In Fairy Tale Land: Some favorite fairy tale retellings

Posted March 4, 2015 by Lory in lists / 19 Comments

I just got wise to the fact that Charlene at Bookish Whimsy and Ana of Read Me Away are hosting a fantastic event this week: Away to Whimsical Fairy Tale Land invites us to explore our favorite fairy tales and their retellings. There’s a different topic for each day, and though it’s the middle of the week already, it’s not too late to jump in!

Rather than picking one tale as they suggest, I’ve gathered a list of some of my favorite retellings here. Sorry for breaking the rules, but I hope you’ll forgive me because these are seriously amazing books.

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean (1991)
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (1985)
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope (1974)
These are not all strictly speaking retellings, but variations on the theme of the ballad Tam Lin (fairy queen steals comely young man who must be rescued by his human lover). The first two are set in modern times (on a midwestern college campus and in the English midlands, respectively), and the last in a Tudor-era manor. Very different but all equally fabulous reads.

Beauty by Robin McKinley (1978)
A retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” of course. This was McKinley’s first novel, and unlike most first novels, was accepted by the first publisher she sent it to. This makes sense because it’s utterly charming and beautifully written. I wrote a guest post about it recently which you can find here.

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (1956)
The Latin myth-cum-fairy tale of Cupid and Psyche lies behind all the “Beauty and the Beast” stories. In this novel, which he considered the best of his fictional works, Lewis sets the tale in the Hellenistic world on the borders of Greece and makes it a compelling story of jealousy, forgiveness and faith.

The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea (1985)
Two modern-day children wander into an adventure involving the gods and heroes of Irish mythology. Perhaps a bit long and episodic, but filled with humorous and enchanting moments.

Kate Crackernuts by K.M. Briggs (1963)
Written by an eminent scholar of British folklore, this version of an unusual tale of friendship between step-sisters, and the battle with the witch who is mother to one of them, is both harrowing and heartwarming.

That’s seven of my favorites, a good fairy tale number. What are yours?

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19 responses to “In Fairy Tale Land: Some favorite fairy tale retellings

  1. I've been wanting to read Fire and Hemlock! I love Howl's Moving Castle, so I think I will enjoy Jones' take on the Tam Lin tale. Perilous Gard was a great read, but I have not heard of the book by Dean- I have to check that out. Maybe you will enjoy an upcoming book called A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Mass which is a Beauty and the Beast/Tam Lin retelling! I really liked it (managed to get an ARC)

    Til We Have Faces is another one I really want to read. The Cupid and Psyche myth is one of my favorites.

    Great picks for this post Lory- I'm glad you joined up with the event to discuss these books! Thank you!

    • I could not resist the chance to post about one of my favorite topics! Sorry I didn't have time to choose one tale and follow through on it. I thought that was a really good idea. Maybe next year?

    • Oh that's absolutely fine – I was glad to read your post and all about the books you loved. If there's another fairy tale event, I'll definitely let you know!

  2. This is a fantastic list, Lory! Wow, I think I'm going to have to jump on the bandwagon with this event–I love it! Till We Have Faces–what a great choice! And of course, I still need to get to Beauty. 🙂

  3. Breaking the rules?! TO THE DUNGEONS! Haha, I kid. Thank you for joining us!

    I remember reading Till We Have Faces, and I'm so happy to see it on your list. 😀 I also love your list because now I have all these recs for retellings of different tales!

  4. I love both Beauty and The Perilous Gard. And I've got Fire and Hemlock on my TBR list. The others are new to me – thanks for the recommendations!

    I'd have to add Robin McKinley's Spindle's End, which is hands-down the best re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty I've ever come across, and gorgeously written to boot. And there's a charming children's book called Cinders by Katherine Gibson, about one of Cinderella's mouse coachmen who doesn't turn back into a mouse after the ball (now sadly out of print.) I should re-read it and see if I still like it; I loved it as a child.

  5. These are all new to me. I've been hit or miss with retellings. I love them when done uniquely but sometimes they just go weird (or bland).

    • They have sort of exploded lately and the results are mixed. For this list I tried to choose some that have stood the test of time.

  6. I've never heard of most of these fairytale retellings, and I'm glad that you focused more on some of the lesser known fairytales. I have heard of Beauty, and it's a book that I really want to read because I've heard only praise about McKinley's writing. I've never heard of Till We Have Faces but I am a HUGE C.S. Lewis fan, so that sounds like a must read for me. Thanks for the recommendations.

  7. Sadly, I also haven't heard of these. I don't normally read retellings, but these seem really interesting. Thanks for bringing them up. The only fairy tale retelling I've read is The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka. It's a witty, humorous children's book that parodies a lot of fairy tales and their conventions. I think it's time I spread my fairy tale retelling wings. 😉

    • The Stinky Cheese Man is also a lot of fun! These are generally in a different, more serious vein, but I'm pretty sure you find at least one you would enjoy.

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