Thursday, September 3, 2009

ASH Celebration: Guest Blog - Fairy Tale Retellings by Heather Zundel

Heather Zundel is an aspiring author and the mastermind behind the writing blog The Secret Adventures of Writer Girl, which, besides for being an awesome name, is also a beautiful, well-written, and irreverent blog. A couple weeks ago she did a whole series on fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, and since ASH is a loose retelling of Cinderella, I asked her to write a guest blog for this ASH Celebration. Enjoy!

The Enchantment Behind Fairy Tales

I love fairy tales. I still have my first books of fairy tales my mother read to me, though because they are paperbacks, they've suffered a bit from my irreverent baby hands (and spit. Lots of spit). :)

They are very hopeful things, fairy tales. Now that may sound like an odd thing to say, considering that in "The Goose Girl" the impostor princess is put in a barrel spiked with nails and dragged through the streets until she is dead. The stepsisters cut off their heels to fit into the glass slipper in "Cinderella." And then birds peck out their eyes in the end. (Bet you haven't heard that version before). "Hansel and Gretel," anyone? Stepmother wants to murder them and the witch gets cooked in an oven? It really makes you wonder why we love these things after all.

But no matter how bad it is, no matter the odds piled against them, the characters of these stories always triumph. That is the one guarantee in fairy tales, even more than "happily ever after" (very few fairy tales actually end with those words, if you can believe it). For the characters that tried so hard and gave their absolute all, all turns out right for them in the end.

Modern retellings are an extension of this, I believe. No matter what we try, we cannot get over the enchantment, the hope that came when we read fairy tales. They are a new branch on a living tree, one that never died because it has been growing since the time when stories were first told. Fairy tales were never meant to be set in stone. They were oral tales, told with family and friends by a fire. They adapted and changed, pieces taken out and in. They were living things. Retellings are only another testament that this is still true today.

But you will see they follow distinct rules of society. They adapt to what people need/want to hear. Take the gamut of Disney. Do you think there is a reason Snow White of 1937 doesn't appeal to modern audiences as much as something like Mulan (1998), Beauty and the Beast (1991), or even Lilo and Stitch (2002)? Lilo and Stitch might be a very good example to go off of. Nani is the older sister of Lilo, but takes care of her like a mother. Not something you would see in typical medieval or even pre-1960 material. But it contains many of the same elements of a fairy tale, and still rings true with a fairy tale in many respects. And who says new fairy tales can't be invented? I could easily argue many already have, in the form of various fantasy novels you may have read.

There are a ton of retellings, all dealing with a new angle that is pertinent to the time that it was created. When Snow White was created, there was a certain ideal of how she looked and how she should act. That is very different than today. Nowadays you will hardly see a weak or frail princess among the lot. They have evolved as our perceptions have changed. And so the stories change to fill this new need. Because we do need these fictional metaphors, just much today as they did then. And the stories will continue to evolve, because they are living things, not stagnant and certainly not dead. Will the fairy tales in the future differ from those being written today? Most definitely.

But I believe we often miss what the core of fairy tales are. They are something very special, which I believe extends to all stories of the fantastic. They help us remember. Remember to hope in the impossible and have a delight in the unknown. They teach us to search our minds. In fact, you can even say they guide our first steps to discovering our own imagination. One of my absolute favorite quotes comes from an old time relic by the name of Chesterton. I think he says it more perfectly than I ever could.
"These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water."
"The Ethics of Elfland," Ordthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton.

And I believe this also has a lot to do in the context in which we heard them. They were our first stories. In them they hold memories - memories of family, and safety, and a beautiful time, perhaps one of the most beautiful because of our innocence as children. It's not just the stories, the "happily ever after" we always hear, but that perfect time we were living when we heard them. I think that is often a forgotten part of why we love them. Besides helping us remember our own world, and the majesty it once held to simply see a sunrise, they also help us remember ourselves.


Thank you, Heather, for so eloquently revealing a truth about ourselves to all of us. I completely agree with what she's saying. Fairy tales are eternally appealing because of what they represent: youth, imagination, hope, triumph in the face of adversity. That's why I think that ASH is not merely a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, but a tale that makes us all reconnect with our desire to simply be loved as we are.

For more information about and links to the ASH Celebration Giveaway, click HERE.

For one entry into the ASH giveaway: Do you like fairy tales and/or fairy tale retellings? Why or why not? What is your favorite fairy tale, and why? What is your favorite fairy tale retelling, and why?


