Retellings

So if I am correct, this is the first discussion post I’ve ever done!* Discussion posts were the highest voted on the poll I gave my blog readers in my January wrap-up to see which posts they wanted me to do more of and I’m really excited for this!
I’ve always found discussion posts really interesting because they’re topics that spark, well, discussion (yeah, whoever came up with this name is GENIUS).
*Funny thing is, I was actually incorrect, I found, as I was looking through old posts. Waaay back when this blog was first getting started, I did a discussion-esque post on writer’s block, found here.

Anyways, I thought I’d write my first discussion post on retellings and for this post I’m working with April @Booked Till Midnight. April and I have decided to cut this post up so you’ll find half the post right here and the other half over on her blog, here. You do not need to read her post to understand this one (nor do you have to read mine to understand hers) but definitely check it out for more of our opinions on retellings!

So first of all:

What is a retelling?

If you’ve already read April’s post, this is a bit of a repeat but don’t worry, the rest of the questions will be different! We just wanted to get this out of the way for our first-time readers.
You’d think between the two of us, that we could come up with a semidecent definition for a retelling. But no. No such luck. Turns about writing definitions is an art form neither of us have mastered. Even good ole Google let us down! (google’s definition is ‘tell (a story) again or differently’) So here’s ours:

A retelling is a story in which an original story, usually a fairytale, classic, or legend, is taken and written again with a twist. Certain elements are changed in order to create a fresh perspective. Some of these elements could be setting, maybe a few minor plot points, character names and personalities, etc

Why do we enjoy retellings?

The general consensus seems to be the creativity and imagination that comes along with retellings. All books require some part of creativity, but the expansion or twist on a preexisting world is always super interesting to explore. Beyond that, we also have other reasons of our own. 

P: I think that I enjoy retellings so much because these are stories that a lot of people know already, they’re classics in literature. But it’s just so interesting to read an author’s spin on things. I feel like retellings are just one giant ‘what if’. What if Snow White was set in a city in modern times? What if The Little Mermaid actually took place in space? The what if question is really the question people need to answer in order to come up with an idea for a retelling.

Another reason I enjoy retellings is I find that oftentimes they make the original story better, almost. Of course nothing will ever replace a classic in lots of people’s eyes but there are so many ways that a retelling can make it better. Most classics in Western literature are written by white, non-LGBTQIAP+ men. They’re interesting stories but, as you’ve probably noticed, not the most diverse. And in fairytales, there’s usually a similar ending: the prince saves the helpless princess, they get married and live happily ever after (there are, of course, exceptions). Retellings allow someone to write a story in a more diverse way. It’s a way to re imagine that fairytale ending and twist it into something else. 

A: I would wholeheartedly agree with what Phoenix just said. Exploring the “what if” is a totally different brand of creativity that never fails to dazzle me. I would also agree that retellings can be better than the original (*looks at every Romeo and Juliet retelling ever*), especially when they are able to chop somewhat questionable elements and add much needed diversity. 

Retellings definitely hold a special place in my bookshelf shaped heart, but ultimately I love retellings for the same reason I love reading any book. I love immersing myself in all of the worlds (read: escapism). I also love the air of familiarity that they bring while still keeping me wondering what the twist will be. Books are constantly brimming with creativity and originality, but I think that retellings really allow those elements to shine because there is something to compare it to. 

Speaking of creativity and originality… (a moment of appreciation for that oh so smooth transition)

Do retellings lack originality? 

Well, we both have that same short answer of no. Retellings are just the opposite of this–they’re absolutely original! The very definition of a retelling makes it unique. If everything was the same nothing is being retold, it wouldn’t be worthy of it’s own book. 

That giant ‘what-if’ question really makes it original. Maybe Cinderella lived with her evil stepsisters/mother and had to slave away for them before the ball in the fairytale but what if all of this was based in the future? The awesomeness of retellings is that the author gets to tell the tale the way that they imagined and that makes retellings SO original. 

