Guest Post: Fairytale Retellings by Elizabeth Eckhart

BLOG POST    Classic fairytales are named classic for a reason: in a way, they never get old. Hundreds, even thousands of works have been spun from the Grimm Brothers’ collected stories, as well as others. For example, the tale of Sleeping Beauty can be traced back to the 1300’s, when a sleeping maiden first appeared in the romantic tale Perceforest. She emerges again in Giambattista Basile’s 1630s version, Sun, Moon, and Talia as a maiden pierced by poisoned flax, and later in 1696 when Charles Perrault published his Sleeping Beauty - the closest written work to the Disney version many children grew up watching. The Grimm Brothers, of course, also had their turn recreating the princess in 1812 with Dornröschen.  It’s been decades since the release of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, but now we’re seeing a new version once again – this time with the film, Maleficent. Maleficent herself only briefly appeared in early versions of the story as a slighted fairy or evil ogress mother-in-law, but it was Disney that truly brought the fairy to life. It might be hard to believe, but in the animated film, Maleficent speaks 541 words, while the princess Aurora only speaks 263 and sings 141 in one song; in fact, after Aurora learns she is a princess, she doesn’t speak at all.  Maleficent-2014-image-maleficent-2014-36106527-738-1082  One one hand, Disney did an excellent job imagining the spurned fairy Maleficent, on the other hand, their messages about the “good” protagonist, a docile princess who barely even opens her mouth, let alone acts proactively in her own story are perhaps not so great. It is the “evil” Maleficent, who doesn’t understand “love or kindness or the helping of others” — according to the good fairy Fauna — who raises her voice to speak. Anti-feminist, patriarchal themes aside (we all know women are not solely here to provide love, kindness, and help for others) we can at least be thankful that Disney is rectifying their mistake with a fleshed out Maleficent, with both good and bad qualities. Maleficent and Aurora aren’t the only ones who have gotten a second chance at a more fleshed out existence, either. Many books and films have taken previously stereotyped, and, frankly, boring princesses from early tales and transformed them into someone relatable, flawed, and never simply a pawn in their own story. Which is why below, we’ve picked out three revamped fairy tales worth visiting today:  544891  Beastly  This book by Alex Flinn (whose primary skill is putting a modern touch to traditional fairy tales) does two things: first, it’s an excellent retelling of the story of Beauty & the Beast, and second, it forgoes the expected medieval, fairy tale setting in exchange for present day New York City. In this version, the “prince” (a snobby, good looking rich boy) is cursed by the girl behind him in English class. Like the original story, he’s put on a time limit to find true love (two years) and it takes a girl to show him the way to more than skin-deep emotions. Luckily, she’s not nearly as superficial as he is, and since it takes place in NYC, she’s a lot tougher than the original, singing Belle. The book was so well received that it too was turned in a film starring Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer and Mary-Kate Olsen (which is watchable on Amazon, Netflix and DVD).   24337  Ella Enchanted  Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine, is an untraditional approach to the telling of Cinderella. Except, in this version, Ella is obedient because she has been cursed to be so – not because the heroine should be obedient. The severity of the curse is to the point that if Ella were instructed to cut off her own head, she would happily do so. As a result, Ella develops a rebellious nature internally, and we watch as she struggles to find loopholes to avoid the curse, such as specific wording (“could you” or “you should” is not the same as “do this”) and sometimes simply plugging her ears. Other plus sides of this novel are that it does feature a prince, but it’s Ella who saves his life,  using her own wits to end the curse placed upon her. In addition, the book was made into a surprisingly good film rendition starring Anne Hathaway, which is out on DVD or streamable through DirecTV (see website).  MV5BMTQ1NDA0MTk5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTM4NDMwNw@@__V1_SX214_AL_  Snow White and The Huntsman  Many remember the recent film version of Snow White and The Huntsman which was a visually stunning and artistic take on Snow White (it, too can be found through Netflix!). The Raven Queen (Charlize Theron) did an incredible job portraying the evilness and unnatural beauty — she actually sucks the youth out of people, leaving them old, frail and wispy — necessary to play this part. The book is based on the film, which is an interesting change, but adds some necessary depth to the story. In the film, Snow returns as a warrior after a few days and a measly lesson on how to hold a knife properly, but the book carries us through her ruthless training. We also watch as Snow battles with dwarves, trolls, and numerous other attacks not seen in the film version.       
Post by Elizabeth Eckhart. Follow her on Twitter @elizeckhart

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