  1. I love fairy tale re-tellings. I think it just boils down to the Happily Ever After. Real life is big on sucker punches even when you're already down, and it's great to read a story that promises it'll turn out ok in the end as long as you don't give up hope.

    My favorite fairy tale retelling is probably Robin McKinley's Beauty because I really enjoyed watching her grow up and could relate to her love of books.

  2. I actually have not read any fairy tale re-tellings, which is why I'm really looking forward to Ash. I love fairy tales, especially Beauty and the Beast, love that story!

  3. My favorite fairy tale when I was young was The little Mermaid! I also loved THe last Unicorn.

    I think my favorite *remake* is EverAfter with Drew Barymore.

    I always love happy endings =)

  4. I've always enjoyed Cinderella. It's such feel-good story!
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

  5. I like fair tale retellings, but as a kid I really didn't like fairy tales. It always seemed like they piled on the agony for agony's sake. But I was an odd kid I guess. I didn't like the Hobbit, didn't like Alice, loathed the Ice Queen... and learned to love them all when I grew older.

  6. I like fairy tale retellings when they're done in a completely new way. Otherwise they drag because I already know what's going to happen. Favorite retelling is Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier which combines 12 dancing princesses and The Frog Prince.

    jillkt13 at yahoo dot com

  7. I absolutely love fairy tale- retellings! I love getting someone elses takes on the mystical worlds of fairy tales. And I'm a sucker for any mystical adventure. :)

    My favorite retelling is Beastly by Alex Flinn, but I have a couple of promising fairy tale retellings I want to read (including Ash), so ask me that in a few months and you may have a different answer! :)


  8. I certainly used to like fairy tales. Now I'm a bit more interested in their sociological value! (e.g., what they reveal about attitudes toward women). One of my favorite fairy tales was The Little Mermaid. I liked the tail/legs transformation. It was sort of reminiscent of The Ugly Duckling/Swan thing, which I was assured would happen to me one day! (still waiting....) Favorite retelling? Can't think of one offhand, but the idea of a lesbian Cinderella seems wonderful. Please enter me!

    nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

  9. I love fairy tales! One of my favorites is Snow White. My fave retelling is Ever After (a movie...I dont think I have ever read a retelling in book form)
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  10. Great -- and thought-provoking -- post! I do love fairytales and enjoy fairytale retellings, though I haven't read too many of them. I agree with Heather -- they're our first stories, and I continue to find comfort and joy in them because they remind me of my childhood!

    My favorite fairytale is probably The Little Mermaid -- not the Disney version, but Hans Christian Anderson's story. I remember seeing it in book form as a kid and it made a HUGE impression on me! I can still remember the art now.

    My favorite retelling is probably Gregory Maguire's Wicked -- the novel and the musical, which is fabulous.

  11. I love the idea of Happy Ever After, so of course I love fairy tales! And I'm starting to like the idea of fairy tale re-tellings. I love to see different spins on an old fairy tale, or take it a step further, like for example.. the miniseries Tin Man. I loved it, and I love their play on the Wizard of Oz story. And I love to read books where the author has taken a classic fairly tale, and made it fit into the modern world.

  12. I love fairy tale retellings that are well written like Shannon Hale's Goose Girl. It's one of my fave books.

    My fave fairy tale would be Sleeping Beauty because I loved the songs in that movie.

    I also LOVE Enchanted! Funny movie!
    Patrick Dempsey was hot in that.

    bunnybx at gmail . com

  13. I like the oral retelling of fairy tales, I guess because I can remember my dad telling the the 3 Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood with my brother and sister when I was little. I think my favorite re-telling is "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs". I really like what changing the perspective does to the reality of the story!

  14. Oops! I forgot to mention that Reading in Color sent me over!

  15. I do like Fairy Tales, my favorite is The Baeuty and the Beast, and my favorite retelling is Beastly by Alex Flinn (big surprise)
    I really like fairy tales, because they are magical stories that make you imagine, they are great!!


  16. I adore fairy tales and fairy tale retelling. There's just a bit of magic with fairy tales, and their retelling should capture that magic and apply it in a modern context. Those are the types of retelling I like best.

    My favourite fairy tale is probably Beauty and the Beast -- which is probably the first paranormal romance with a shape shifter I've read XD

    As for my favourite retelling, it would be a tie between Juliet Marillier's "Wildwood Dancing" and Catherynne Valente's "The Orphan's Tale" duology. Both captures the spirit of tales and both are littered with strong females!

