Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Top 5 much loved fairytale reboots

List by Danielle and friends & family

"Fairy tales were not my escape from reality as a child; rather, they were my reality -- for mine was a world in which good and evil were not abstract concepts, and like fairy-tale heroines, no magic would save me unless I had the wit and heart and courage to use it wisely."
~ Terri Windling

Like a lot of fantasy readers, I grew up devouring fairytales and folklore, and practically haunted the 398s in my local and school libraries. (To this day, it's the one Dewey number that I could find in the dark, the path to it is just engraved on my brain somewhere.) There's a lot of magic to be wrung out of those deceptively simple stories, plenty for writers to explore and readers to latch onto - heroes and heroines taking destiny into their own hands, adventures into unfamiliar realms, happily ever afters.

Me, I loved the sparkliness... girls transported from their own mundane lives to palaces full of gems, through forests of trees with glittering leaves, wearing gowns of gold and silver... SIGH. That said, one of the most moving (though least sparkly) reimaginings of the 'girl meets palace' storyline that I've read recently was in Margo Lanagan's Tender morsels, where a transformed hut with straight walls, clean floors and sturdy furniture - and absent an abusive father - is the most incredible gift for Lanagan's heroine.

Here below, inspired by Annie and Teigs' brilliant lists of late, my mum and my co-worker Julia have helped put together a list of the five retellings that have meant the most to us, over the years.

Honourable mention:
The autumn castle / Kim Wilkins
This is an absolutely magical story, not so much based on a single fairytale as drawing on Germanic fairytale motifs such as the transformed animal suitor. Lovely and weird and highly recommended; the first of Wilkins' Europa Suite, a trilogy based on Northern European myth traditions that also includes Giants of the frost and Rosa and the veil of gold.

Confessions of an ugly stepsister / Gregory Maguire
Cinderella, reimagined as a tale about a girl learning the craft of painting in seventeenth-century Holland. Fascinating as a slice of history - see also Maguire's other fairytalish reboots such as Wicked, Mirror Mirror and Matchless.

Rapunzel's Revenge / Shannon Hale and Dean Hale ; illustrated by Nathan Hale
Selected by Danielle
Graphic Novel. Ages 9+. Once upon a time, in a land you only think you know, lived a little girl and her mother . . . or the woman she thought was her mother. Every day, when the little girl played in her pretty garden, she grew more curious about what lay on the other side of the garden wall . . . a rather enormous garden wall. And every year, as she grew older, things seemed weirder and weirder, until the day she finally climbed to the top of the wall and looked over into the mines and desert beyond.

A rollicking fairytale western by the author of YA fantasy tales such as The goose girl and The book of a thousand days. Great pics and a wonderfully adventurous and likeable heroine.

The fire rose / Mercedes Lackey
Selected by Julia
In 1905, Medieval scholar Rosalind Hawkins is left destitute when her father dies, forcing her to accept the offer that has mysteriously come her way of becoming agoverness in San Francisco. But she arrives to find a house without children, a wife,or even an employer--only a terrible secret.

The first of Mercedes Lackey's fairytale-inspired Elemental Masters series, based on Beauty and the Beast. Julia - part of the same Digital Services team as Tosca and I - names this classic from 1995 as one of her absolute favourites.

Jim C. Hines' 'Princess series'
Selected by Julia
(Jim C. Hines' website includes the first chapters of each of the four titles, in PDF.)
Join Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and more in an action series packed with mirror magic, deadly assassins, martial arts and a fantastic dose of girl power. Julia hearts this series so much that she almost couldn't bear to open the fourth (and final) novel after it finally showed up on the hold shelf, just because it would be that much closer to being over).
1 The stepsister scheme
2 The mermaid's madness
3 Red Hood's revenge
4 The Snow Queen's shadow

Fire and hemlock / Diana Wynne Jones
Selected by Danielle
The photograph above Polly's bed sparks memories that don't seem to exist any more. Nine years ago she met Thomas Lynn for the first time. But what has happened in the years between? Why has Tom been erased from Polly's mind, and from the rest of the world as well?

Okay, is it cheating that this is actually a retelling of Tam Lin, and not a fairytale? So sue me. My utter favourite amongst Diana Wynne Jones' totally awesome back catalogue (happy to suggest some more favourites if you've yet to discover this gem of an author). It's romantic without being at all sentimental, and full of twists and turns.

Wildwood dancing / Juliet Marillier
Selected by Kay
Five sisters who live with their merchant father in Transylvania use a hidden portal in their home to cross over into a magical world, the Wildwood.

My mum, a school librarian, loves to recommend this (and it's sequel, Cybele's secret) to anyone who might enjoy a thoroughly magical and romantic YA fairytale retelling with strong female characters. She also recommends Marillier's Sevenwaters trilogy, which begins with Daughter of the forest, to slightly older readers.

Incidentally, Juliet Marillier is featured in recent anthology Tales for Canterbury, a fund-raiser for the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal that can be purchased in print or ebook form, and which also includes tales by Neil Gaiman, Jeff Vandermeer and Sean Williams. Go on, buy a copy, you totally know you want to! (If you need further convincing, local author Helen Lowe provides you sneak peeks inside some of the stories here!)

1 comment:

Danielle said...

Shoot, I completely forgot to include a couple of my friend Kylie's favourites on here! Really, this needs to be a Top 10 blog :)

Kylie recommended, amongst others, the graphic novel series Fables, by Bill Willingham (http://www.elgar.govt.nz/search/?searchtype=t&SORT=D&searcharg=fables&searchscope=33&x=63&y=21) and Lud-in-the-Mist, by Hope Mirrlees. She also listed anthologies such as Tanith Lee's 'Red as blood' and Datlow and Windlings' 'Black thorn, white rose'.