Fairy tales have undergone a great many changes throughout history. First, there were the fairy tales passed orally that change with each person telling them and constantly evolve. Then there are the people who wrote down those fairy tales and edited them to fit their own sensibilities. For example, the Brothers Grimm removed most instances of sexuality and added Protestant morality into the tales. Now, authors reimagine these tales, giving a traditional fairy tale a new setting or set of characters and put their own spin on it. Here are a few of my favorite literary retellings:
* Snow Glass Apples by Neil Gaiman
* Snow Glass Apples by Neil Gaiman
This is a short story by Neil Gaiman retelling Snow White from the perspective of the evil stepmother. In this story, she actually isn’t evil. She was taken by the king, as was his right, and she stayed with him and served him up until his mysterious death. Snow White is the monster in this story, a pale, mysterious, sharp toothed creature. After her father died covered in mysterious scars, the townspeople cut out the eerie princess’s heart, which kept beating even when removed from her body waiting for its owner to return. This dark version of the tale has such themes as vampirism, incest, pedophilia, and necrophilia. Obviously, it’s not for the faint of heart. Although it is only a few pages long, this is one of the stories that really memorable when I think of the short stories collection it comes from, Smoke and Mirrors. Gaiman’s eloquent and frank style serves this story well, preserving the fairy tale feel as well as adding his own unique, dark atmosphere. I highly recommend this story to people looking for darkness in their fairy tale retellings. You can listen to a dramatic version performed by Bebe Neuwirth and the Seeing Ear Theater in 5 parts on Youtube:
* Fables by Bill Willingham
Fables is a graphic novel series that features familiar fairy tale characters living in Fabletown, located in New York. They have fled their Homelands to avoid being enslaved by the Adversary and are forced to blend in with Mundy society. The Big Bad Wolf has reformed and assumed human form as Bigby Wolf, the sheriff. Prince Charming has married and divorced Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, AND Snow White and emerged from the whole thing penniless and as much of a cad as ever. These characters transform turn into real, multidimensional people, completely different from their flat and simple origins. They do great deeds of heroism and also commit the most heinous crimes. Mostly, they are real people that act just like us. The first graphic novel focuses around the murder of Snow White’s sister Rose Red. One of the great strengths of this series is the absolutely beautiful art. Many of the pages are even framed with ornate designs and all of the covers are gorgeous. So far, there are 14 books in the series, with a few spinoff series including Jack of Fables, Cinderella, and Peter and Max.
Sisters Red is a young adult retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Don’t let the target audience fool you. This is a dark and gritty retelling that keeps the issues of budding female sexuality and rape in the forefront, as the original does. Scarlett and Rose are two sisters whose grandmother was killed by a Fenris, a savage werewolf who travel in packs and typically prey on women. Scarlett killed that Fenris, resulting in the loss of one of eyes and copious amounts of scars) and has dedicated her life to destroying each and every one she can find. Rose feels obligated to do the same, but longs to do normal teenage things like date and go to school. These two girls use their sexuality to lure in the Fenris for the kill by wearing provocative clothing and heavy makeup. They don’t wait around for a woodsman to save them and take care of themselves. The original Red Riding Hood story either implies that rape is the fault of the victim or is a negative look at a young girl’s burgeoning sexuality. Either way, Jackson Pearce turns this misogynistic tale into one of empowerment.
This is my favorite YA fairy tale retelling and I look forward to her next retelling, Sweetly.
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