Thursday, August 10, 2006

And Cinderella Said to Briar Rose, “This All Feels Strangely Familiar.”

My venturing into YA started when Teacher Chick (who has asked to be referred to as Hot Teacher Chick on this blog much to my amusement) and I were discussing fairy tales, specifically books based on the fairy tales that we loved as children. She had just finished reading Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (retelling of Sleeping Beauty set during the Holocaust) and I’d just discovered Bound by Donna Jo Napoli (a retelling of Cinderella set during the Ming Dynasty in China, usually shelved in the 9-12 year old section). We decided that we wanted to do a back forth on Children’s/Young Adult books based on fairy tales and how that affected our own perceptions of these tales as we got older. This, of course, necessitated that we read more books (oh darn), and for that I need your help.

I know that Yolen’s book falls into a series of fairy tale retellings from Tor Teen, but I haven’t had a chance to track them down. If you have any favorites, or know of any particularly well written titles that we should read, please pass that information along. Furthermore if you know of any books or websites that discuss the origins of the fairy tales Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and others, we’d love to hear about it.

Every once in a while we like to prove that we still use the analytical skills we learned in college, but we need help from your collective brains to make it so. Also I would love to hear your thoughts on fairy tale retellings. Do they work for you? Are you thrown when something uses elements you recognize from a well known fairy tale or does it enrich the experience for you? Does this factor in at all when you are reading?


Brooke said...

I absolutely love fairy-tale retellings, particularly when they're meant for a YA or even adult audience.

You're going to list the titles you find here, right? Unfortunately, all that's coming to mind are Alice Hoffman's YA titles, but they're not explicitly fairy-tale retellings; they're more like new fairy tales. How I love Alice Hoffman.

Great blog, by the way.

trish said...

Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted is just wonderful (it's a retelling of Cinderella). And she's putting out a companion novel in Sept. called Fairest that plays off of "Snow White."

As for fairy tale history/criticism, try Valerie Paradiz's Clever Maids is worth a read. She talks about how the Brothers Grimm got most of their stories from folk tales passed along by women.

Robin Brande said...

Love fairy tales in any form--new, retold, whichever. Love what William Goldman did with The Princess Bride, spinning a new and wonderful tale while pretending it came from an earlier source. And I enjoy the retelling of a fairy tale from the villain's or a minor character's POV--think of Wicked (can we consider Wizard of Oz a fairy tale?).

SteveInLA13 said...

A bit off subject, but not totally...You should check out the series of fairy tale collections edited by Andrew Lang. These were originally gathered and published in 1890 and have stories from all over the world in all their un-PC, un-watered down glory, along with some truly gorgeous illustrations. There are, I think, ten titles in the series published by Dover, each book titled after a different color. The Red Fairy Book, The Crimson Fairy Book, etc. I grew up on these books and cannot recommend them highly enough.


SyberGypsy said...

I've always been a fan of fairy tale stories and although not recent among my favorites are Robin McKinley's books. Beauty and Rose Daughter are both Beauty and the Beast stories--I prefer the earlier more fairy tale version, Beauty. She also has done versions of Sleeping Beauty Spindle's End and taken on a darker story in Deerskin. Also excellent is Charles DeLint's Jack the Giant Killer.

mapletree7 said...

The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars, by Stephen Brust (a hungarian fairy tale rewritten as a modern art studio).

Snow White, Rose Red, by Patricia C. Wrede, set in Elizabethan England.

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Two of the above are part of the 'Fairy Tales' series edited by Terri Windling. There are many more volumes.

lady t said...

I loved Ella Enchanted,too(don't even want to consider the film version which looks incredibly dumbed down)and Gail Carson Levine also came out with a series of Princess Stories that had updated takes on The Frog Prince and Rapunzel.

Christine Fletcher said...

EAST, by Edith Pattou, is a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I just finished it and I loved it. The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale, is also a lovely, lovely book. I'm currently reading Enna Burning, also by Hale.

I second Princess Bride, even though it's not a retelling. One of my all-time favorites.

I love fairy tale retellings, and will be checking out others' recommendations here. There's something...comforting is not quite the right word, but close...about a well-known fairy tale element woven through a story. Then again, I do love the past, and things that hearken back to it.

Alea said...

An excellent book in the Windling fairy tales series is Kara Dalkey's reinterpretation of the Emperor's Nightingale. I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find. Patricia Wrede's Snow White, Rose Red is also part of the series and an enjoyable read. Wrede has further done twists of fairy tales in her YA Enchanted Forest series. Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle is in a similar vein as are others.

The important thing for me with regards to fairy tale retellings is that the fairy tale is used as the jumping off point.

