Top Five Friday: Fairy Tale Retellings

I haven’t done a Top Five Friday post in a while – I’ve been too busy posting Pink recaps! But we just started Pink II on Wednesday, so Erin will be posting the first Pink II recap next Friday to give you time to read. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about fairy tales.

My first exposure to fairy tales was Disney movies. I remember feeling very surprised when I learned that Cinderella wasn’t a creation of Walt Disney, and there were many versions of her story that came before the cartoon I loved (and who didn’t – those mice were adorable). My first fairy tale retelling was Ella Enchanted, and I’ve had a soft spot for them ever since.

So here is today’s Top Five Friday – my favorite novels based on fairy tales.

 goose girl The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. I actually had never heard the story of the goose girl before this book. Ani is a princess who is sent by her mother to marry a prince from a kingdom far away. On the journey to her new home, her lady-in-waiting Selia stages a mutiny so that she can be presented as the princess when the group reaches their destination. Ani escapes and considers starting a new life somewhere else, but she feels responsible for the few servants and her beloved horse that she knows will be mistreated at Selia’s hands. Ani gets herself a job as a goose girl for the king and starts planning a rescue for her friends. This was a great story! Now I just need to get around to reading some of Shannon’s other books – there are three sequels to Goose Girl, and she has a Rapunzel series as well.
 bitter greens Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. This is a retelling of the Rapunzel story, and it’s narrated through the eyes of three women. There is Charlotte-Rose de la Force, the first women to ever tell the story of Rapunzel. Then there is Margherita, who is kidnapped by a witch as repayment because her father stole a handful of parsley from the witch’s garden. And finally, there is the witch herself – Selena Leonelli, the infamous muse of the artist Tiziano who fears nothing in the world except the passage of time. I’ll admit, the first few chapters were slow going, but in the end, Kate weaves these stories together beautifully. If you like books where the villain gets to tell her version of events, I found this one particularly interesting.  Evidently, Kate is currently studying at a university in Sydney for a doctoral degree in fairy tale retelling, and this novel is part of her doctorate work. She’s currently writing a theoretical examination of Rapunzel. I need to go back to school, clearly. My major was not this cool.
cinder Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This is by far the weirdest fairy tale retelling I’ve come across, but it was incredibly compelling in a bizarre way. The story is Cinderella, but nothing like the way you’ve seen it before – our heroine, Cinder, is a cyborg. You read that correctly. In a futuristic world, Earth is in trouble. There is a new strain of plague that has no cure, there are conflicts between humans and cyborgs, and the Lunars (who live on the moon, led by their evil queen Levana) are just waiting for their moment to stage a hostile takeover of Earth. Cinder has her own problems to deal with, but she’s swept onto the big stage of events when she catches the eye of both Prince Kai and Queen Levana. And no one, not Cinder’s horrid stepmother or even Cinder herself, knows who Cinder really is. Again, weird and fascinating. I’ve read the sequel Scarlet (based on Red Riding Hood), but I haven’t had a chance to pick up the third in the series. I will get there eventually.
ella enchanted Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Please, please don’t judge this book by its movie adaptation. This is another Cinderella retelling, although it’s for a much younger audience. When she is born, Ella is given the “gift” of obedience by a meddlesome fairy, but her gift turns out to be be a curse – she cannot ever refuse a direct command. As she grows up, Ella learns creative ways to prevent her stepmother from using her curse against her, but she eventually decides to track down the fairy to have the curse removed. There’s a glass slipper and a Prince Charmont, and I thought it was a fun retelling.
 beauty Beauty by Robin McKinley. Okay, I’m actually cheating on this one. I haven’t read it yet, but I have a copy and have been meaning to for at least two years. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast (clearly), and Robin’s writing comes highly recommended by several of my favorite authors (including Lauren).


What are your favorite fairy tale stories?

9 thoughts on “Top Five Friday: Fairy Tale Retellings

  1. Cinderella is one of my favorite fairy tales. Eloisa James’ A Kiss at Midnight is pretty good, but I have to say my favorite Cinderella story is a film. Ever After with Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott.

    At this moment I have a very tattered copy of Robin McKinley’s Beauty in my bag.:) I just finished The Blue Sword (LOVED IT) and I went to a used bookstore and found quite a few of her books in mmpb.

    I started Bitter Greens last night, but no joy. I put it down and I don’t know if I’ll continue. I was in high anticipation over Bitter Greens, because Kate Forsyth wrote one of my favorite fantasy series: The Witches of Eileanan. It’s terrific!

    I have an old copy of one of the Little Golden Books of The Princess and the Pea. It is beautifully illustrated. A cherished item from my childhood. I read it to all my boys,when they were babes. It’s the fairy tale archetype I most relate to. Eloisa James wrote a version of it but I’ve never read it…..have you?

    • I LOVED Golden Books growing up 🙂 I haven’t read anything by Eloisa James – what do I try first?

      Let “Bitter Greens” sit a while and then come back to it. Once you get through the first Charlotte-Rose section and into the first from Margherita’s perspective, things improve dramatically.

      • Eloisa James is an interesting writer and very hit and miss with me. Most of her stuff is Georgian and I prefer Regency. I like her early books best.
        Heres’s a few suggestions:

        Your Wicked Ways. Duchesses in Love #4.
        The Essex Sisters first two Much Ado About You and Kiss Me Annabel. The third book is okay and the last book in the series I don’t recommend.
        Fairy Tale series Kiss at Midnight and The Duke is Mine (The Princess and the Pea) I liked best. My Mom liked The Ugly Duckling and Beauty and the Beast best. You can probably get all of these on Overdrive or in mmpb at your library. Just check-out a stack!
        Her memoir Paris in Love is a wonderful book about a year in Paris with her family.

        I read Beauty yesterday and it was wonderful. Gorgeous retelling of Beauty and the Beast. So many lovely characters, especially Greatheart. A good bedtime story for everyone. I’m reading Pink II, but I am compelled to read the rest of my McKinley stash, so it’s the Chalice next.

  2. There is a series by Jessica Day George, the first installment being Princesses of the Midnight Ball, a retelling of the “12 dancing princesses” tale. It’s YA and the hero is a former soldier that knits. And it’s absolutely wonderful! There are three books in the series. I have only read the first one yet, but I have both other books at home so I’ll get to them! 😀
    I would definitely recommend reading them!

    (and please, WordPress, let my comment go through! :D)

  3. Beauty by Robin McKinley is very well written and a wonderful retelling. One of my favorite tales from childhood is East of the Sun, West of the Moon – some similarities to Beauty and the Beast.

    There are over 100 Cinderella stories from around the world. I used to do a folk tale unit with my students, and many of these tales would be chosen: The Rough Face Girl is a Native American version, then there is The Egyptian Cinderella, The Persian Cinderella, Yeh-Shen, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (African), The Golden Slipper, to name just a few. This is a good way to do a comparison study.

    I have several of the retellings by Romance authors upon recommendations from others (Bitter Greens being one), but no time to read them as yet – boo hoo!

  4. I love Beauty by Robin McKinley. It’s the first of her retellings of Beauty and the Beast. She also wrote Rose Daughter which has my favorite twist of all Beauty and the Beast versions I’ve encountered. The twist answers one of the questions I always had about the Disney movie and, to an extent, Beauty.

    Back to lurking and following along with the Pink Carnation read along. 🙂

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