Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Re-uses of Enchantment (+ Book Giveaway)

Gina Conkle’s blog last week, about the Cinderella twist in The Lady Meets Her Match, reminded me that fairy tales are the gift that keeps on giving. First, in their original form—whether written by Perrault, Andersen, or the Brothers Grimm, then, for all the countless variations and adaptations they inspire.

Cinderella alone has more than 300 variants, which English folklorist Marian Roalfe Cox (1860-1916) compiled in a single volume in 1893. The research geek in me would love to get my hands on that book, someday. Most of us were probably introduced to the girl with the missing shoe through Charles Perrault’s version from 17th century France, but she has also appeared throughout the ages in China, Italy, Scotland, and Germany (the version referenced in Stephen Sondheim’s fairy-tale musical, Into the Woods).

Modern authors and filmmakers have likewise introduced their own takes on fairy-tales, sometimes by changing no more than an element or two. But alter the outcome of one event, switch POV, or reverse a character’s moral orientation, and—just like magic—you have another story, at once familiar and new.

What if . . . the evil queen was an innocent trying to introduce Christianity into the kingdom and Snow White was a devil worshipper (Tanith Lee’s “Red As Blood”)? What if . . . the wolf who terrorized Little Red Riding Hood was actually a kindly creature tricked by a deceitful child (Jane Yolen’s “Happy Dens: A Day in the Old Wolves’ Home”)? What if . . . the prince fouled up the spell surrounding the Sleeping Beauty by arriving a day too early (Patricia C. Wrede’s “Stronger Than Time”)? 

Changing the setting also introduces fascinating new dimensions. Remember the ‘80s TV series, Beauty and the Beast, which was updated to modern New York City (where the Beast--Vincent--rode on top of subways and lived in a mysterious underground community)? Outlandish as the set-up sounds, I enjoyed the first two seasons of the show--and flatly refuse to acknowledge the existence of the third!

Fantasy author Mercedes Lackey sets her fairy-tale infused Elemental Masters series during the Edwardian period, and—later—the WWI era. In her Cinderella-inspired Phoenix and Ashes, the heroine is a frustrated scholar bound to servitude and the hearth by her evil stepmother’s spell and her “prince” a young aviator, grounded by injuries and shell-shock. The result is an affecting blend of fantasy and history that demonstrates the fairy-tale’s versatility and evergreen appeal.

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Lately, I’ve been having some fun with fairy tales myself, taking a brief hiatus from straight historical romance to publish a collection of fantasy short stories. “Awakened,” the title story, is a variation on Sleeping Beauty, in which the princess falls into her enchanted slumber just after the French Revolution and awakens in the last years of the 19th century, to a world she could never have imagined . . . and choices she never dreamed were possible. (You can read an excerpt here on my website.)

What twists or variations on fairy tales have you seen and enjoyed?

Comment by midnight PST, 4/13 and I’ll send a signed copy of Awakened and Other Enchanted Tales to one respondent! The book also includes a bonus excerpt from A Scandal in Newport, a novella featuring Amy Newbold and Thomas Sheridan, the secondary couple from Waltz with a Stranger.


Pamela Sherwood

NEWSLETTER

ETA: Renee G wins the giveaway for Awakened! Please contact me at pamela@pamelasherwood.com with your mailing address so I can send you your book. (I tried the email address attached to your profile, but it was returned as undeliverable.) Thanks!

16 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Pamela!

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  2. What an awesome giveaway, and the book sounds fabulous!

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  3. Thanks, Shana! I admit, these stories are close to my heart, as is the whole fantasy/fairy tale genre. Fairy tales were among the first things I learned to read.

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  4. Congratulations. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorites but I think they all hit a cord - maybe because you hear the tales when you're really impressionable.

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    1. Thanks, catslady! I guess, when it comes to fairy tales, Sondheim had it right when he wrote the song "Children Will Listen" for "Into the Woods."

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    2. I saw the Broadway show first, when it ran on PBS, but the movie's a good adaptation!

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  5. I've always loved fairy tale but have had a soft spot for Beauty and the Beast over all others - and I have to agree about the 3rd season of the TV series. Gina's Meet the Earl at Midnight is a great retelling of Beauty. I can't wait to read your latest, it looks great!

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  6. Beauty and the Beast has become increasingly special to me as well, Glenda! Thanks for your interest!

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  7. not really a fan of retellings

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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  8. Well, the originals still hold a powerful appeal, bn100! Thanks for commenting.

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  9. Congratulations on the book - your new take on the old tales sounds wonderful.

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  10. Thanks, Renee! While the title story is a reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, I pay homage here and there to other fairy tales in some of the remaining stories.

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  11. Sounds like a nice twist on a familiar tale. I love Mercedes Lackey's tales (athough I am most fond of the Valdemar or Hawkbrothers series) but I am sadly behind on the fairy tale series. Tanya Huff also does a nice twist on some of the traditional elements of fairy tales. Congrats on the release!

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  12. Thanks, E.L.F.! I think the last Elemental Masters book was a take on Little Red Riding Hood--it skirted a bit too close to horror for my liking, so I just skimmed it heavily. But I have enjoyed Lackey's takes on Beauty & the Beast (The Fire Rose), Snow White (The Serpent's Shadow), and Cinderella (Phoenix and Ashes).

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