For countless years, fairy tales have been told and retold, and right now there’s a strong growth of re-imagined fairy tales in both books and films. So if you haven’t tried a fairy tale retelling yet, here are some of the reasons you might consider it:
- Through the centuries, fairy tales and their variants have been passed down in oral and literary tradition, and they reveal much about the past–about customs, traditions, and cultural concerns. Fairy tale retellings combine this rich sense of history with something fresh and new, continuing the centuries-old tradition of forming and reforming these stories that engage across cultures and generations.
- Although fairy tales reflect our past, they also communicate timeless themes. Despite common views, few fairy tales were simple for children, and fairy tale novels offer the opportunity to explore the depth of potential meaning in a story. Retold fairy tales can borrow from thematic elements that exist within the original story and flesh them out in a compelling way or they can draw out new meanings altogether, weaving together story elements we all know and love to reflect enduring themes. Either way, they infuse new life into the traditional stories.
- Fairy tales often reveal truth about the world around us, about the strengths and weaknesses of human nature and the way the world is structured. GK Chesterton explored this in detail in his essay The Ethics of Elfland. Through the context of story, the original tales demonstrate valuable principles and many of the retellings follow this pattern.
- If you already enjoy fairy tales, you’ll find that fairy tale retellings allow for deeper characterization and more intricate plots as the medium changes from short story to novel length (although some fairy tales did originally appear as novel or novella length).
- As with any novel, the primary reason to read it is because you enjoy it, and it offers something of value. Fairy tale retellings have the potential to do both, and unless you’re willing to experiment with the genre, you may never know.
Anyone have suggestions on a place to start reading fairy tale novels? I propose Beauty by Robin McKinley or Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis–actually, I suggest both because they illustrate the great variety found in fairy tale retellings.