  17. I do like them as long as they change it up a bit and don't just retell the same story that I already know.

    My favourite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast. I've just always loved it ever since I can remember.


  18. I've always loved fairy tales; I took a children's lit class in university just to read them and get graded on it! I also enjoy fairy tale retellings - times have changed so changing the story to meet modern expectations while maintaining the beloved story makes sense to me.

    My favourite fairy tale is Cinderella. I've always loved the glass slipper, fairy godmother, and who doesn't love Gus?

    melacan at hotmail dot com

  19. I've never read any YA fairytale retellings, but when I was little I read all the Cinderella retellings, but only the ones with multicultural characters (Domitila, Jouanah: a Hmong Cinderella, Cendrillon: a Caribbean Cinderella, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, A Persian Cinderella and so many more!)
    I need to read more YA fairy-tale retellings, so Ash is a great way to start!

  20. Oh and just saying: I'm really glad Disney is finally getting a Black princess, (even though she's a frog for most of the movie and it took them a long, long time =/). Now if we could just get them to do more fairytale movies with other people of colr characters (Mulan & Pochaontas are both my favs as well as Anastatia)!

  21. I love fairy tales and my Mom does too. I guess they remind me a lot of my childhood and brighten my soul as well as my life. No matter how I tell myself life is not a fairy tale, I keep dreaming of miracles and happy endings.

    And I love fairy tale retelling too. I'm always excited about these. What could be more compelling than a story based on something you've loved for a long time but with a different background and a very refreshing view? It proves that the thing you read when you were a child doesn't only happy in the love picture books but in real life too.

    My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the beast because it's dark and different from others. The female character is strong (somehow) and the prince isn't a charming one who rides white horse. Their relationship grows well and feels true.

    I've only read two retellings so far and my favorite is Crazy Beautiful. Also, I don't know if it counts but I love Enchanted the movie :)

  22. I do love fairy tale retellings especially Shannon Hales's books! She is awesome.

  23. I feel very sorry for anyone who does not have happy memories of reading or having fairy tales read to them when they were young.

    This is our introduction to the magic of words and it is really only those who cannot remember fairy tales who never become readers.

    Life can be cruel and depressing at times and fairt tales help us to forget and relax.

    A favourite fairy tale ? I don't really know, I suppose it depends on how I am feeling at the time.

    Re-tellings are done all the time and if one has a clever and talented author, they can be very satisfying.

    The ASH giveaway is really a fantastic opportunity and I shall enter as many times as I can.



    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  24. I adore fairy tales! I remember when I was a kid, there was this gorgeously illustrated Disney Fairy Tale book which was really expensive and I cried for an hour in the mall until my Dad bought it for me (I know, what a brat right? In my defence, I was 6 or 7 and I still have the book in pristine condition!)

    It's impossible to pick my favourite fairy tale so I'll go with the top 3: Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Cinderella (always wanted a Fairy Godmother after that). There's also Phantagarow (sp?) which is awesome :)

    Not sure if this counts as "retelling" but Shrek 1 (the best), 2 (not bad) and 3 (okay) and Ever After with Drew Barrymore.

  25. I love fairytales. Who wouldn't, they always end happy. Everyone needs a happy ending. I don't mind fairytale retellings if, like any other story, it's well done. I don't fairytales so dear that I'm bothered if they really change the story - just do a good job of it. My favorite fairytale is Cinderella. It's just the magical one for me. The idea you could have a fairy godmother that could help you in a bad siuation is the best! I also like some of the retellings that show a girl doesn't need the prince to come in and save her. Those are always fun.

  26. I haven't really read any fairy tale re-tellings. That is why I totally want Ash. But I do love reading fairy tales because they totally remind me of growing up and childhood when things were somewhat more simple. When I think of fairy tales I can't help but think of Disney (I heart disney movies and dland). I think my fave would have to be The Little Mermaid because I have always been fasinated with mermaids and their ability to sing and swim in the ocean (two things I'm not at all good at). Oh, and I enjoyed watching Ever After because it just seemed so different from the disney version.


  27. I like fairy tales/fairy tale retellings if they're written well and truly have a sense of magic to them. My favorite fairy tale is probably Beauty and the Beast -- it's a great love story, with a relationship that grows and develops. My favorite fairy tale retelling would probably be Beauty by Robin McKinley -- it's a beautiful, well-written story.

    bcanyon at hotmail dot com

  28. I love fairy tales! It's the stuff of wonder for my childhood days. I can't tell you how many times I watched those Disney movies just so I could imagine myself in them and be able to experience magical things and find a handsome prince of my own.

