The Power of Fairytale Retellings

Fairytales are all but ubiquitous to our modern culture, thanks to Disney’s princess films. But even with their importance in the cultural landscape—and, let’s face it, their entertainment value—some people look down on fairytales, princess movies, and suchlike. They wonder why fairytales are still relevant when they’re ‘just’ a bunch of fantastical stories that don’t even always have the greatest character development or plot.

So why should we defend and continue to tell fairytales? Well, fairytales have the power to teach important lessons in a way that children can understand—even if it’s only a subconscious understanding at first. Take Beauty and the Beast for instance. This classic tale helps us see that a person’s self, a person’s worth, who they are, is not defined or limited by how they look. What an immensely powerful message, especially for this particular time in human history.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of fairytales (especially if you take into account those from different cultures). Many of them have important truths that can benefit us today. However, there can also be a problem with familiarity: certain fairytales have become quite ‘old hat’ to us these days, lessening their impact.

And that’s where fairytale retellings come in!

Retellings take those dear old stories and turn them upside down, inside out, and generally twist them a thousand different ways to tell a fresh, unique story. Even the retellings that stick close to the original tale—perhaps just with a different setting—can help us see the importance of a certain fairytale’s message in a new light. Take, for instance, Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. She stays faithful to the storyline of different fairytales, but she also makes those stories unique and says quite a bit about racism, ethics, and other important topics.

Fairytale retellings can also ‘fix’ problematic elements in the original stories. No longer does Sleeping Beauty have to be a passive pawn in her own story. Instead, she can boldly face problems head-on—as in the case of Once Upon a Dream by Liz Braswell. Instead of remaining sweetly naive, Snow White can now match her evil stepmother in a battle of wits, and come out the victor (One Bad Apple, Rachel Kovaciny). And what about the sometimes sticky subject of magic (a fairytale element that some Christians dislike)? There are magic-less fairytale retellings out there as well! (All that’s coming to mind is Rachel Kovaciny’s western  fairytale retellings, but there have to be others.)

There is a flavor of fairytale retelling for everyone—Goodreads has several lists worth checking out (both for fairytale retellings and for retellings of specific fairytales). Though reading the original fairytales is a delightful way to spend your reading time (and something too few of us do–myself included!), fairytale retellings can deepen our appreciation for the original fairytale and give us new-ish, wonderful, inspiring, thought-provoking stories to love.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’ve got some book lists to check out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eva-Joy Schonhaar is an aspiring author who has written several novels and hopes to be published some day soon. She’s a Christian fangirl who drinks insane amounts of coffee, thinks that chocolate chip cookies solve pretty much everything, and always uses the Oxford Comma. In her spare time she can be found geeking out over superheroes and reading The Hunger Games for the millionth time.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Fairytale Retellings

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  1. Elisabeth Grace Foley has written a couple non-magical fairy tale retellings! Her “Corral Nocturne” retells Cinderella, “The Mountain of the Wolf” retells Little Red Riding Hood, and “Lost Lake House” retells 12 Dancing Princesses. All without magic, all as historical fiction 🙂

    I’m honored to have gotten mentioned here! Thank you 🙂


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