With regards to books of fairy tales and books about the origins of fairy tales, there are a large number of excellent ones (Lang's certainly apply--many translated by his wife despite the lack of credit). I'd recommend dropping by a nearby public or academic library--these types of books will be in the stacks! (Writes a librarian).


OtterB said...

I also enjoyed Ella Enchanted and agree with sybergypsy that the earlier of Robin McKinley's Beauty & the Beast retellings is the more enjoyable. McKinley also has a good Robin Hood retelling, title escapes me, not exactly fairy tale but a similar flavor. And I love Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest books; they aren't fairy-tale retellings but fresh spinoffs from the old standards.

The retellings that work for me are ones that preserve the ... sense of wonder, I guess you'd call it, of the fairy tale. Beauty & the Beast or Cinderella plots translated to contemporary novels are usually too heavy handed.

Michelle said...

This will be fun. I have read a few. Right now there is a web comic, that is retell in tales. It is pretty good.

Shannon Hale's Goose Girl

Robin McKinley's Rose Daughter,Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, Deerskin, Spindle's End

Mercedes Lackey's The Fairy Godmother: A Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms

Kris said...

Neil Gaiman incorporated lots of different folk tales and legends into The Sandman comics, which are still available as graphic novels.

I don’t know if this is what you mean by “origins” or not, but a child psychologist named Bruno Bettelheim wrote a book called The Uses of Enchantment that examines the psychological underpinnings of fairy tales and why children identify so strongly with Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, et al..

Adele said...

I enjoy fairy tale retellings. I get a kick out of recognizing references to other stories or nods to actual people or events.

The Dark of the Woods, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, is a collection of fairy tales told from the viewpoint of different characters or "as they really happened", among other things. P. W. Catanese has a series called Further Tales Adventures that pick up where the fairy tales left off.

rachel said...

Donna Jo Napoli also wrote a retelling of Rapunzel, which is called "Zel", i believe. and i think most of Robin McKinley's books are retellings of fairy tales, or have some element of legends or myths of some sort woven into them. Mercedes Lackey also has a series of fairy tale retellings, the titles of which all escape me, but I distinctly remember a retelling of Swan Lake, and one of Snow White, in which the seven dwarves appear as animals.

Kerry said...

Mapletree7, the others in that series are Kara Dalkey's The Nightengale, Jack the Giant Killer by Charles de Lint, Jane Yolen's Briar Rose, Fitcher's Brides by Geoffrey Frost(?), one very graphic book by Tanith Lee, and maybe 1 more that escapes me.

Pamela Dean also wrote a book called Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary that's farytale-esque.

And who does not love Bill Willingham's comic series Fables?

Nicole said...

I like many fairy tale retellings, like Mercedes Lackey's and Robin McKinley's.

Looks like Simon Pulse is doing a bunch of them starting this fall, from what I saw on AMazon today.

Anonymous said...

For books on fairy tales and their sources, try almost anything by Jack Zipes (very prolific) and Maria Tatar (more scholarly; she is/used to be a dean at Harvard). For my money the most provocative and accessible book (despite, or rather because of its feminist slant) is Marina Warner's From the Beast to the Blonde.
More information can be found at the following websites, which have fairly detailed listings of fairy tales and their modern adaptations. The first is slightly more complete than the the second and is organized according to the tale.

And they all read happily ever after.

Michelle K said...

Anything that has Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's involvement is always good. They've had two different types of short story collections involving fairy tales--ones for adults (Snow White, Blood Red; White Rose, Black Thorn; Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears) and ones for kids (A Wolf at the Door (2000), Swan Sister (2003)). Both are excellent. Though my favorites are The Green Man : Tales from the Mythic Forest (2002) The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm (2004).

And as far as folk/fairy tale collections go, my all time favorite is Best-loved Folktales of the World (1982) by Joanna Cole. Running a close second are the collections put out by Pantheon: Russian Fairy Tales (1945) by Aleksandr Afanasev, The Norse Myths (1981) by Kevin Crossley-Holland, Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies (1979) by Moss Roberts, and Japanese Tales (1987) by Royall Tyler; I think all the Pantheon collections I've read have been excellent.

Also very good is Italian Folktales (1956) by Italo Calvino. Plus, someone else already mentioned Jack Zipes.

Anonymous said...

Wow - lots of Robin McKinley fans here! Yippeee!!! She is one of my favorite authors EVER! Beauty (as mentioned - Beauty and the Beast) is on my lifetime-books shelf. She creates such unique magic.

Anonymous said...

Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad is one of my favorite Discworld books, and it's all about the fairy tales. And like his best books, it works on the funny level and the interesting level.

Maya said...

I was delighted to see Steve's mention in the earlier comments of the Dover fairy tales.

