Fairy Tale Retellings

On Tuesday Patrick Ness will be reading from his new novel, The Crane Wife, at Mr. B’s in Bath. I’m reading the book at the moment and it is excellent thus far. I’m afraid the event is sold out, but I’d like your participation all the same. Patrick’s book is a retelling of a Japanese fairy tale. The subject of retellings is likely to come up during the evening, and I’d like to be able to recommend some interesting ones. Without putting in a huge amount of effort I have come up with the following list:

  • Beauty – Sheri S. Tepper (Sleeping Beauty)
  • Deathless – Catherynne M. Valente (Koschei the Deathless)
  • Six Gun Snow White – Catherynne M. Valente (Snow White)
  • Rose Daughter – Robin McKinley (Beauty & The Beast)
  • “The Company of Wolves” – Angela Carter (Red Riding Hood)
  • Fitcher’s Brides – Gregory Frost (Bluebeard)
  • Ash – Malinda Lo (Cinderella)
  • Thomas the Rhymer – Ellen Kushner (Thomas the Rhymer)
  • Tender Morsels – Margo Lanagan (Snow White & Rose Red)
  • and, of course, Fables – Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham (everything)

Please let me know if I have forgotten anything important.

11 thoughts on “Fairy Tale Retellings

  1. You have; Terry Pratchett’s Witches series are retellings of various things with varying closeness (eg Wyrd Sisters mixes and matches a few Shakespeare tragedies, Maskerade takes on opera, Lords & Ladies takes on Midsummer Night’s Dream, &c)

  2. Robin McKinley wrote two retellings of Beauty and the Beast, the first of which is called “Beauty,” and I enjoyed that one much more than Rose Daughter, personally. Her books “Deerskin” and “Spindles End” are also retellings.

    “Tam Lin” by Pamela Dean and Patricia Wrede’s “Snow White and Rose Red” are both old favourites of mine. “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer, is a retelling of Cinderella – it’s pretty silly young adult fiction, but I enjoyed it a lot. Hmm what else….”Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine is great (also based on Cinderella). “Fire and Hemlock” by Diana Wynne Jones (Thomas the Rhymer/Tam Lin). Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms series is silly but fun.

    Thanks for recommending “Six Gun Snow White!” I really loved “Deathless,” so I’ll have to go find it somewhere.

  3. The Nightingale, by Kara Dalkey (The Nightingale)
    The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, by Steven Brust
    Briar Rose, by Jane Yolen (Sleeping Beauty)
    The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold, by Francesca Lia Block (collection)

  4. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter, all of the stories (retellings of Bluebeard, Red Riding Hood, Beauty & The Beast, Puss in Boots… Some of the retellings are of folk tales or obscure versions, I don’t know if those count)

    The Snow Queen by Joan Vinge (science fiction/fantasy retelling of Snow Queen, I loved that one as a child)

    Snow, Glass, Apple by Neil Gaiman (Snow White)

  5. Red as Blood (subtitle: “Tales From the Sisters Grimmer”) – Tanith Lee (9 stories, the title one is Snow White)
    Elemental Masters series – Mercedes Lackey (first three are Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty)

  6. D’oh! And of course A Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart, based on a Chinese fairytale. The two sequels incorporate a lot of Chinese mythology, but I don’t know if they’re tied explicitly to specific tales.

  7. Kate Forsyth’s wonderful Bitter Greens came out last year – it’s a sprawling historical fantasy novel which explores the myth of Rapunzel through several threads – the ‘real’ Rapunzel story, the history behind the witch herself, and the fascinating world of the woman who adapted the traditional tale into a popular story – and her life at the scandalous court of the Sun King.

    I’m also a big fan of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted – the Anne Hathaway movie was fun but the YA novel that inspired it is really clever. Shannon Hale’s graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge combines that story with western themes, while Linda Medley’s extraordinary Castle Waiting comic/graphic novel series takes the most interesting part of the Sleeping Beauty myth and turns it into a bizarre, wonderful comic soap opera.

    More recently, I haven’t managed to read it yet but Karen Healey’s new book When I Wake is a science fictional retelling of Sleeping Beauty and sounds extraordinary.

  8. Thanks for all of these, folks. I’m particularly kicking myself for missing The Snow Queen and A Bridge of Birds.

  9. Tansy, if you like the sci fi versions of Beauty and the Beast you may like “His Black Wings” by Astrid Yrigollen. It is B&B with a scifi, fantasy, steampunk sort of twist. Really wonderful retelling.

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