New versions of old fairy tales

For the love of books

Classic fairy tales have been read by almost every contemporary young or old reader.  Due to their popularity and charm, many fairy tales have been analyzed and developed into more detailed complex versions, often with a twist on the central core of each tale.

Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast are two well-known classics that have been turned inside-out and updated by many modern authors.  Gail Levine’s Ella Enchanted is an original novel with the Cinderella story incorporated into the fundamental plot.  Just Ella by Margaret Haddix is a non-magical interpretation of Cinderella that begins in media res.  While adhering to the main outline of its forerunner, this Cinderella story has a more interesting heroine.  The witty adventurous plot contains a clever twist on the common ideas of “happily ever after.”  Robin McKinley has written many novels based on fairy tales.  Her first book, Beauty, is a creative variant of Beauty and the Beast.  Unusual magic and Beauty’s (the main character) great love for books are interfused with the original storyline, making Beauty a unique tale in itself.

Many have read the fairy tale The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm, but it was E.D. Baker who introduced a new take on this classic.  Her recently published series, Tales of the Frog Princess, has Princess Emma and Prince Eadric, the lead characters, change roles and undergo humorous magical adventures.  Written in an easy flowing style, this series contains eight volumes, with the final volume coming soon.

The Once Upon a Time series has been regularly adding new novels to its collection.  The novels are based on unknown or popular fairy tales, as well as on legendary and historical figures.  The books are penned by a variety of writers.  The individual style and imagination of each novelist will benefit any reader.

Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley is a fitting example of a classic, Sleeping Beauty, transformed into a complex work of fiction.  Gail Levine’s six Princess Tales, now collected into one volume entitled The Fairy’s Return and Other Princess Tales, are scintillating and light-hearted spins on well-known tales like Sleeping BeautyThe Princess and the Pea, and Rapunzel.

Sleeping Beauty: The One Who Took the Really Long Nap and Rapunzel: The One with All the Hair are two lesser known novels by Wendy Mass in her Twice Upon a Time series.  Each novel has different perspectives, from two opposite lead characters, which complete a two-sided narrative and outlook on the entire fairy tale.  Both novels are exceptional renditions of their forerunners, for they include a sense of practicality that emphasizes the overall mood.

Kate Coombs took a similar approach in her first book The Runaway Princess.  While not being constructed on any particular fairy tale, many details within the novel, such as the tower in which the heroine is imprisoned, are trademarks from various stories.

Shannon Hale succeeded in her attempt to re-create the fairy tale of The Goose Girl as a novel with the same title which started her series The Books of Bayern.  Marked by the author’s unusual writing style and concepts, the plot of The Goose Girl differs from the original by the addition of in-depth explanations of enigmas and more defined characters.  The story also includes the fascinating element of communicating with animals and nature.  Another noteworthy book by Shannon Hale is The Book of a Thousand Days, which brings an unknown Grimm’s tale into the light while changing the setting and time-frame to a resemblance of ancient Asia.

Princess of the Midnight Ball, with its characters’ German names and seemingly European setting, makes the reader almost believe that it is an intriguing historical novel based on the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses.  Jessica George weaves her version of the tale with magic and, surprisingly, religion which contribute to the overlapping of fantasy and reality.  This novel proves to be a striking interpretation of the storyline that was its inspiration.

It would be impossible to remark upon all novels based on fairy tales, for the list is very long.  These novels should become a separate genre in literature.

Original reviews: Part 1: Innovative versions of classic fairy tales; Part 2: Innovative versions of classic fairy tales, Examiner.com

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