Fairy tales never seem to go out of style. The magic of a princess in a castle, the idea of everyone getting their happily ever after are not just for children. Indeed, as C.S. Lewis put it, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” The ideas and motifs of fairy tales permeate our hearts long after we grow up.
But there are some elements of fairy tales that can feel a bit . . . tired. The woman seems to be constantly waiting for the man to show up and dramatically save her. There’s usually a talking animal or two involved. And let’s not forget how the stepmothers are always frighteningly evil. Traditional fairy tales also often seem to take place in a limited cultural setting and can start to feel stuffy and outdated.
So, here are five fairy tales retold with modern spins or a distinctive cultural setting. If you want to start 2020 encountering your inner child, these stories on the page or screen may just do the trick.
01. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Mayer
Cinder is the first in a series of YA books that tell classic fairy tales in a futuristic, sci-fi setting. Cinder is a cyborg who needs to hunt down the cure for a deadly disease wreaking havoc in her land, and she quickly makes friends with Scarlett (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel), and Winter (Snow White). Even if you’re not as geeky as I am, the story isn’t about spaceships and planets nearly as much as it’s about bravery, friendship, true love, and all of the factors that make fairy tales so special.
02. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
I read this novel in middle school and never forgot its haunting beauty. Briar Rose is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty that takes place during World War II. It tells the story of a girl named Becca exploring her grandmother’s history and why her grandmother was so devoted to the story of Briar Rose. After learning about the true history of her family’s experience during the war in Poland, she has a deeper understanding of what heroism looks like. It’s a very intense book that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.
This 2014 movie retells aspects of Sleeping Beauty and paints Maleficent as so much more complex than we’ve ever seen her before. It doesn’t just retell Sleeping Beauty, it shows why Maleficent did the things she did and what her motivations were. Instead of simply giving us an interesting looking villain to watch, the movie paints her with the complexity she’s owed.
This television show follows a detective, Nick, as he copes with realizing he comes from a long line of Grimms, warriors who hunt monsters from traditional fairy tales. It’s fast-paced, the writing is witty, and it helps you see Grimms’ Fairy Tales in a whole new light. I always love shows that take clever spins on classic stories, and Grimm does it remarkably well.
05. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
If you think you know Alice in Wonderland, think again. The true story about the girl who became Alice is almost as engaging as the story of the girl who follows a white rabbit down a hole. Alice I Have Been isn’t exactly a retelling—it’s more of a historical fiction novel—but the book describes the meeting between the real Alice and Lewis Carroll, and it takes you through so many twists and turns that you may feel as if you’re in Wonderland.
Correction: This article originally called Marissa Mayer’s book series “The Cinder Series”; while Cinder is the first book in the series, it is more accurately called “The Lunar Chronicles.”