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9 Imaginative Fairy-Tale Retellings

We always find ourselves coming back to the classics

Originally published on The Portalist

There’s a reason why some stories have remained with us for centuries. Fairy tales and legends are the distillation of what makes us human—and the struggles that arise under societal constraints. They serve as the foundation from which we get our storytelling abilities. It’s no wonder fairy tales are reimagined time and time again. In these nine awesome fairy tale retellings, fantasy authors take classic stories and reimagine them for a modern audience—twisting each legend to speak to a new generation of readers.

Black Heart, Ivory Bones by Ellen Datlow

From the very best writers working in fantasy and science fiction today, like Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Charles de Lint, and more, comes a collection of stories retelling classic fairy tales. With a decidedly adult audience in mind, Black Heart, Ivory Bones reimagines Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Sleeping Beauty, and others for the modern audience—giving new meaning to the phrase “once upon a time.” Black Heart, Ivory Bones is just one of several fairy tale retelling collections from Datlow and Windling.

Fair Peril by Nancy Springer

They say you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your prince, but that’s actually the opposite for Buffy Murphy in this novel by Nancy Springer. Murphy’s husband has dumped her one month after their 20th anniversary. On a walk through the woods, she meets an enchanting bullfrog that croaks his way into her family, seduces her daughter Emily, and sweeps her off to Fair Peril—an enchanted land accessible through a portal in the local mall. This time it’s Emily that needs to be rescued. Can Buffy save her from this prince?

Beauty by Robin McKinley

In Robin McKinley’s acclaimed debut novel, the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast is reimagined with a headstrong heroine. When Beauty’s father is discovered stealing a rose from the Beast’s garden, the Beast agrees to spare his life if he’ll send him one of his daughters in exchange. This Beauty, like Katniss in The Hunger Games, offers herself up as the trade—determined to tame the savage beast.

The Lunar Chronicles Series by Marissa Meyer 

This wildly popular series from Marissa Meyer reimagines classic fairy tales like Cinderella (Cinder), Little Red Riding Hood (Scarlet), Rapunzel (Cress), and Snow White (Fairest and Winter). But instead of setting these stories within a castle in some far away land, these tales have been reimagined in a dystopian future where humans, androids, and cyborgs live in a colony on the moon. Decidedly feminist, The Lunar Chronicles places each fairy tale heroine at the center of the story as the damsel in distress who can save herself.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

From the author of Wicked comes a reimagining of Cinderella with one of the stepsisters at its heart. Set in Holland, “ugly stepsister” Iris’ finds herself in a new home with a new sister named Clara. Clara, the Cinderella character, is the family’s much-beleaguered servant. But Clara has a secret past, and Iris is determined to discover who she is and where she comes from. Like Wicked, which reimagines the story of the Wicked Witch of the West, Maguire’s work looks at the undiscovered gems in the lives of classic fairy tale’s supporting characters.

Jack the Giant-Killer by Charles de Lint

From the master of urban fantasy comes a colorful reimagining of the old English legend of Jack, the Giant Killer. When her boyfriend leaves her, Jacky Rowan goes out to blow off some steam and comes across a motorcycle gang that leaves behind a red cap, allowing her access into another realm where the good Seelie Court is at war with the evil Unseelie Court. Soon she becomes the good fairies’ only hope against destruction. Jack the Giant-Killer is a part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale Series, which features eight fairy tale retellings.

Wendy Darling series by Colleen Oakes

Peter Pan may be the boy who couldn’t grow up, but when he takes Wendy Darling and her brothers with him to Neverland, Wendy is pained and longs to remember the life she gave up back in London. From fantasy writer Colleen Oakes, the story behind Wendy’s choice to return home and grow up is one that young adults and adults alike can relate. The second in the series, Seas, was recently released, and there are three novels planned for the series.

Splintered series by A.G. Howard

Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the bestselling Splintered series by A.G. Howard is a more sinister version of the original Alice’s adventures. Mental illness runs in Alyssa Gardner’s cursed family—her own mother has just been committed to an institution, and Alyssa hears the same voices that landed her there. Alyssa traces her family history back to Alice Lidell, the girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland. Hoping to avoid the same fate, Alyssa must travel to the real Wonderland and pass a series of tests to save her family from ruin. The Splintered series contains three novels and two companion stories.

Beast by Brie Spangler

In this YA-fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, fifteen-year-old Dylan is a high school outcast. After falling from his roof, the school orders him into group therapy—convinced he was trying to harm himself. There he meets the beautiful and smart Jamie, who doesn’t put up with any of his moaning about not fitting in. It’s a subject Jamie knows a lot about—as a transgender woman, she’s faced her fair share of ridicule at school. This beautiful portrait of two teens grappling with their identity outside the microcosm of high school is a wonderful reimagining of a classic love story.

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Featured image courtesy of Odessey Online.