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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*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.
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!
**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.
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.
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.
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.