    Choosing just one fairy tale is so hard! I love so many of them. Beauty and the Beast is always a favorite, Sleeping Beauty, Taketori Monogatari (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter), are always a hit with me. So far, I loved Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl retelling. It was fantastic!

  29. I like fairy tales, just because they remind me of when I was little. My favorite fairy tale is probably Sleeping Beauty. I lvoe the fairy godmothers and the singing. :) I don't believe I've ever read a fairy retelling, so I'm looking forward to one.


  30. I like fairy tales and the retellings I love how everything has more than one side, I feel inlove with the "True Story of the Three Little Pigs" By Jon Scieszka in Grade four, and I loved the other side of that world ever since

  31. I love fairy tales. Sometimes we just need that little escapade from bitter reality to keep us sane.
    My favourite fairy tale was Beauty and the Beast--it was poignant and went deeper than just the exterior of the characters. And for favourite fairy tale retelling...I would say Beastly by Alex Flinn. The modern adjustment of my favourite fairy tale was amazingly well done.

  32. I LOVE fairy tales!! Especially, Cinderella, of course (who doesn't??:)) simply because.. well, it makes you believe in happily ever afters:D Although I'm really embarrassed to say this but I have never read any fairy tale retelling, even one, which is why I'd like Ash to be my first!

  33. I ove fairy-tales, they were huge part of my childhood in the way of reading them and playing games surrounding them. I also love the re-tellings because then I get to have fairy-tales in my teenage life too.

  34. My all time favorite fairy tail is snow white I alway watched it even as a teeneger !!!!
    I love retelling fairy tail becuse you get something new !!



  35. I love fairy tales and fairy retellings. Its a chance for me to escape this stressful world and also it lifts my spirit when I'm down.

    My favorite fairy tell would have to be Beauty and the Beast. I'm not really sure, but I loved how Belle got to know the beast before judging him.

    I don't really have a favorite retelling because I practically like them all.


  36. I like fairy tales and retellings because they are so rich in history. I like that they were once gorey and gruesome but have been softened and mellowed out with time to appeal to children instead of to frighten them. I like them because it's fun to draw parallels between them and reality, and because they are still and will always be rellavent.

    My favorite fairy tale is definitely Beauty and the Beast. I love the whole beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and love concurs all thing. Plus, Bell was the first Disney Princess I thought that I could look up to because she wasn't just pretty, she was smart and self sacrificing.

    My favorite retelling is East by Edith Pattou. It's a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I love the White Bear because he's like the Beast, and Rose was a really brave character. She valued her family as much as I do.

    zombiegirrrl21 at aol dot com

  37. I love Fairy Tales...the magical aspect of it and the romance is just too much :) heart!!

    I don't have a favorite Fairy Tale, I love any by the Brother's Grimm, ooh I loved Ash, that counts as a retelling right :)

    Wdebo :)

  38. I love fairy tales, now the remind me about the time when I and my brother spent all the afternoon watching Sleeping beauty or cinderella.
    And I love fairy tale retellings too, every author has a new twist to put on the plot or the characters. For instance, Ash, that changes the prince for a princess =)

    My favourite fairy tale is The Beauty and the Beast, I know every song of the Disney's movie! And I love the retelling of this fairy tale by Alex Finn in Beastly!

  39. I love fairy tales and folklore, but I find that I need to take them in small doses. Too much fairy tale logic grates on me.

    That's why I love fairy tale retellings even more. The authors smooth out the logic and add in the motivation in such a way that the old stories come to life. I get a real kick out of it. My current favourite retelling is BEAUTY by Robin McKinley, which I felt captured the spirit of the original story while providing a more concrete emotional foundation for the characters.

  40. I enjoy fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. I came across one a few years ago. It was interesting to see what details were added in and changed. When done well, they are very interesting reads!

    Ash sounds like a particularly fun retelling and revision of Cinderella.

    gaby317nyc at gmail dot com

  41. I love fairytale retellings, but not so much fairytales (I'm just a big cynic who can't help seeing fairytales through the cultural criticism magnifying glass). Retellings let you push against the boundaries and set right some of the injustices that occured in the original fairytales. My favourite kind are probably less retellings and more original stories that feature a composite of many fairytales ('Into the Wild' and 'The Seventh Kingdom' being a couple of my favourites).

