Friday, July 9, 2010

My Favorite Retellings

Lots of people have tried to rewrite myths and fairy tales, and some have proven more successful then others, and some I just really, really like. There is something thick and wonderful about a good retelling that leaves you a little confused and terribly happy. It's like there is a whole history behind it, and the author just added to the pile. Thickness.

Glass Slipper, Eleanor Farjeon. Considering, not many people have written Cinderella down in a modern way. Farjeon updates is just enough and brings a spark to a story and a character that society has tired of. It's not annoyingly modern like Ella Enchanted, it's quirky and captivating.

Till We Have Faces, CS Lewis. One of my favorite myths, Lewis really gives it new life. It more then rewrites it, he writes around it with new characters and brings a new, darker face to the relatively happy story.

Beauty, Robin McKinley. The writing is literally dense in Beauty. McKinley rewrites my favorite fairy tale, staying pretty close to the original story. But instead of making it overly dark and grotesque, as the story easily could be, she lets it be Power of Loveish and overall redemptive.

The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale. I've always loved the story of the goose girl, but honestly, it has a very small plot. Hale basically gave it life. It has a few sequels, but as as a retelling, it works best on its own.

Fire and Hemlock, Diana Wynne Jones. This book is genius storytelling. It reworks the tale of Tam Lin in a tangling, mysterious way through the eyes of a modern girl. No one but Jones could have pulled it off.

The Perilous Gard, Elizabeth Marie Pope. Although this isn't a direct retelling, it heavily uses the mythos and fairy stories of medieval England as inspiration. I suppose in a way it is almost another retelling of Tam Lin.

Tristan and Iseult, Rosemary Sutcliff. In all the other recommendations the author adds new plot lines and twists into the original story. But in this small, elegant book Sutcliff just sticks to the original material and it works.

Castle in the Air, Diana Wynne Jones. So my sister just reminded me I forgot this book, which seems downright barbaric. It's sort of a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, but focuses on different characters, Abdullah, and his journey to find Flower-of-the-Night, with ample help from a genie and flying carpet.

Season 7 has just been insanely happy. Mulder and Scully are laughing and chilling together and Scully and Skinner are finally believing... Now I'm just waiting for the ball to drop. Something dreadfully horrific is around the bend. BRACE YOURSELVES.
Today was boring. But I'm reading a really good book and I had a chocolate bar so I guess in the grand scheme of things it could have been worse.


Brittany Ann said...

Well the Ella Enchanted book was NOT annoyingly modern. That was just the movie. Did you ever read the book? Gail Carson Levine is a really good writer...she has lots of good fairy tale stories.

Till We Have Faces was the only Lewis book that disappointed me. It was a great book, but it kind of removed everything I liked from the actual myth. :P I LOVE Beauty, Goose Girl, and Fire & Hemlock is BRILLIANTNESS.

Sabe said...

I've read Fairest, Ella Enchanted and The Two Princess of Bamarre, and didn't like any of them. Something about Gail Carson's fantasy world bugs me.

frozensea said...

Yeah, I was disappointed in Ella Enchanted, but I don't think it was any fault in her writing, I just didn't connect with her particular brand of fantasy.

Isn't Castle in the Air technically a retelling of Aladdin? Kind-of-ish? I do love that book.

Anthony said...

Rosemary Sutcliff was a supreme storyteller who recognised a good story when she heard or read one - so I am not surprised you noted that she just left the Tristan and Iseult story to itself. More about Rosemary Sutcliff and her re-tellings is at