Why I Still Turn to Fairytales…

Some might say it is a little bit queer (rolls eyes at self) that a thirty three year old man would be desperate to see Cinderella as his 33rd birthday treat, yet this was my story just a few weeks ago. Since I can remember when I have loved a good fairytale. This I blame on my family frankly.

Firstly my highly over imaginative grandfather who made me believe that the tower at the top of our hill (actually part of The Heights of Abraham) was where Rapunzel lived (who I named my pet duck after) and who also wrote me magical tales with me in them when I was three upwards. Secondly my pair of wicked ugly aunties (only joking Caz and Alice, honest, gulp) who told me tales of witches who lived on the hill, which I think they made up. Thirdly my mother who would read and reread (and reread and reread and reread) the wonderful Ladybird Well Loved Tales to me as a child. Fourthly my Gran who also read me those and would watch the Slipper and the Rose (one of the best versions of the Cinderella story, end of) at least four or five times, with a break in between for The Wizard of Oz or the odd Doris Day movie, when I would stay in the school holidays. I know, this explains so much right there doesn’t it?

My old family home, surrounded by forest – Sleeping Beauty much?

So I guess fairy tales were a safe haven when I was growing up and indeed have been my turn to books whenever I am feeling a little off kilter, ill, out of sorts or have the dreaded readers block. There are the odd exceptions but Into the Woods was a film not a book and probably shouldn’t be mentioned ever again. Oddly enough once I realised how much darker they were than sanitised Ladybird or Disney incarnations I loved them all the more, though still haven’t read all the ‘fairy tales uncut’ as it were. That was why there was really no other first tattoo option for me; I am planning a ‘woodland fairytale scene’ on my other arm as we speak. Seeing Cinderella, which was extremely good indeed thank you for asking, and having the new routine of watching an episode of Once Upon a Time with my breakfast and coffee and sometimes my lunch – the urge for me to read the originals and the new homage’s and the like has come back really strong.

I thought instead of me just asking you for advice on which ones I should look out for, though you all know I am going to ask that later let’s not pretend, I decided I would share with you some fairy tales and fairy tale themed books I have loved and some I have been buying and hoarding and planning to read at some point.

Just a selection from my shelves...

Just a selection from my shelves…

First up are some books that I would really, really recommend and indeed have reviewed. There are of course the originals but you all know about all of them. There have been some wonderful authors who have taken on the fairytales and given them their spin. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is one fine example, as is Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales (which do what they say on the tin) and I would highly recommend Sarah Pinborough’s trilogy of Poison, Charm (which I have read but yet to review) and Beauty (which I have yet to read) which give the tales of three princesses a much darker and saucier feel, and cleverly interweaves them all.

If you fancy some new fairytales then you can’t go wrong with the fantastically gothic graphic novel collection of both Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods and Isabel Greenberg’s An Encyclopedia of Early Earth one which will give you the horrors, the other which looks at myths, fairytales and legends and their creation. Then there is the wonderful collection by Viktor and Rolf, which safe to celebrates the campiness of the fairytale, disco hedgehog anyone? Oh and how could I forget the sublime, sublime, sublime Diving Belles by Lucy Wood which is one of my favourite short story collections every and will have you seeing magic, mermaids and witches everywhere when you leave the house.

There is one standout though that both reinvents and invents. With Bitter Greens I think Kate Forsyth, who is actually a Doctor of Fairytales yet who we shall just call Queen of the Fairy Tales for now, has done something incredible that any fairy tale or story lover of any type should read. In it we meet three women all isolated from society for various different reasons, a storyteller locked in a nunnery, a woman locked into getting revenge and a young girl locked in a tower. These women’s tales come together to create a wonderful novel about storytelling, history, and fairytales and of course my favourite tale of all the story tales… Rapunzel. Just read it. I need to read The Wild Girl which I believe looks at the Brothers Grimm themselves and nicely links in to some books I haven’t read yet but have bought.

So what of the books to read?  I didn’t realise this until recently, and now it seems so obvious, but Kate Hamer’s debut about a child abducted The Girl in the Red Coat is one I am itching to read, as is Kirsty Logan’s collection of modern fairytales The Rental Heart. Then there is the series that I have seen lots and lots and lots of people going crazy over, the dystopic Lunar Chronicles which sees Cinderella as a cyborg, Little Red Riding Hood turn detective/street crime fighter and Rapunzel a computer hacker. I. CANNOT. WAIT!

Oh and then there are two nonfiction books I should mention. Once Upon a Time which is Marina Warner’s short history of the fairytale (apparently she is an expert so I might end up wanting her entire backlist) and I am also desperate to read, Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland which comes with the subtitle the tangled roots of our forests and fairytales which I have had on the shelves for far too long and needs to be read.

