Fairy Tales for Adults - Coquitlam Public Library

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Fairy Tales for Adults
By Barb Buxton
Port Moody Public Library
We all remember the fairy tales of our childhood, but what we may forget is
that fairy tales were originally spoken, not written, and often they were
cautionary tales told to adults as well as children. Before the age of television
and movies, storytellers were welcome entertainers for all ages. We may also
forget that the stories existed long before Disney. His films, often seen as the
“authorized” versions, are only part of a vast collection of folk and fairy tales
around the world. More recently some of the most well-known stories have
been expanded by creative writers into wonderfully entertaining novels. Some follow the
storyline we know and some branch off into some wild and wonderful creative fantasies.
The most well-known example of this phenomenon would be Wicked by Gregory Maguire,
which has also been made into a successful movie. This book gives us the biography of the
Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, demanding our sympathy because of her
terrible childhood. Maguire has done a number of other novels in this vein. Mirror, Mirror is
of course the story of Snow White, set in 1502 in Tuscany, with the wicked queen being no
other than Lucrezia Borgia. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, set in 17th century Holland,
is a chilling but fascinating reworking of the Cinderella story.
Another dark and unusual retelling of Snow White comes from fantasy writer, Tanith Lee, in
her book White as Snow, who weaves the story we know with the classic myth of the
goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone, creating a powerful story of how mothers
and daughters are bound together for good or ill.
Robin McKinley writes for the young adult audience but appeals to older readers as well with
her wonderful fantasies. Her early book, Beauty, and a later version, Rose Daughter, are
both novelized versions of Beauty and the Beast. Her story follows the traditional version
but in much more depth so that the reader becomes involved in the lives of these two
strong characters who find themselves outcast from normal society. The Door in the Hedge
takes us through the door into Faerieland and a retelling of two favourite stories, The
Princess and the Frog and The Twelve Dancing Princesses as well as two original fairy
stories.
Another young adult writer Donna Jo Napoli, is a master at retelling the old tales. Spinner
is the story of Rumpelstiltskin told in a way that both horrifies and enchants the reader. Zel
is the tale of Rapunzel locked in her tower, exploring the psychological depths of all the
characters and their powerful emotions.
In a more modern setting we find The Godmother by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. A
frustrated Seattle social worker, trying desperately to help her clients, makes a wish for a
fairy godmother for “the whole damned city.” Her wish is granted in the form of a silver
haired eccentric godmother who sorts out a cast of characters that reads like a modern day
Brothers Grimm. Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and others are recognizable in the stories of
Rose’s problematic caseload of abusive relationships and addictions.
The godmother theme continues in The Fairy Godmother by popular fantasy writer Mercedes
Lackey. In this enchanting tale, the Cinderella character breaks with tradition to become
the Fairy Godmother herself, but finds it no easy task.
Finally, in a thrilling new children’s novel, The Looking Glass Wars, the true Alyss, heir to
the throne of Wonderland, is cast into the world of Victorian London. When she trusts Lewis
Carroll to tell her story, he gets it all wrong! In the meantime the Royal Bodyguard, Hatter,
searches the world to find Alyss and bring her back to her rightful throne.
Bring your childhood stories into adulthood and read some of these books from your local
library.
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