Top Ten Tuesday: Once Upon a Time…


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Ten Fairytale Retellings I’ve Read/Want To Read (or you could do fairytales I want to be retold or fairytales I love).

There’s a lot to unpack in this topic. Because fairy tales and folk tales are so abundant in popular culture. They’re archetypal, easy to riff on; they show up in obvious places and in ones you don’t expect. So I could easily make this list just the best ten retellings of x fairy tale, or my ten favorite retellings of fairy tales through historical fiction, or my favorite short stories that play with fairy tales, or ten really fucked up fairy tales that need to be reworked right now. (Then you can get down to the nitty gritty of classification: should I include folktales? What about more generalized myth? What about stories from non-Western traditions? What about stories with grounding in religions?)

So what I  settled on in the end is a hodgepodge. These are some of my favorite was fairy tales have been told in popular culture. They aren’t all books. That’s right. We’re going multimedia, today.

180796831. Helen Oyeyemi- Boy, Snow, Bird

I loved this short, utterly transporting novel and the dark character at it’s center.

2. Genevive Valentine- The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

Valentine has an exquisite grasp of language, and while this book sometimes rests on archetypes, it is a fascinating resetting of the 12 Dancing Princesses.

3. Eliza Granville- Gretel and the Dark

A mélange of the more disturbing aspects of fairytales, this two-pronged historical novel doesn’t quite go far enough for me, but it is beautifully written.

4. The Decemberists- The Crane Wife

My favorite Decemberists album ever, The Crane Wife of course does not just contain the titular story, but those songs are the centerpiece and are also perfect. Witness:

5. Marissa Mayer- The Lunar Chronicles

I was dubious when I started reading these sci-fi reworkings of classic fairy tales (to date, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel). There are some sillier elements, but they are on the whole so much fun to read, and the characters are so well developed. There’s a ton of diversity without feeling like tokenism, and the old stories are approached in really interesting ways.

79452956. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer

This is an anthology of a number of literary authors writing fairy tales inspired by a wide range of traditional stories from across the globe. The design inspires me as much as the stories, honestly.

7. Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Frozen is big, I know, but anyone who thinks it’s a unique phenomenon needs to travel to my house circa 1990, when I was five years old and The Little Mermaid was the greatest thing in the world. Every bookworm wants to be Belle, but in my secret heart I longed to be Ariel. Watching the movie when I’m older I’m able to see it’s problematic aspects (and one of my main takeaways now is, damn, teens are annoying), but it was the kickoff of the Disney animation Renaissance for a reason.

8. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

My other favorite Disney animated fairy tale is Sleeping Beauty, mainly from a design and animation standpoint, because it is just such a gorgeous film. I haven’t watched Maleficent and I probably won’t, because I don’t want to ruin my experience of the greatest Disney villain of all time with a thinly veiled rape plot.

9. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya- There Once Was a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales

A collection of haunting, disturbing, altogether weird little stories.

10. “The Handless Maiden

This weird fairy tale is one of the more disturbing ones out there, and it’s also my all-time favorite. It’s a morality tale which should be boring; the central figure is entirely without agency as her father tries to sell her, cuts off her hands, and then completely abandons her. She’s so saintly that her pure tears inspire an angel to regrow her hands. At the outset it seems not-very-interesting beyond the initial violence of its premise, yet there’s something about it that haunts me, and calls for riffing and retelling in different forms.

tl; dr: I really, really love me some fairy tales. What are your favorites?



Filed under Book Talk

3 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Once Upon a Time…

  1. I will never not get a thrill whenever someone mentions lesser known fairytales among their favourites. ❤

    I have a massive soft spot for The Goose Girl, but some of my all-time favourites is probably The Two Brothers and The Hut in the Forest.

    Ask me tomorrow and they’ll be The Three Little Men in the Wood and One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes. Maybe. They could be others. I have a lot of favourites depending on when you ask and what pops up first.

  2. So glad to see another person with The Girls at the Kingfisher Club on their list. 🙂 Great post!

  3. My god, I haven’t listened to The Crane Wife in years. Croon it, Colin. Naturally, I had no idea it was based on a fairy tale! Thanks for teaching me something new.

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