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.
Top photo from Bigstock
Ireland has long been rightly renowned as a country of storytellers that has birthed such legendary authors as Johnathon Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce. But with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner and this being the year of Hillary Clinton’s historic candidacy it seems appropriate to consider some of Ireland’s leading female authors. Many of the books by these authors are out of print, but a handful have been reissued for succeeding generations to enjoy. Click on a book’s cover to learn more and order on Amazon.
Anne Burke (1780-1805) Anne has once worked as a governess and after finding herself widowed with a son to support she took up writing. She specialized in Gothic novels and was one of the earliest women writers in the genre.
Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921) Also known as Lady Gilbert, Rose was a novelist, poet, and playwright. She originally wanted to be a painter but received encouragement in her literary aspirations from Charles Dickens! Dickens greatly admired her work and encouraged her to continue. Her first novel Dumana was published in 1864 under the pen name Ruth Murray.
Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Martin (1862-1915) These two ladies were cousins who wrote under the pseudonym of Somerville and Ross. Together they published a total of fourteen novels and collections of stories until Violet’s death in 1915. Whereupon Edith continued to publish works under “Somerville and Ross,” claiming that she and Violet continued to collaborate via spiritualist séances.
M.E. Francis (1859-1930) M.E. Francis was the pen name of Mary Elizabeth Brundell an astonishingly prolific novelist who published dozens of works, she was described as being the best known female novelist of her time.
Jesse Louisa Rickard (1876-1963) Though she didn’t publish her first novel Young Mr. Gibbs (1912) until she was 36, Jesse was an extremely prolific writer who published over forty novels ranging from light comedy to crime novels. She was a founding member of the Detective Writers Club along with Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and Agatha Christie.
Kate O’Brien (1897-1974) Kate was an novelist and playwright whose books dealt with themes of female agency and sexuality. At the time this was quite controversial, in fact it was so controversial that her 1936 novel Mary Lavelle was banned in Ireland and Spain while her 1941 novel The Land of Spices was banned in Ireland on publication.
Deirdre Purcell (born 1945) Dierdre is a former stage actress as well as having done tv and press journalism. She has published twelve critically acclaimed novels all of which have been best sellers in Ireland.
Anne Enright (born 1962) While Anne had won the 1991 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the 2001 Encore award she was still relatively obscure until her 2007 novel The Gathering won the 2007 Man Booker Prize-a decision that was made unanimously by the jury. Since then she has written two more novel The Forgotten Waltz (2011) which was short-listed for the Orange Prize and won the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and The Green Road (2015) which won the award for Irish Novel of the Year.
Tana French (born 1973) Tana is a theatrical actress and novelist whose debut novel Into the Woods (2007) won the Edgar and Anthony awards for best first novel. She is referred to as the First Lady of Irish Crime and she has another novel The Trespasser scheduled for release this August.
Eimear McBride (born 1976) Eimear wrote her debut novel A Girl is a Half Formed Thing in just six months but it took nine years to get it published. The book then went on to win numerous awards including the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction and Desmond Elliott Prize for debut novelists.