Hello. My name is Cait and I am a self-confessed fairy tale retelling EATER EXTRAORDINAIRE.
And by “eater extraordinaire” I mean I’m totally obsessed with fairy tale retellings, okay? I just think “eater extraordinaire” firstly is pleasingly alliterated and, secondly, is way more fun to say than “obsessed”. I mean, really.
Fairy tale retellings (or just retellings in general; let’s not discriminate!) have been quite popular the last few years. We could probably blame Cinder’s gargantuan success for making this snowball POP-U-LAR. We could also probably blame Disney for raising us and for our inability to let it go * when it comes to our childhoods of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and Peter Pan. We can blame everyone, obviously, because blaming is fun. But the fact of the day: FAIRY TALE RETELLINGS ARE EVERYWHERE. Movies. YA books. TV shows. There’s probably a cafe somewhere selling Snow White’s poisoned apples and have a great old time. **
In fact, of you pop over to my Goodreads shelf of retellings, I’ve read 55 OF THEM. THAT SEEMS LIKE A LOT.
* SEE WHAT I DID THERE???? #FrozenReferenceFTW
** But I seriously hope not.
But I think there’s an art to writing a good retelling.
Anyone can write about a human-creature who goes to a ball and loses their shoes, SURE. But I have standards, folks. I have a checklist of things I need in a retelling and I am not the happiest bean when my checklist is igonred. It’s obviously absurd that not all authors come to me, asking for this checklist before they write — but I’m sure that’ll happen soon.
In the mean time, I want to discus my checklist for a perfect retelling. Oh this shall be delicious. Hold onto your pumpkins and witchy red shoes, fiends!
MUST HAVE A FANTASTIC SPARKLING UNIQUE TWIST THAT MAKES YOU WHISPER “OHHH THAT’S CLEVER.”
You might think this is a given, right? After all it’s a retelling which means it should (A) have elements of the original tale, but also (B) give it a new retold twist.
When I read a retelling, I don’t want to have the original story just laid out for me. NO. I WANT SOMETHING SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT. This is why I was absolutely bored during Ash by Malinda Lo. It is literally 100% the original plot. How is that a retelling??? I get super bored if the story isn’t evoking some dazzling imagination. Get thee some glitter onto that old plot. I want NEW twist. NEW characters. NEW storylines. I want the Phantom of the Opera to be set in a meat factory. And heck yes I want Rapunzel to be a computer hacker.
Give me something fresssssh and juicy.
GENDER SWAPS? I WOULD LIKE 1 OR 99.
I’ve complained in the past that gender-swaps need to be more of a thing. Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE FREAKING AWESOME. It’s so easy to make an old classic fresh and intriguing when genders are reversed. Plus a lot of old tales are pretty sexist (like, hello to the millionth story of a princess waiting around to be rescued by a prince) so just reverse rolls also brings in an equality twist. Because it’s totally okay to be rescued. Just let’s have girls rescue boys as well as boys rescue girls. BECAUSE #FAIR.
For instance: we have a male Cinderella in Six Impossible Things. And a female Sherlock in A Study in Charlotte. And a female Watson in Every Breath! And we have a boy battling Wonderland in Mad About The Hatter.
THIS IS GREAT. BUT MORE PLEASE.
I want to see Petra Pan and Wendall. * I want to see Handsome and the Beast. I want The Little Merman.
* Who is writing this post?? Because those names are bizarre quite honestly. Don’t call them Petra and Wendall. Please.
I WOULD PREFER IT TO HAVE AN INTRIGUING SETTING THAT SPEAKS EXCITEDLY TO MY HEART
No offence, but I’ve seen a lot of medieval European fantasy and I’d like SOMETHING ELSE. I concede it makes sense to set retellings there because a lot of the original tales came out of Germany / Denmark thanks to Grimm and Anderson. BUT RETELLINGS ARE ABOUT BREAKING THE MOULDS! Why can’t we have more retellings set in different countries???
Again, I’m going to point at Cinder and shriek because HELLO. Cinderella + dystopian China = I am a pleased crumpet. And I think the reason I was rather bored of Ella Enchanted is because it was the dry/average/medieval setting.