Phew I think that is enough! As you can see this list is not exhaustive and I am sure there are many, many recommendations you would love to pass onto me. Hint, hint. Has Margaret Atwood not done some fairytales, it will be a crime if not. If you would like to hear Kate Forsyth and I talking fairytales, you can do so here, oh and if anyone would like to be a secret benefactor and send me to Australia to do a doctorate of fairytales and follow in Kate’s footsteps do let me know. Right over to you; which of the above have you read and what would you recommend?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

19 responses to “Why I Still Turn to Fairytales…

  1. Nothing wrong with liking a fairy tale every now and then 😊 read the Grimm Brothers YEARS ago loved it

  2. I recommend New World Fairy Tales by Cassandra Parkin. Philip Pullman was my tutor many years ago and he used Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment as a text for the course.

  3. I love fairy tales always have and always will. Always the first section I make for in a bookshop especially a secondhand bookshop.

  4. The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey), Boy Snow Bird (Helen Oyeyemi) and Tinder (Sally Gardner) are some of my favourites. Also loved Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods & Greenberg’s Encyclopedia of Early Earth. I’m about to start Bitter Greens on your recommendation.

  5. Ann

    I also loved Cinderella the movie and I’m seeing for the 2nd maybe third time – at 70 years old!

  6. I love fairy tales, as well. If I ever see a folklore/fairy tale MOOC, I will sign up in a heartbeat. One of my favorite retellings is YA, by an author named Elizabeth Bunch, called A Curse Dark as Gold. It is a Rumplestilskin tale, which are a bit more rare. I also love Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier – her books are amazing and she writes a very unique, dreamy, Celtic-themed fantasy. Daughter of the Forest is based on the Six Swans.

    Right now, I am totally coveting the Jack Zipes Norton Critical Editions “The Great Fairy Tale Tradition,” which is a textbook, but looks like a fantastic resource.

    I quite enjoyed Cinder, and will definitely read the rest of the series.

  7. kaggsysbookishramblings

    And of course there’s always Neil Gaiman!

  8. Another vote for Neil Gaiman here. The Sleep and The Spindle (illustrated by Chris Riddell) is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. I have a great edition of Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar which gives fantastic analysis of many tales based on six main types of narrative and includes key critical essays on fairy tales. There’s also a fabulous new edition of the original Grimm tales as edited by Jack Zipes that looks really beautiful.
    John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things follows a young boy obsessed with fairy tales that gets transported into a fantasy/storybook land. It’s amazing as it returns to the dark roots of fairy tales.

  9. I love fairy tales (and am a big fan of The Slipper and the Rose) but I haven’t read any of the titles you mention. I clearly should. Thanks for the recommendations.

    I have the Kate Forsyth books in my TBR. But of fairy-tale-related books I’ve actually read, I loved The Snow Child. I think a lot of Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman could come under this category too.

    I wish I could get hold of the fairy tale book I grew up with, which had amazing illustrations and I remember the translation being pretty dark. I think it was passed on to a younger cousin.

  10. I love fairytales especially of the Cornish variety. Piskies, Mermaids, Spriggans etc.

  11. I liked Once Upon a Time, but Marina Warner’s longer books are just breathtaking. I especially recommend From the Beast to the Blonde and Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights.

  12. Michael F.

    Methinks the closest I’ve come to such tales are the wonderful tales by the aforementioned, brilliant Neil Gaiman and the many novels of one Guy Gavriel Kaye (ask Rob). Cheers all.

  13. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    I just read Bitter Greens and I loved it! Can’t wait for The Wild Girl. Several of my favorite fairy tale retellings are based on the ballad Tam Lin. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Tam Lin by Pamela Dean and The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope – as different as can be and all terrific!

  14. Annabel (gaskella)

    I’ve always loved fairytales too, and collect them still. Been planning to read the Sarah Pinborough trilogy for a while, plus get into Gregory Maguire’s ones.

  15. Pingback: The Fabled Coast | Olliecromwell's Blog

  16. Not the fairy tales themselves but Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment : The meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales might interest you and the wonderful Women who run with the wolves.

  17. lizzysiddal

    Currently addicted to Once Upon A Time (the series) myself. brilliant, isn’t it?

  18. The Slipper And The Rose – that takes me back! The Ladybird books were a big factor for me, too, they were just lovely, and some of the illustrations… (I’m think Sleeping Beauty). I’ve been recommended the Poison/Charm/Beauty series and want to read Melissa Mayer. My favourite is Bitter Greens, it’s just something else.

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