Six Types of Retellings You Should Totally Care About [Elements of Fantasy]

March 17, 2017     Michelle     Elements of Fantasy

Elements of Fantasy is a feature I host here at FaerieFits. Periodically, there’s a book that puts the spotlight on a particularly interesting element of fantasy, and I like to explore it more in-depth. Sometimes I’ll pull on some history, other times I’ll explore variations on a similar theme. These will all be different!

I love, love, LOVE retellings! Seriously, they are the best and they make my insides go ooey gooey because I love seeing how these traditional tales that everyone knows can be transformed into something new and exciting and unique. And somehow, most of these still manage to give a sense of suspense even though we all know (theoretically) what’s going to HAPPEN!

Anywhoo … There are different kinds of retellings, and I’ve done my best to classify a few for you below. Enjoy!

Time period change

You take fairy tale from lore and plop it into a completely different time period, where the morals and social issues are bound to be different, right? But you craft NEW morals and NEW social issues around it and, you know what, The Brothers Grimm are timeless, people. Timeless.

The Lunar Chronicles

The best example of this. Ever. Not only does Marissa Meyer transplant ONE Grimm fairy tale into the future with a cyborg and lunar people and whatnot, but she does this with FOUR of them. And they all WORK TOGETHER and it is BEAUTIFUL. And if you haven’t read these yet, you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD.

Read my review here.

Gender-swap

These are always fun. Largely historical retellings, you replace a traditionally male character with a female or vice versa. I LOVE this because it really challenges some of the gender norms.

And I Darken

A perfect example of this, a female Vlad the Impaler is honestly the last thing anyone might expect. This book is heavy on the history, but I LOVED it.

Read my review here.

“Creation” Retellings

There’s always a REASON that the evil witch became the evil witch*. These kinds of retellings create the backstory for us, giving us the explanation on how things “really” went down before the original tale takes place.

Heartless

A retelling of how the Queen of Hearts became the Queen of Hearts. And, perhaps more importantly, how she became so fixated on her “Off with their heads!” catch-phrase.

Read my review here.

*At this point, you might be wondering why my description references the Wizard of Oz, but my example is from Alice in Wonderland. Don’t judge me. I can be inconsistent if I want to be.

The “Happy Ending” Retelling

Ha. “Happy Ending” is in quotes, because, let’s be honest, we all know that Happily Ever After doesn’t happen. At least, I’m assuming you’re cynical like I am. We’re all mad cynical here.** These kinds of retellings take place after the traditional tale has ended and tell us what REALLY happens afterwards.

Dorothy Must Die

So what actually happened after Dorothy killed the evil witch? Well … This might not be what L. Frank Baum had in mind when he originally crafted The Wizard of Oz, but it certainly does make for an interesting twist!

Read my review here.

**Yes, yes, this time I switched the references. I’m going from Alice in Wonderland back tot he Wizard of Oz. This was not intentional. DO NOT JUDGE!

Same Plot, Different World

Some retellings stick to being fairly traditional, at least at the outset. But there’s a LOT you can accomplish just by having some spectacular world-building and unique characters. There are always twists, of course, but you can stay pretty true to the original tale in this format.

Cruel Beauty

A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, this retelling captures all of the strange discomfort that Beauty and the Beast is meant to evoke. But the world is completely unique and SO much fun to explore.

Read my review here.

“Correcting” Re-Interpretations

All right, so technically all of these are re-interpretations. But there are some that set out to debunk the traditional tales. The original author may have gotten a few things “wrong,” and so these authors go about getting the facts straight.

Splintered

Set in the modern day, we learn some interesting explanations for what really went down when Alice went to Wonderland. And we get caught up in some seriously manipulated situations. That I quite enjoyed.

Read my review here.

What retellings have you read? What were your favorites? Do you have any “classifications” of your own?

  • Fantastic list! I usually love the time period change and the gender-swap! I think Lunar Chronicles is definitely my favourite retelling series out there! I just posted my review of Hunted, the beauty and the Beast retelling and I really like The Forbidde Wish by Khoury, it’s a fantastic Aladdin retelling! Great post!

    • Michelle

      The Lunar Chronicles are AMAZING, are they not?! I want to read Hunted soon, but there’s so much other stuff on my TBR I want to get to first 😛 I’ll have to look into The Forbidden Wish — An Aladdin retelling sounds AWESOME! Thanks for the suggestion!

  • I love retellings too! I would love to find more genderswapped ones. Also more LGBT ones.

    Creation retellings can be so much fun! There are also sequel retellings, books that tell events that happen after the original but not necessarily the happy ending thing you described. Unless that was what you meant? Like, I read one this year about Peter Pan and the MC was Wendy’s granddaughter. There are also the kinds that take place in familiar worlds, like Wonderland or Neverland, and have some of the same characters (like the Mad Hatter), but they don’t really relate to the original story in any other way. It’s actually disappointing to me that so many of the retellings I find are just sequels or set in the same place and not exactly retellings :-/

    • Michelle

      Oh, that’s kind of what I meant by the happily ever after bit. But I think you’re right — the same world/different characters is totally different! I’m definitely less excited by those — it’s not as impactful to me as reimagining the SAME characters or the same story in that world or a different one.

  • I really love retellings too, but especially the time period and creation ones! I loved Cinder for example, because it was just so imaginative – even when you say ‘cyborg cinderella’ it sounds cool! I think if anything it takes more creativity to transplant an existing story into a completely new world than come up with an entirely fresh story.
    And I like creation retellings mostly because I love villains, and so I find their backstories super interesting!
    Great post! 🙂

    • Michelle

      Oh I 100% agree with you! I hadn’t thought about it before, but ‘cyborg cinderella’ really does roll off the tongue! And I love villains too, so of COURSE I love reading about how they became the way they are 🙂

  • I can’t say if Deathless is a retelling or just a new way to look at mythology, but I know I loved it through and through 🙂 have you read it? By Catherine Valente.

    • Michelle

      I haven’t read it before 🙂 But it looks SOOOOOOooo good! Definitely adding that one to my TBR — thanks for the suggestion! 😀

      • Enjoy! It’s the one I keep raving about, it’s just sooooo good.

      • Michelle

        It looks really highly rated! I will definitely be looking into that one soon 🙂

  • Yesss I love these! Although I DO love Splintered but I actually hate the trope where they’re like “oh the original author GOT IT WRONG” because I’d be so offended if someone said my book was “wrong” and “rewrote it”.😂 Like I know these are retellings and the authors are basically dead anyway haha, but I still think respecting the original is important. (but like I still adore Splintered so <3) And I LOVE genderbends! It makes me so happy and I think it creates a lot more interesting differences.

    • Michelle

      HAhaha, I completely agree with you! I’m generally not a fan of the “got it wrong” bit, but I did quite enjoy Splintered in spite of that 🙂

  • I love this post! I never thought about categorizing retellings, but I think you’ve hit it right on the nose. One other type would be where we see the kids of the people in the original story. Like the Descendants books by Melissa de la Cruz.

    • Michelle

      Ooooh, good call! That’s definitely gaining some traction in other books too, I think — Splintered, if you think about it, kind of falls somewhat into that camp as well 🙂

  • I LOVE ALL THESE RETELLINGS!! Especially gender swaps, time changes, and new worlds. Sometimes even a straight retelling with no unique twist can be incredible

    • Michelle

      Those are my favorites too! And yes, if the author is skilled enough at pulling us in and making us really RELATE to the characters, retellings of the original story can be wonderful too! That’s a good point 🙂