Olivia Handscom/ ‘18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
About two hundred years before Disney introduced the beloved princess Cinderella, the Grimm brothers wrote a much darker version of the classic tale. Before the Grimm brothers decided to write it down, Cinderella was an oral tale passed down from generations. Stories have been told and retold for centuries now. Since the time of the Grimm brothers, there have been many retellings of classic tales. People love to see their favorite stories reworked into modern times, or their favorite characters plucked from their worlds and put into new and interesting situations. Retelling classic stories is a time-honored tradition in film, TV, and books. Below is a list of retellings that truly reimagine the original stories they are derived from in a creative and spectacular way.
Gregory Maguire is well known for his fairytale retellings where he provides backstory to famous secondary and antagonistic characters from classic stories. His most famous being Wicked, the origin story for the famous Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The story follows a girl named Elphaba, who later becomes known as the Witch, through her adolescence to adulthood. The reader sees a different side to this famous character, and also that the original story might not be the whole story.
This one is for the readers who thought the only way Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice could be made better is if Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters were also zombie killers. Grahame-Smith took Austen’s original novel and added his own spin on the story, where a zombie plague has broken out in Meryton, and Elizabeth Bennet has to kick some zombie butt as well as overcome the social prejudices that stand in the way of her and true love.
The Lunar Chronicles is a four-book series that takes four classic fairytale characters and puts them in a futuristic, sci-fi setting where they have to battle an evil queen. Cinder (Cinderella), Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel), and Winter (Snow White) all band together to take down the evil queen Levana before she is able to complete her evil plan. The story offers a unique sci-fi twist on all the classic fairytale features.
In A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley takes Shakespeare’s King Lear and sets the story on a farm where a father is trying to split his thousand acres between his three daughters, rather than his kingdom. This story is told from the point of view of the oldest daughter Ginny, or Goneril from King Lear. Rather than dismissing the older daughters as greedy, Smiley explores the depths of this family in a way Shakespeare never did, but at the same time, she perfectly captures the themes of madness and familial dysfunctionality from the original work.
Renee Ahdieh reworks the classic Arabian tale, A Thousand and One Nights, in her story The Wrath of the Dawn. Every day, the young King who rules over the land takes a new wife, and by the next day his new wife is dead. In The Wrath of the Dawn, the main character, Shahrazad, volunteers to be the king’s next bride after her friend falls victim to the king. She vows to get vengeance before the king kills her, so every night she tells a tale to the king to keep him from killing her, much like the original, and every morning she wakes up shocked to still be alive. Shahrazad gets to know the king, and soon begins to wonder if there is something else happening inside the palace walls.
Whether the reader wants to read about a villain who may never have been a villain at all or a their favorite princesses teaming up to battle the evil queen, there is a retelling out there for everyone. While some people may be skeptical of these new stories, everyone has to admit it’s wonderful to live in a world where Cinderella can be a cyborg and Elizabeth Bennet can team up with Mr. Darcy to hunt and kill zombies. The stories everybody loves can constantly be reimagined and reinterpreted for new audiences. This way, stories never really die, they are just reborn.