EEEEK!! Y'all know I love a good guest post, and of course, Kirsten is basically my absolute favorite guest to have here! (Inserts round of applause)
Without further ado, the author herself! (Click on the photo to go to Kirsten's blog!)
Retelling an Unknown Fairytale
Fairytale retellings are becoming a bigger genre every time I turn around. Big-name authors and indie authors and all the authors in-between are writing their take on some of the most popular fairytales out there. I’ve been trying to keep up with all of them (at least, note and list all the retellings that I can), but I think I’ve got to admit that it’s impossible to find them all. Especially all the Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast retellings. There are hundreds of those. Or so it seems.
(Don’t get me wrong; I love a good Cinderella retelling as much as the next fairytale enthusiast. I just wish people would do MORE.)
But what about fairytales like Thumbelina? Toads and Diamonds? The Steadfast Tin Soldier? The last has a mere ONE retelling that I know of, and the other two aren’t much better. And the fairytales that are so obscure that, if I mentioned them, no one would have any idea of what I’m speaking? Zilch.
“These aren’t popular fairytales,” you argue. “People want Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast because they already know the story. They want to have something familiar within the retelling.”
If you say that, you’re not wrong. We do have a tendency to lean towards things that are familiar. But in doing so, we’re leaving so many wonderful fairytales untouched and unloved. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and if you call yourself a fairytale enthusiast/author, you have to do better than just a version of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. You have to go all in.
The unknown fairytales NEED a chance in the spotlight. Many of them are beautiful stories that have magical elements and themes not found in some of the more popular ones. I don’t know why they’re not more known and loved, but they should be.
Committing to retell an unknown or obscure fairytale isn’t easy. I struggled a bit writing my book, The Bear of Rosethorn Ring, since it’s based on the little-known fairytale Snow White and Rose Red. Now, even though people may recognize the names of our titular heroines, they often don’t know the actual story. (Try me: Do YOU know their story?) I wanted the story to be unique as a retelling, and yet still have enough of the original fairytale to make people interested in that as well.
When working with an unknown tale, it’s really important to keep as many of the big elements intact (or somewhat intact), to allow the reader to get a good feel of the original story. Cinderella is so well-known that if you take away the glass slippers, people still recognize her. If, however, you retell something like The Gnome and take away the underground kingdom, there’s a good chance people won’t recognize it. Many of the original elements are what make the fairytale in the first place, so why erase them?
Now, I’m not saying that you should spit out a near-exact replica of the original fairytale. No, it needs to be your own. Your style, your spin, your retelling. While you should stick to many of the BIG elements, the smaller ones you should change around to create a new story. Decide what’s important to keep for the retelling, and then make the rest your very own.
Obscure fairytales have the same problems that popular fairytales do: ALL THE WHAT IFS. They have plot holes, unexplained details, and sometimes unsatisfactory endings. And these are the perfect fodder for a good retelling. Look for the pieces in the fairytale that don’t make sense, and make sense of them. Cinderella has been given a good many reasons to go to the ball, but do we have reasons for why the witch wanted to poison the prince in The Riddle? Why did the queen put that pea under twenty mattresses when making up a bed for the princess, and why were there twenty mattresses? That reason just became your retelling.
The fun part about retelling an unknown fairytale is that there are so many ways to retell it since no one (or next to no one) has retold it before. If the fairytale is obscure enough, your retelling may be the very first. It’ll be the gateway that introduces people to the original fairytale. How cool is that? I want more people to know about SWRR, and that’s one big reason I’m so excited to share The Bear of Rosethorn Ring with everyone. One of my favorite obscure fairytales is Princess Rosette, and I know that if I ever get around to retelling it one day (which I’d love to, BTW), I’ll be using my retelling to introduce this fairytale to more people.
Retelling an unknown fairytale isn’t just allowing the author to have fun with something that’s been untouched. It’s also allowing the author to become the doorkeeper to offer readers a whole new world of fairytales.
Thank you Kirsten, for agreeing to be here today! Don't forget to check out all her books on Amazon!