Classic fairy tales vs. re-told tales

Hi everyone, welcome to this week’s discussion post. Having read quite a number of fairy tales over my years I recently found that there are those catalogued as re-told fairy tales or with the label ‘fractured’ or ‘adapted’ along with them. So I thought, why not read a few and see how they compare with the originals, well, the ones I remember anyway…

Let’s begin with a couple of contemporary re-tellings for tweens. 

cover image of girl in middle with bright light coming from her middle. yellow background with shapes of flying birds around her. green letters in middle reads Nightingale's Nest.
An enchanting read

I’d read Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin a few years ago and found it a mesmerizing read. Inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Nightingale, this lovely story takes the reader into the life of twelve-year-old Fischer Jr., or ‘Little John’ as he’s known, as he spends his summer helping his father with his tree removal business. In this version it’s Little John who hears the melody of what he thinks is a bird but discovers a young girl named Gayle singing from atop a sycamore tree in the woods. It turns out Gayle’s magical voice has the ability to heal. As it helps Little John heal from the loss of his sister’s death, Gayle’s singing catches the attention of Mr King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, and this leads to an unforgettable poignant story of courage and magic. As contemporary versions go, I found this one a beautiful read!! Loftin does a remarkable job in tying together the fantasy elements from the fairy tale and blending it into the modern world. 

cover image of orange fish in green water. blue bubble above fish reads The Seventh Wish in blue letters and hook holding it through hole. Kate Messner in green along edge.
A captivating story

The next one I found, The seventh wish by Kate Messner re-tells the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, The fisherman and his wife. I think this was one of the first few stories by Kate Messner I’d read. This particular story is about a young girl, Charlie Brennan, and how her world turns upside down when she’s granted wishes from a talking fish. She thought having her wishes granted would help her but a family crisis brings reality into sharp focus. Charlie soon realises the real-world doesn’t keep fairy-tale promises and that life’s toughest challenges can’t be fixed by a simple wish. When it comes to Kate Messner you’ll find that her books have a tendency to tug at your heartstrings. Despite the parallel with the fairy tale, the themes of addiction that are expertly addressed in this story makes it an appropriate one for the world we live in now. 

I’m sure there are others out there, but from these two what I figured was that the authors have found a way in blending current issues into the storyline of the original fairy tale in a way that anyone can relate to. I suppose this was one of the reasons why I would have wanted to read them. 

The next few titles are written as a fantasy read but with characters who we might find in a modern era. Let’s see if you agree with me on this…

cover image of girl in blue dress with bright white moon behind her. dark silhouettes of swans flying behind her. white letters across top reads The Flight of Swans.
A fascinating re-telling

My first title is one I found quite recently titled The flight of swans by Sarah McGuire. I have an early memory of reading the Brothers Grimm tale The Six Swans and I found myself captivated by this version. In this book we journey with Princess Andaryn – affectionately called Ryn – as she attempts to elude the evil forces the new Queen sends after her. As time goes by Ryn learns there is more to courage than speech, and that she is stronger than the Queen could ever have imagined. I really enjoyed this tale as it focuses more on the strength and courage of the young princess as she battles to keep her family safe. McGuire’s awesome storytelling and description brings these timeless characters to life with charm and wit. 

girl in green dress with brown drape behind her. moon and night sky peeking from bottom right edge. yellow cursive letters above her reads Ella Enchanted.
Award-winning fantasy read

This next one needs no introduction in my opinion. If you hadn’t read it, I’m pretty sure you would have watched the movie adaptation! Newberry Honor recipient, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, is one of those ‘re-imagined’ classic tales that still continue to gather fans and accolades. Based on the beloved folk-tale Cinderella, this read deviates slightly from the one we’re used to and includes a few ogres, giants, gnomes and several quests that our young heroine Ella has to endure with the help of some unlikely friends. And, in a twist, it’s the prince who needs rescuing in the end!! Until reading this book, I didn’t realise you could play with fairy tales like this!! Fantasy stories that twist fairy tales along a long journey with a pinch of humour have always been a favourite of mine. 

cover image of two kids, boy and girl, looking towards castle with oval shape around them. blue background behind shape. white letters across reads Rump.
An engaging read

This last one is another one I picked up recently. Rump – The (Fairly) True Tale of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtlift, is part of a series set in a magical kingdom with some (fairly) true tales! We meet a twelve-year-old Rump in this story who is the butt of everyone’s joke. He finds an old spinning wheel and his luck seems to change but his best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous. What follows is a perilous quest that Rump must take to break the spell while fighting off pixies, poison apples and a foolish queen. I actually found this version quite interesting as it gave a bit of an insight into the life and struggles of a young boy faced with an uncertain future compared to the weird man we meet in the original tale. Shurtliff has done an awesome job in taking us into this fantasy world of fairy tale characters and the inclusion of Red Riding Hood made me think her story could be intertwined into this one!!

Well, there you have my selections and my thoughts. All of the characters in these titles seem to be much stronger, more courageous and even better looking than how I imagined those from the tales I’d grown up reading. The fact that our authors have made them all either tweens or young adults make me wonder if it’s so that younger readers would pick it up. Do you suppose our young readers today would enjoy these tales as the protagonists are created similar to kids today? Would you agree with me on this?? I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you have any other titles for me to try! 

Stay safe and keep reading

Miss Mahee

five-grid box. top left image of orange fish in green background with blue bubble above it and blue letters reading The Seventh Wish. top right small image of girl holding out arms bright light in middle. yellow background and green letters reading Nightingale's Nest. large image on bottom right of young girl in green dress. brown background with moon and night sky in bottom right corner. cursive letters above girl reads Ella Enchanted. small images along left edge. bottom left image of two kids looking towards castle. white letters across reads Rump. middle image of young girl in blue dress with white moon behind her. silhouette of swans above and white letters reads The Flight of swans.
Fantasy tales

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