Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fairytales: The Old and the Retold

What makes fairytales so appealing? I think Bravepandagirl explained it very well on her blog:

“The youngest, the poorest, the weakest, the ones who are cast out are the ones who’s stories we hear about in fairytales. They become better people. They slay evil, overcome their fears and turn into brave, wonderful people by the end of the story. I think this is why we love fairytales. This is why they are still around after hundreds of years. Because we can see some of ourselves in Cinderella, or in Vassilissa, or the youngest Tsarevich. We know that part of us is just like them, and we hope that one day our story might turn out as theirs did.”

Fairytales are not only just still “around,” but constantly in style. For instance, Wildwood Dancing has been so popular since its release in January that it was constantly checked out of my library until just last week. No wonder, as Juliet Marillier creates a story as rich and detailed as the cover of the novel. Jena is the daughter of a merchant who lives in an old castle called Piscul Dracului. She and her four sisters have kept a very large secret for nine years; every full moon they cross into Wildwood—the world of the fey—and dance the night away. But as the sisters grow older, changes come and the fairy court becomes more sinister. If you enjoy this novel, don’t miss the sequel, Cybele’s Secret.

Award-winning author Alex Flinn is changing course from her usual realistic fiction with her upcoming novel, Beastly. It’s a retelling of—guess—Beauty and the Beast set in modern times. I believe it will be told through the eyes of the Beast himself, a.k.a. Kyle Kingsbury. I am enormously anxious to see what Ms. Flinn will do with this new genre, as her previous books have been excellent.

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller is a very well done collection of fairytales from around the world—although mainly Russia and Germany—told by the Storyteller (John Hurt) and his dog (voiced by Brian Henson). The tales are told in a way that is enchanting for all ages, and offer a great cast including Miranda Richardson and Sean Bean.

Edith Pattou’s East is not too well known, but it should be. The 500-page plus book really doesn’t seem as long as it is because the whole thing is extremely engrossing, taking you into a world of sparkling snow, loneliness, and love. East is a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, a Norwegian folktale of a girl following her stolen love to the Troll Queen’s palace.

Just Ella, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, is a funny but not stupid retelling of Cinderella, which takes place after Ella is swept off in a carriage to live in the palace. Once she gets there, however, the perfect Prince Charming actually turns out to be Prince Dreary. Ella gets sick of it pretty quickly and has to find a way to escape—and from the dungeon, too, where she has been placed for unladylike behavior.

Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl breathes a lot of life into the old fairytale, especially the new idea of wind-speak, although I found the beginning just a tad slow. Once past there, the book becomes a delightful and easy read (the sequels, Enna Burning and River Secrets, are also really good, but they move on to different plots than fairytales). Ms. Hale’s forthcoming Book of a Thousand Days is based on the little-known Brothers Grimm tale, Maid Maleen. I am not familiar with the story, nor is there much information about the book online, but I’m sure Shannon Hale will give readers another expertly woven plot and flowing narration.

Patrice Kindl creates a sort of fairytale-collage in Goose Chase; the beautiful Alexandria was formerly a goose girl and is now locked in a tower while two suitors fight over her. With the help of her twelve geese, Alexandria escapes the tower only to be tried by trolls, an evil baroness, and the foolishness of Prince Edmund of Dorloo. The plot is fast-paced and funny, but there are a few too many “by my troths!” in my opinion.

I don’t think there are many people in the world who haven’t seen—or at least heard of—The Princess Bride, but I’ll throw it in here anyway. The movie is the classic type of fairy story, including an evil prince, a captured princess, a giant, and Rodents of Unusual Size. If you haven’t watched it yet, I sincerely recommend that you do so. Maybe some of you don’t know of the novel on which the movie was based, The Princess Bride, by William Goldman.

More YA Fairytales:

Beauty Sleep, by Cameron Dokey
Before Midnight, by Cameron Dokey
Beast, by Donna Jo Napoli
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: A Novel, by Gregory Maguire
Crazy Jack, by Donna Jo Napoli
Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine
Golden, by Cameron Dokey
The Magic Circle, by Donna Jo Napoli
Midnight Pearls, by Debbie Viguié
Mira, Mirror, by Mette Harrison
The Night Dance, by Suzanne Weyn
The Phoenix Dance, by Dia Calhoun
The Rose and the Beast, by Francesca Lia Block
The Rose Bride: A Re-Telling of the White and Black Bride, by Nancy Holder
The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, by Vivian Vande Velde
Rose Daughter, by Robin McKinley
Scarlet Moon, by Debbie Viguié
Snow, by Tracy Lyn
Spindle’s End, by Robin McKinley
Spinners, by Donna Jo Napoli
Spirited, by Nancy Holder
The Storyteller’s Daughter, by Cameron Dokey
The Swan Maiden, by Heather Tomlinson
Water Song, by Suzanne Weyn
Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli

Juvenile Fairytale Retellings:

Beauty, by Robin McKinley
Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
Rapunzel, the One with All the Hair, by Wendy Mass
Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird, by Vivian Vande Velde
The Door in the Hedge, by Robin McKinley
The Frog Prince, Continued, by Jon Scieszka
The Frog Princess
Dragon’s Breath
Once Upon a Curse
No Place for Magic
The Salamander Spell, by E.D. Baker


  1. This is one of my all-time favorite genres!

  2. I just loved the Bayern Series by Shannon Hale, same with Just Ella and East. The Princess Bride is one of my all time favorite movies and books! I'll check out Wildwood Dancing, that sounds interesting.


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