskin ripping himself in half.

Sleeping Beauty's mother-in-law tries to eat her kids. (In the earlier Sun, Moon, and Talia version, she, um, has twins while asleep, and the cannibal is the king's wife. Charles Perrault cleaned it up a bit.)

If you thought the characters in Into the Woods had some serious morality issues, they all came straight from the originals. The message I personally take from that story is "If you do things you shouldn't, you will die." Because of the entire cast, 5 are alive at the end, if you count the Baker's baby.

Fairy tales just aren't...kid friendly.

So why do people love fairy tales? I would say it's because of retellings. The fairy tales give a good base storyline, and endless freedom. How else can you get Disney's Cinderella, Ella Enchanted, and Cinder out of the same basic story? How do you get Once Upon a Time and Bookania? How do you get classic fantasy Poison Kiss, western bedtime story Rosette Thornbriar, and wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey Twisted Dreams out of the same very different fairy tale?

Most people know the basic storylines of common fairy tales. They may be the Disney version, but hey, who doesn't like Disney? And then when we encounter these same fairy tales in other situations, retold into a sci-fi, turned into a comedy, told as a modern romance, it brings us back to childhood. It becomes a point of connection. They're familiar and yet new. You can predict them, and yet they still surprise you. You enjoy finding out how the writers used each fairy tale element in a new way.

And the retellings are generally cleaner and less gruesome than the originals. 🙂

What do you like about fairy tales? What is your favorite retelling?


  1. I love fairy tales (gruesome and happily ever after ;b). Fairy tale retelling she are amazing - but I really love originals. Love Hans Christian Anderson and George MacDonald!!! I also love all of Gail Carson Levine's retellings. And I love writing my own retellings or originals - right now I'm working on a dark humorous retelling of the Princess and the Frog. I never liked that fairy tale much...until I came up with this idea of mine ��

  2. The origins of our modern day fairy tales are indeed....morbid. I remember reading the original Little Mermaid and thinking it was nothing like Disney's version! But there's something to be said for the lessons you can learn from them, too.

    Into the Woods - I agree with you on the lessons there. I would also add that you should be mindful that your actions will affect others as well.


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