In an effort to limit myself to the actual topic at hand, I decided not to include retellings of "modern" stories, like the wonderful Alice in Wonderland retelling, Splintered by A.G. Howard. I also didn't include retellings for European folktales, like Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song, or Sylvia Townsend Warner's Kingdoms of Elfin. As I still had quite a big list, I decided to use this TTT to highlight less well-known books, and didn't include popular books like Marissa Meyer's Cinder or Joan D. Vinge's Snow Queen.
So, without further ado, here goes my list of Top Ten Fairytale Retellings!
1. Briar Rose - Jane Yolen
This retelling of Sleeping Beauty will lead Rebecca, a young college graduate, on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of her dying grandmother's claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror, but also to redemption and hope.
2. Burning Girls - Veronica Schanoes (you can read it for free if you click on the title!)
It is a dark fantasy novella about a Jewish girl educated by her grandmother as a healer and witch growing up in an increasingly hostile environment in Poland in the late nineteenth century. In addition to the natural danger of destruction by the Cossacks, she must deal with a demon plaguing her family. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just let you know that a reimagining of Rumpelstiltskin features heavily in this short novella, along with lots of Jewish lore.
3. Boy, Snow, Bird - Helen Oyeyemi
In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she'd become, but elements of the familiar Snow White begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy's daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.
4. Tender Morsels - Margo Lanagan
This is a retelling of the lesser known Rose Red and Snow White. It is a dark and vivid story, set in two worlds and the border between them. Liga lives modestly in her own personal heaven, a world given to her in exchange for her earthly life. Her two daughters grow up in this soft place, protected from the violence that once harmed their mother. But the real world cannot be denied forever - magicked men and wild bears break down the borders of Liga's refuge.
5. Grimm Tales for Young and Old - Philip Pullman
Again, a straight up collection of fairytale retellings from someone who excells at his craft. He also retold Paradise Lost in one of my favorite trilogies, His Dark Materials. This collection comes with essays on the history and relevance of these fairytales.
6. The Girl with No Hands - Angela Slatter
This is a collection of fantasy and dark tales that are straight-up retellings of many, many traditional fairytales. I cannot recommend Angela Slatter enough, I'm completely smitten with her stories!
7. The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye - A.S. Byatt
Another collection of fairytales inspired in the Arabian Nights tradition.
8. Anansi Boys- Neil Gaiman
When Fat Charlie's dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie "Fat". Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can't shake that name, one of the many embarrasing gifts his father bestowed, before he dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn't know he had a brother. Now brother Spider's on his doorstep - about to make Fat Charlie's life more interesting... and a lot more dangerous. Because, you see, Charlie's dad wasn't just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider god.
This novel is a retelling of African folktales. A little bit different from the rest of books on my list, but equally worth it.
9. Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon - Ken Liu (you can read it for free if you click on the title!)This short story is the story of Jing and Yuan, a pair of young women in love for the first time in their lives, who're about to be parted by circumstances beyond their control. On Qixi, the Festival of the Cowherd and Weaver Maid, the legendary lovers give the young women some help and advice.
Again, another folktale retelling - this time from China. Qixi is Chinese Valentine's day, and originated from the romantic legend of the lovers Zhinü, the Weaver Maid, and Niulang, the Cowherd. Zhinü and Niulang are our Vega and Altair, but the Chinese mythology behind these constellations is very moving. Ken Liu does it justice.
10. Fables - Bill Willingham
These comics are insanely famous, but I couldn't leave them out. Fairytale creatures have been forced into exile and must now live among the normal citizens of modern-day New York (because, where else, right?), in their own secret society, Fabletown. Everyone lives peacefully until Snow White's sister, Rose Red, appears dead. It's up to Fabletown's sheriff, the Big Bad Wolf, to find the killer.