Can I ask for Sleeping Beauty in India? Hansel and Gretel actually in Germany? Little Red Riding hood with an affinity for sushi???? The Snow Queen in Australia!! *
* Um, okay, I concede this might not work so well. But she could be evil down south for half the year and then travel up north to have Christmas in the tropics. It could be awesome. Don’t deny it till you try it.
NO SNEERING AT THE ORIGINAL STORY, YOU UNDIGNIFIED ZUCCHINI
Oh this is SUCH a pet peeve of mine. But I hate hate hate when a retelling puffs out its chest and spurts phrases like “WELL, LEWIS CARROLL GOT IT WRONG, BUT HERE’S THE REAL STORY.” Um, rude??? That’s like me saying the inventor of bread was an idiot for not coming up with toast first. TO HAVE TOAST = YOU MUST HAVE BREAD. You can’t dis bread while eating toast, okay??? Okay.
I still hold a grudge against The Looking Glass Wars for not only (A) calling Lewis Carroll and idiot, but also (B) casting him as a character in the book and making him totally stupid! #no
MORE OBSCURE RETELLINGS
Because if I read about Cinderella one more time, I’m going to start throwing shoes and then lose them and then I will be Cinderella and that will go badly. I’d probably eat the pumpkin instead of riding in it to a ball. And if, by some miracle, I did get to the ball, I would be in the corner reading a book about how to get away with murder to deal with that bothersome stepfamily myself. SEE HOW THIS WOULD BE A TRAGEDY? So. More obscure retellings and save the world from me as Cinderella. *
I’ve also clamoured for more historical retellings too. BECAUSE THEY ARE SO MUCH WIN. Fairy Tales are awesome but technically Alice in Wonderland isn’t even a fairy tale but still it is everywhere. So why not more classics like The Secret Garden, The Jungle Book, Anne of Green Gables, Treasure Island, Black Beauty, and Tom Sawyer!
I loved a gender-bent Vlad the Impaler with And I Darken. More like this!!
Also: just put zombies into any of those and you have a winner.
* On second thoughts….somebody write this omg.
JAUNTY FROLICS THROUGH DIFFERENT GENRES, IF YOU PLEASE
Just from perusing through my Goodreads shelves, I’ve noticed that the majority of retellings take place in either a contemporary or fantasy setting. WHICH IS FINE. I like both those settings! But today is all about me making righteously indignant demands and thumping my fist on the table until my needs are met, basically.
So it’d be nice to see some more retellings mixed with thrillers! I mean, if The Gingerbread Man isn’t a murder mystery waiting to happen, THEN I AM A CODFISH. Also apocalyptic settings would be nice. I could see The Wizard of Oz in the apocalypse. And I’m just putting it out there that more disability/mental-illness representation would be awesome too. While I kind of accidentally loathed Reign of Shadows, at least it featured a blind Rapunzel! And, of course, Marissa Meyer did it AGAIN with her magical genius and introduced us to a mentally ill (possibly schizophrenic?) Snow White in Winter. *
* Okay I think we’ve estalished Marissa Meyer is QUEEN OF RETELLINGS AND ALL SHOULD BOW TO HER and if I keep fangirling like this over all her books I will probably combust. Someone tell me to calm.
I’m not saying every retelling needs to check off EVERYTHING in my list.
Obviously. That would be tedious. But I do think we’ve been rather inundated with retellings over the last few years and it’d be nice to see them taking some fresh new twists! (So we don’t crash and burn in horrific fire like vampires did… And now everyone stabs themselves in the eyes with silver and eats garlic whenever someone talks about a vampire book. Ahem.) And I’m not saying my list is flawless, I’m just saying there’s a 99% chance it is and all books should probably adhere to my wishes because I’m always right.
And obviously, a book’s TRUE PRIORITIES are: (A) to be written well, and (B) to have complex interesting characters, and (C) to tell a good story. But I can still make loud demands because that’s who I am, Bob.
Retellings will always remain a favourite of mine though! It’s so special to see a classic story I grew up with reimagined into wars in creepy forests with dashing protagonists and witty dialogue and a whole lotta stabbing. IT IS SO MUCH WIN.