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BOOK LIST: Helen Lowe's Favourite Fairy Tale Retellings

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I recently read & loved Helen Lowe's gorgeous retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, which is called 'Thornspell'. It's been added to my list of all-time favourite fairy tale retellings.

As I'm always on the hunt for new and beautiful books in this genre, I thought I'd ask Helen to list her favourites for me: 




A Few Of My Favourite Fairytale Retellings
by Helen Lowe

I have always loved fairytales, and it may come as no surprise – given that Thornspell is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the prince – that Sleeping Beauty was always my 'favourite" when I was a kid. 

Later, Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid probably ran it a close second as my 'favourite" fairytale, and I was always remarkably fond of Snow White and Cinderella. 

When it comes to retellings, however, I was already an adult before I discovered Robin McKinley's Beauty ("Beauty and The Beast"), which has the distinction of being a "first" for fairytale retellings and therefore a firm favourite – although her Deerskin (adapting the traditional "Donekeyskin") is also a powerful and compelling read. 




Another longstanding favourite is Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's "Godmother" series: The Godmother, The Godmother's Apprentice, and The Godmother's Web.  The first novel draws on an array of fairytales, including Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel and Gretel, to name just a few, while the second and third books delve more specifically into Celtic and Amerindian tales. Wonderful reads: I thoroughly recommend them.

Another tale that draws on an array of fairytales is Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing, and the primary tale is another longstanding favourite, "The Twelve Dancing Princesses."



Other more recently enjoyed reads include Malinda Lo's Ash (Cinderella) and Grace Lin's Where The Mountains Meets The Moon, which draws on Chinese folklore in a Junior fiction retelling. Alan Garner's The Owl Service is an eerie retelling of the Celtic fairytale / myth of Blodeuwedd from the Mabinogion – but I suspect Maggie Stiefvater may be drawing on the same tale for part of her new The Raven Boys series, which I'm also very much enjoying. (Although it's yet to be completed so I may be proven completely wrong regarding Blodeuwedd!) I have also always loved Diana Wynne HJones'retelling of the story of Brunnhilde and Siegfried in Eight Days of Luke.




Perhaps I am interpreting "fairytale" too broadly here since both the Mabinogion and the tale of Brunnhilde and Siegfired may be counted as myth – but if so it is the same blending that infuses Thornspell, where I have worked the Arthurian cycle into the fairytale retelling. In much the same way, I may add, as fairytale and history are blended in Bitter Greens



But stepping away from novels briefly, I very much enjoyed Juliet Marillier's short story By Bonelight (published last year in the collection Prickle Moon), a retelling of the Russian Baba Yaga fairytale that has recently won both the Aurealis and Sir Julius Vogel Awards. And when it comes to film, I can't go past Ever After – my "best ever" retelling of Cinderella.


Thanks, Helen! I love many of these too, and have added a few new titles to my must-read-soon list!

And I've just updated my list of FAVOURITE FAIRY TALE RETELLINGS - check them out!


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