Fairy Tales Re-told (Penny Rader)

I loved reading fairy tales as a kid -- still do. Since I also get a kick out of reading re-imagined fairy tales in romance novel, I thought I would poke around the Internet and see if could find some guidance on how to re-tell a fairy tale. Here are a few snippets from articles I found:

"That’s what a good fairy-tale retelling should do: it should make you reconsider your preconceived notions of the story. But it can also go the other way: retellings can be a viewpoint for how we perceive our world."

"But before you begin writing your retelling, do your research. For a good chunk of popular fairy-tales, Wikipedia offers a list of retellings/references/uses, and will often list novels that feature your fairy-tale. Read up on them; see what the author has done."

"That’s part of the reason why fairy-tales have survived: they’re eternal; they offer us a wealth of potential stories and unanswered questions. Fairy-tales speak to us; they touch upon our primal fears and hopes, our nightmares and joys. Don’t be afraid when a fairy-tale speaks to you."

"While you can't revise another author's book and call it your own without getting immeasurable heckling and a lawsuit for plagiarism, there are indeed some basic plots which writers return to with great success. In the particular arena of romantic fiction, fairy tales often provide the framework for fascinating and original storylines -- even if 'Cinderella' has been retold ten thousand times."

"... the part that I want to emphasize here is the fact that having your plot -- and possibly theme -- outlined for you by the fairy tale can be extremely liberating. Your job is to personalize and expand the fairy tale, creating a fresh story instead of inventing an entirely new story from scratch."

"Maybe it's the inherent sense of justice in fairy tales that appeals to us all. Here, the bad get their punishment, the good are amply rewarded. And beauty must be more than skin deep. The possession of spiritual qualities - like generosity or a willingness to help or a good heart - is always rewarded with earthly riches. Love lasts forever in fairy tales and withstands any number of tests. There are adventures to be had and obstacles to be conquered, prizes to be won and character to be proven. And in the end, the main characters always live happily ever after."

"The themes and expectations of fairy tales have shaped romance as nothing else - and it could be argued that the most satisfying romances echo a familiar fairy tale in some way. Romance lets fairy tales "grow up" by giving more insight into relationships than is found in those children's tales."

"A good romance will echo the theme of a fairy tale, but will still manage to surprise us along the way. The characters will eventually live happily ever after, but the best of medieval romance will really make them earn their prize!"

"I once did a survey of fairy tales for a women’s studies course in college and found that about 75% of fairy tales had a female protagonist, and that they all had adventures, or did something active to change their situation for the better. They triumphed over evil in the end, completed their quest, or cleverly maneuvered their way into a better life."

"Jean Shinoda Bolen, who wrote GODDESSES IN EVERYWOMAN, says that each one of us lives one or more myths in our lifetime, putting our own spin on it. As a result, we can tap into our own myths and tell the stories in our own individual ways."

"...the universal truth within a fairytale is different for each person who reads it."

"That’s why writers can’t leave fairytales alone. Because fairytales ARE magic. Their magic is that of timelessness, of immortality. And by retelling them, we mere humans get a taste of immortality too."


For research purposes, here are a few links to fairy tales and novels based on fairy tales:

Folk and Fairy Tales (Rick Walton)

Researching the Folk Tale (Aaron Shephard)

A Fairy Tale Fiction Reading List (Journal of Mythic Arts)

Fairy Tale Romances (All About Romance)

Do you have a favorite fairy tale? Beauty and the Beast is one of my faves. Is there a specific fairy tale you'd like to see re-told, or maybe one you're tired of seeing? Have you re-told a fairy tale? Do you have any resources to share?

If you'd like a chance to win a pdf copy of my romance novel, Sapphire and Gold, which isn't exactly a fairy tale re-told but does feature Sleeping Beauty, leave a comment and your email addy. I'll draw a winner tomorrow evening after work.


Amy said...

What a great post! I love fairy tales and like you, Beauty and the Beast is my favorite. Even though we talk about knights in shining armor, I think all women love the idea that they can (through love) save the man they adore--even if it's from himself!

Penny Rader said...

Hi Amy! Thanks for dropping by! What a great summation of Beauty & the Beast.

Lynne Marshall said...

I never get tired of the Cinderella stories, though I'm with you, I also love the Beauty and the Beast. A while back I wrote a blog titled: to kiss or not to kiss the frog, and I found all kinds of interesting things out about that story on the Internet and from people's comments. Sometimes, those poor frogs didn't stand a chance!

Ally Broadfield said...

Thanks for a great post and all of the helpful links. It's very timely for me as I'm currently plotting a YA romance based on a fairy tale.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Lynne! Do you have a link to the post you wrote? Sounds intriguing.

I love Cinderella, too. While researching this post I saw that there's going to be a live action Cinderella in 2012. No clue who'll be starring in it. Can't wait to see it.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Alysia! Glad you could stop by. Good luck with your YA. That genre is well-suited for re-telling fairy tales. I should've included a link of YA's that are retold fairy tales. Which one have you chosen?

Lynne Marshall said...


Hey Penny - above is the link to the Pink Heart Society blog on kissing the frog. You have to scroll down below the Scrubs blog to see it. The comments are where it gets interesting.

Hope you can copy and past the blog addy. Let me know what you think!

Penny Rader said...

Thanks for the link, Lynne. I greatly enjoyed your article and the comments. I love hearing stories about how people meet each other.

Penny Rader said...

Drumroll...the winner of the pdf of Sapphire and Gold is Amy Lillard!

Congrats, Amy! You should receive an email from me within the next few minutes.

Thanks to everyone who visited.