  42. I love fairytale retellings, but not so much fairytales (I'm just a big cynic who can't help seeing fairytales through the cultural criticism magnifying glass). Retellings let you push against the boundaries and set right some of the injustices that occured in the original fairytales. My favourite kind are probably less retellings and more original stories that feature a composite of many fairytales ('Into the Wild' and 'The Seventh Kingdom' being a couple of my favourites).

  43. Yes, I love fairy tales and retellings because they are all about happy endings! I love Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff because it was the same story as the original and she looked just like the fairy tale Cinderella when she goes to the costume dance!
    believedreamcourage (at)

  44. I think the monthly feature on showcasing covers of debut authors is a very good idea!!

  45. I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. Especially the retellings--they can take the usual damsel-in-distress plot and turn it on its head. My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast. I'm not sure why--I'm always trying to puzzle it out, figure out the "key" to the story, and most of all--figure out if there's a way to tell it with the genders reversed!

    My favorite retelling? I can't pick just one! Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, Ella Enchanted, Beauty by Robin McKinley... and how could I forget A Curse Dark as Gold!


  46. First, I disagree that fairytale endings always end happily! What about the original Little Mermaid? Or the original most-of-Hans-Christian-Anderson stories?

    Having said that, I love fairytales too. My favourite Disney fairytale is Beauty and the Beast, no question. I think I love it above others because, apart from the romance and singing and awesome characters, Belle and the Beast *fell in love* rather than some unrealistic love-at-first-sight like so many Disney things. They disliked each other, then over time became friends and then gradually fell in love. OK, all over the course of a few days, but still - to me that's romance. Plus, the Beast was always a bad boy reformed for the sake of his one true love, and what's sexier than that? ;)

    My favourite retold fairytale is probably Daughter of the forest by Juliet Marillier, retelling the story of the Six Swan Brothers. That story has so much complexity and depth in it; so much tragedy and love and passion. I reread it recently and cried three or four times just while reading it, because I got so caught up in the characters' lives! *sighs* Now THAT's a good book.

    I also love Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, which seems loosely based on the five dancing daughters (not sure what that fairytale's called). And I also really want to read Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, another retold fairytale!

    Summary: Retold fairytales are just the best ever. :)

  47. This comment has been removed by the author.

  48. I love fairy tales cause, well, they're so fun and they make you want to believe in true love! All my friends know that I'm a hopeless romantic. LOL. My favorite would have to be Beauty and the Beast. A beautiful girl falling in love w/ a 'beast'? You can't get more romantic than that! As for fairy tale retellings, I can't say that I've ever read one but I do think they'll be just as fun to read!


  49. I'll admit I do like fairy tales, because I really like the endings of them. Usually they're unexpected and I like that about them, the surprise ending! I don't know if I have a favorite fairy tale but I remember loving The Little Mermaid when I was a kid. I love watching retellings of Cinderella, because they're always so unique and its awesome seeing what the people come up with!

    infinitemusic19 at gmail dot com

  50. Do you like fairy tales and/or fairy tale retellings? Why or why not? What is your favorite fairy tale, and why? What is your favorite fairy tale retelling, and why? - I love fairy tales and fairy tale re-tellings! I've always been enchanted by fairy tales, and I love twists on old ideas, so it's only logical that I love fairy tale re-tellings! I think my favorite fairy tale is The Little Mermaid... if only for the mermaid. My favorite fairy tale re-telling is Ella Enchanted (not the movie, which was butchered.) Because it's awesome.

    paradoxrevealed (at) aim (dot) com

  51. I looooooove fairy tale retellings, simply because I looooooove fairy tales! I'm a disney girl at heart, I've been watching their movies ever since I can remember.
    My favorite one, hands down, is Snow White, because I fell connected to her (we both have very fair complexion and dark hair, and are sort of loners, and I still have my hopes up to find my prince charming LOL).
    As for my favorite retelling, I haven't read that many, but I do love If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince?, by Melissa Kantor. It's such a fun and light book, and I love the way Lucy (the main character) kept finding similarities between Cinderella and herself

    juiceb0xx at hotmail dot com

  52. Do you like fairy tales and/or fairy tale retellings? I LOVE fairy tales because they are so magical and usually always involve romance, too. I also love how they are so fictional yet can feel almost real. But I've never read a fairy tale retelling. What is your favorite fairy tale? I'm in love with Sleeping Beauty!



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