Fairy Tales - Revised

Cleveland Park LibraryStaff Picks

Fairy Tales - Revised

Look at fairy tales in a new light

My favorite class in college was called "Revisioning the Classics." In this class, we read classic texts like Hamlet and Antigone, and then modern retellings like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead or Jean Anouilh's Antigone. It was a great way to see these stories in a new light. This approach really carries over in my reading preferences -- I've learned that I love these kinds of reworkings, and fairy tales are a particularly great source for retellings.

Here are some of my favorites:

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
This novel, set at fictional Blackstock in Southern Minnesota (based on real-life Carleton College), details red-headed Janet's college experience. It's based on the Scottish folk ballad Tam Lin, wherein a young woman has to rescue her true love from the Queen of the Fairies.

Reading Janet's (mis)adventures in love and English literature set me up for disappointment when my college experience wasn't similarly full of attractive and myterious people who could spout literary quotations to suit every occasion. 

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
Card might be best known for his series, but he also wrote several really lovely stand alone novels, including this one. This version of Sleeping Beauty is set in upstate New York and 9th-century Russia, and also features Baba Yaga, a prominent evil witch in Russian folklore. 

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Marillier's fiction is full of fairy lore and reworked myths, but this one is her first. The start of the Sevenwaters saga, this book is set in an medieval Celtic kingdom populated by the Fair Folk - and people. This novel becomes a retelling of the story The Six Swans.

Fables by Bill Willingham
Graphic novels often incorporate fantasy very effectively. This series depicts the lives of a variety of fairy tale and folk tale characters after they are displaced from their Homelands following a prolonged war with the initially mysterious Adversary. 

Snow White, Blood Red edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Short stories are a particularly good match for fairy tales, given the length of much of the source material. Over much of a decade, Datlow and Windling edited six volumes of adult fairy tales, starting with this one. The stories in these books are not what you might remember from your childhood -- they're often sexual and dark.

The Essential Bordertown: A Traveller's Guide to the Edge of Faerie edited by Terri Windling and Delia Sherman
Similarly, this collection includes a variety of stories about Bordertown -- the city where human lands adjoin the Border to the Elflands, which we cannot cross. While not all interpretations of particular fairy tales, this collection is heavily inspired by traditional fairy tales. This book includes stories from several out of print Bordertown short story collections from the 1990s, but there is also a newer volume, Welcome to Bordertown, which includes stories set after Bordertown comes back - because sometimes magical lands disappear.

Other formats can be great ways to retell fairy tales, as well! Stephen Sondheim's musical Into the Woods is probably the most famous example. It includes the story of Cinderella, Jack the Giant-Killer, Little Red Riding Hood, and others -- and what happens after the happy ending. The Library owns both the libretto and the vocal score.

The Decemberists' album The Hazards of Love is a rock opera with fairy tale elements -- the relationship between the young lovers and the Evil Queen bears a remarkable similarity to the relationships in Tam Lin.