I’ve been a fan of Garth Nix for a long time, as you may know if you’ve followed my Old Kingdom ramblings on this blog for a while. However, I was a little disappointed by one of his more recent children’s offerings, Newt’s Emerald, and only picked up his latest, Frogkisser!, with some trepidation. I needn’t have worried. Frogkisser! ended up being a humorous, sometimes-satirical take on The Frog Prince, and had all of my favorite things — badass women of color, a rambunctious talking puppy, and absolutely zero romance for the fairy tale princess. But surprisingly, unlike other revisionist fairy tales, it reclaims some of the spirit of the original fairy tale, while subverting some, though not all, of what we believe The Frog Prince to be about today.
One of the things that I loved most about the Tyme series, which is a revisionist retelling of several fairy tales, is its depiction of fairy godmothers. In many traditional fairy tales, the fairy godmother is not particularly expanded upon; she’s simply a deus ex machina to get the protagonist from one place to the other. In the Tyme series’s retelling of Cinderella, it takes the concept of fairy godmother and builds on it in both a worldbuilding and a moral way.
After a long couple months of YA books that I couldn’t wholly get behind, I went back to the library to return them and then just wandered the aisles for a while. I didn’t have any other recommendations from friends or websites, so I ended up in the children’s section, picking out, somewhat at random, what looked like a fairy tale adventure with a Black protagonist. The back cover told me it was the second in a series, so I grabbed the first book, as well, and went home to see if they were any good. As it turns out, they were incredible. Not only are they some of the best revisionist fairy tales I’ve read, the book I picked up, Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella, was also centered on social justice and the ills of child labor. Did I mention I found this in the children’s section?
Minor spoilers to follow!
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer may not have caused as much public excitement as some of the other female-led sci-fi/dystopian YA series of the past several years, but it doesn’t mean it’s less deserving of our attention. In fact, it’s a very solid series, led by a team of awesome kickass teen heroines. The plot is engrossing and action-packed and has an intriguing twist to boot—the main four books of the series offer loose, but still recognizable, retellings of four well-known fairy tales: Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty.
Spoilers below for Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter (the main four books of The Lunar Chronicles).
One of the dismaying parts about writing for this column is that you often discover that a thing you really liked a long time ago is super problematic when you revisit it. For example, the last time I reread a Robin McKinley book (The Blue Sword) for a Throwback Thursday, I realized that it’s a dead ringer for the Mighty Whitey trope. Of all of McKinley’s books, Spindle’s End was always one of my favorites, so it was with some trepidation that I picked it up to read it again after several years.
To my great relief, I discovered that, in leaving the world of Damar behind for a different fantasy country, McKinley left her troubling racial tropes behind as well, instead weaving a fairy tale retelling that focuses on the importance of the bonds between several very different women.
Spoilers for a sixteen-year old book after the jump!
I’ve been pretty stressed out recently, so whenever I get a chance, I like to just conk out in front of the TV and relax a little. However, on one of these mindless couch potato outings, my cat decided to curl up on my lap and go to sleep at about the same time the movie on TV ended. This is generally a more than welcome occurrence, but the next movie that came on was… the movie version of Ella Enchanted. I looked around. The remote was out of reach.
Since I obviously couldn’t push my cat off my lap, I ended up, to my immense regret, sitting through most of the movie. Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted was one of my favorite books as a kid (and still is today, if we’re being honest). To get the bad taste of the movie out of my mouth, I immediately went to reread my old copy, and I started thinking about why I loved it so much. It’s obviously a revisionist fairy tale, like the many other takes on Cinderella there have been throughout the ages, and what I really admired about this particular take on Cinderella was its worldbuilding. Unlike Maleficient, which didn’t exactly succeed in adding magic to its story, Ella Enchanted added magic to its story in a way that subverted tropes and enhanced its plot and characters.
A while ago, I wrote a Magical Mondays post on inserting magic into previously magic-less narratives. The example in that post—Sleeping Beauty—didn’t do so well with integrating magic into its story, but other tales have fared better. One such story is Catherynne Valente’s Deathless, a novel that is both a revisionist fairy tale and a case of adding magic (successfully!) to historical fiction. Though there are some mature themes to it (rape, war and its aftereffects), it’s a novel well worth reading and analyzing.
Spoilers after the jump!
It’s been a busy week, so by the time I realized I was meant to be writing this post, I didn’t have much time to revisit some old fave. A quick scan of my bookshelf—well, one of them—offered a solution in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, a collection of short stories by Vivian Vande Velde that I hadn’t read through in ages. Originally published in 2002, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem comprises six different re-tellings of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, each from a different perspective.
You’ve all seen Shrek, right? Stars an ogre and a talking donkey on their quest to parody some fairy tale tropes? The princess of those movies, Princess Fiona, is cursed to be a human by day and an ogre by night, and only love’s true kiss will make her take “love’s true form”. At the end, she takes the form of the ogre rather than the more stereotypically beautiful human, and it’s because of this that Fiona is thought of as a positive, feminist example of the modern-day princess. But in fact, Fiona is not as subversive or as effective a character as you might think.
Spoilers for all the Shrek movies below.
Huzzah, Maleficent is finally here! Ace wrote about this project back in November, which seems like a long time ago, but one could say this movie has been in the making much longer than that. The awe-inspiring “Mistress of All Evil” hails from Walt Disney’s 1959 film Sleeping Beauty. This means that for fifty-five years she has managed to captivate the imagination and fascination of viewers everywhere, culminating in this 2014 blockbuster starring one of Hollywood’s most famous actresses. Now, the wicked fairy has been a staple of original Sleeping Beauty-esque myths since their centuries-old origins; originally she is nameless, later she’s occasionally known as Carabosse, before making her unforgettable debut as Maleficent in Disney’s version of the tale. Maleficent’s unique aesthetics and commanding voice have made her sinister presence singularly stand out among many Disney villains, and Angelina Jolie captured these characteristics masterfully in her film. But aside from its powerhouse main character, how did the rest of the movie stack up? Unfortunately, I’d give it an “eh”.