Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.
It recently came to my attention that February 26th is Tell a Fairy Tale Day! Why not? Fairy tales from the original, dark, bloody stories told by the Brothers Grimm to the cheerful, movie musicals, made by Disney are one of the key components of our culture. But perhaps in the spirit of Tell a Fairy Tale Day what we need are some new takes on the standard tropes we all grew up with. Like one of the following.
Silver Woven in My Hair By Shirley Rousseau Murphy (1977) This re-telling of Cinderella stars Thursey a strong willed girl living in medieval times who refuses to be broken by either the cruel treatment of her stepmother and step-sisters or their accusatory taunts that her father was a coward. Befriending an old monk and a young goatherd, Thursey becomes determined to attend the Summer Ball held in honor of the Kingdom’s Prince.
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast By Robin McKinley (1978) Beloved children’s book author McKinley made her debut with this vivid and enchanted novel of the timeless French fairy tale La Belle et La Bete. In this case “Beauty” was originally named Honor, but self-styled herself as the former because the latter was pretty dull. Much of the story’s shape is direct from the original storyline though, McKinley depicts this Beauty’s sisters in a far more favorable light. The book is beautiful and captivatingly written, even though the ending is a foregone conclusion and won the 1998 Phoenix Award honor.
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (1992) Based around the German Fairy Tale of Briar Rose aka Sleeping Beauty it alternates between flashbacks and the present day. Rebecca Berlins learns that her recently deceased grandmother Gemma (who was obsessed with telling her granddaughters an odd take on Sleeping Beauty), was a Holocaust survivor sent to Chelmno extermination camp. Becca travels to Poland and meets a man named Josef who tells her the tragic story of Gemma aka Briar Rose. It was nominated for the Nebula Award and won Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature in 1993.
Mirror, Mirror By Gregory Maguire (2003) Gregory Maguire of Wicked fame here takes a trip to 16th Century Italy to take on the tale of Snow White. Life is peaceful for Don Vicente de Nevada and his beautiful daughter Bianca until Lucrezia Borgia and her brother Cesare come for a friendly visit-and to give Don Vicente an important mission for a holy relic. While Don Vicente is away Bianca grows into an great beauty and Lucrezia becomes jealous.
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth (2012) This historical novel blends the classic story of Rapunzel with the true life story of the woman who first told the tale; 17th century French author Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force who was exiled from the court of the Sun King Louis XIV. It won the American Library Association Award for Best Historical Novel and was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, and the Norma K. Hemming Award. It was also chosen as one of the Best Historical Novels by Library Journal.
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