My aunt (and godmother) had the entire series. I can still remember discovering the books on her shelves when I was about eight. I devoured them color by color.

Those books had an enormous impact on me. They were my first exposure to cultural diversity (gnomes and trolls living side-by-side with humans), to justice and fairness and to the hope of a happily-ever-after ending.

Bernita said...

It really depends on the execution - prefer it to be subtle.

Little Willow said...

I love them when they are done well!

My booklist of fairy tales retold:

are you asking me to dance? said...

Robin McKinley also has a book of shorter fairytales called The Door in the Hedge ("The Stolen Princess", "The Princess and the Frog", "The Hunting of the Hind" and (my fav of the collection) "The Twelve Dancing Princesses"). She (and her husband, Peter Dickinson) have another short story collection called Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits but I can't remember if there are any fairytale retellings in them. She has a short story called The Stone Fey which is fairytale-like, but I don't know if it's based on a specific one (same with the stories in A Knot in the Grain, another McKinley short story collection).

" McKinley also has a good Robin Hood retelling, title escapes me, not exactly fairy tale but a similar flavor."

The Outlaws of Sherwood. Great book, as are the rest of hers. I'm re-reading Beauty right now (I love both B&B retellings; I think Rose Daughter is a little more complex and darker than Beauty and kind of diverges a bit from the more commonly known B&B story (for which I think Disney owes McKinley at least a thanks ;-) )toward the end). (Also, Outlaws, Deerskin and Rose Daughter have recently come out in trade PB with very pretty covers.)

The Forestwife by Teresa Tomlinson and Jennifer Roberson's Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood are other good Robin Hood stories.

Aside from Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, Diana Wynne Jones also has a Tam Lin/Thomas the Rhymer story called Fire and Hemlock. An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton and The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope are also Tam Lin stories. I think Patricia Wrede's Snow White and Rose Red also has a Thomas the Rhymer character in it. And Ellen Kushner has Thomas the Rhymer, which I liked, but didn't love.

Patricia McKillip also has very fairytale-like books, but I find some of hers difficult to understand, though they're still lovely to read. Winter Rose is another Tam Lin story.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix is another Cinderella retelling (but it's more what happens after she gets the prince).

Don't know if The Phantom Tollbooth counts, but it's a great book nonetheless.

O.R. Melling's YA books have some mention of Irish mythology in them, but I don't think any of the books are complete retellings.

As for websites, wikipedia has pages on each fairytale: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and more. There's also and, for Dean's version specifically, The Annotated Tam Lin (mostly for the literary references though, and not the actual ballad). Robin McKinley also has essays about the fairytales she wrote about (e.g., Deerskin/Donkeyskin is mentioned in the FAQ and there's an essay on Rose Daughter).

Tockla said...

Someone else has suggested the sur la lune website, which is THE one for all things fairy tale (and a good source for background info, methinks). I still think Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber is the most amazing book of fairy tale retellings (read it while backpacking by myself, stuck in the tent on a very windy day, and I was completely transported). And I don't think anyone has suggested The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block, also fairy tale retellings. Oh, and Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is a real romp inspired by The Pied Piper.

And a bit off the topic, but some of my favorite movies are based on fairy tales, the top two being Freeway, inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, and The Sweet Hereafter, based on The Pied Piper of Hamlin. Happy hunting!

Leila the Great said...

Shannon Hale's Goose Girl, for sure.

Robin McKinley is always super and Diana Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock is a super re-telling of Tam Lin, and while Howl's Moving Castle isn't a retelling, it does play with the fairy tale genre.

I had some issues with East (I thought the first two-thirds was much stronger than the last bit), but it's worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Patricia McKillip has a lot of fairy tale motifs interwoven into her books. Very poetic turn of phrase. One with a specific fairy tale in mind is _In The Forests of Serre_. (_The Forgotten Beasts of Eld_ has the elements but really isn't one, which is her usual tendency.) However, _The Book of Atrix Wolfe_ riffs off a major fairy tale motif...

I don't want to spoil them by description. :> The only McKillip I've really disliked was _Winter Rose_.

Steven Brust loves all things Hungarian. He's written two different books involving Hungarian fairy tales: one is _The Gypsy_, with Megan Lindholm; the other is listed upstream.

Love and recommend DWJ and McKinley... also the other Scribblies [already mentioned separately above].

Tanith Lee does a lot of things darkly, including fairy tales. Her Flat Earth books are rather like fairy tales or the Arabian Nights. Her collections, like _Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer_, retell fairy tales. She often crosses over into horror.

Another dark book would be Sheri S. Tepper's _Beauty_. It does include Cinderella - and Sleeping Beauty - and several others.

Probably only Jane Yolen has a similar capacity for darkness - at least in fairy tale retelling.

Happy reading!