And yes, there are going to be some similarities to the original (it’s kinda to be expected— it’s in the definition and everything), but retellings require a different kind of originality. There is still room for other elements of originality like worldbuilding, characters, relationships +++, even while sticking within the limits of what a retelling is. The originality comes from the spin the author choses. 

Follow up: Can plot twists still be pulled off?

Plot twists can be tricky, especially when based on an already famous tale, but they can totally be pulled off. 

With the retelling’s spin on the original take, it’s sometimes hard to guess what the plot twist even is! Maybe Cinderella loses her shoe at the ball, but in Cinder she loses her whole foot (sorry for the spoilers, everyone). And in those times when you know something is going to happen, it can build excitement and anticipation. You know the moment is coming because of the original tale, but in the retelling it happens in a completely different way than you expected!

Another way that plot twists can be pulled off is if there is multiple plotlines as well as the fairytale! While the plotline revolving around the fairytale might be slightly more predictable, the other plotlines are a total wildcard. 

These Violent Delights is most certainly a Romeo and Juliet retelling, but at the same time everyone is trying to figure out what’s up with this monster and these bugs and THAT makes for some amazing plot twists. 

The last way that plot twists can be pulled off (that I’m thinking of right now–there are surely more!) is if the pacing of the retelling is different from the pacing of the original story. Maybe there’s something that’s just glossed over in the real tale but the author goes into greater detail there. Or maybe the story is only half the tale and is continued in the next book, and since you didn’t know that the things that happen at certain times really surprise you because…wow I thought something else was going on.

Cinderella is Dead is a really good example of this. It takes the original Cinderella tale and uses it as a base for a dystopian society set 200 years later. Cinderella is undoubtedly there (the story is sacred text), but since Cinderella is Dead is a futuristic continuation it still manages to take you by surprise.

What retellings do we want to see more of?

I’ll tell you what we don’t need more of— Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast.

Cinderella is probably the most common retelling I can think of. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Cinderella retelling, but there are so many more stories out there that can be told!!! Explore the great beyond of fairy tales!! Or classics!!! Or legends!!!

As for Beauty and the Beast, the whole kidnapping does not seem like the best way to start a relationship. It particularly irks me in fantasy Beauty and the Beast retellings, but is not so bad with the contemporary ones. The contemporary B&B retellings are typically a forced proximity situation, but the Beast is never beastly enough. Normally they are an arrogant chihuahua. You really can’t win. At least I haven’t found one yet 😦

(P: I actually haven’t read many B&B retellings but I’m taking April’s word for it)

A: I’d absolutely love to see more King Arthur retellings. The only ones I know of are Legendborn by Tracy Deonn and Once & Future by AR Capetta and Cori McCarthy. They both have been on my radar for a while, the trick is tackling all the other books on my tbr that stand between me and them #bookwormstruggles. As a general rule of thumb, more retellings of legends are a yes. 

P: I’d love to see more little mermaid retellings. I find the story of the Little Mermaid pretty fascinating because the ending is not happy, as well as the fact that the Little Mermaid actually sorta does something. She saves the prince, first of all, which NEVER happens in fairy tales, and she also has very real risks which I like. 

I’d also like to see retellings of fairy tales that we don’t hear very much about–maybe a retelling of the princess and the frog or something like that. Other than that, I’d love more Shakespeare retellings since I really dislike reading Shakespeare but I love seeing twists on his stories

A: I second all of that!!! Basically ME WANT MORE RETELLINGS

Recommendations!

Below, I’m sharing a few retellings that I’ve loved! Unfortunately, my mind has abandoned me and I can barely think of any, so I apologize if this section is a bit sparse. Or just, like, full of really popular books because I can’t think of anything else. Go check out April’s post since I’m pretty sure she has a lot of more interesting recommendations.

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  • To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo. This is the single Little Mermaid retelling that I have read and I reall enjoyed it! Because of my brain, which is terrible at remembering books, I don’t much remember what was happening in here but I do like the twist of the mermaids actually being sirens and trying to kill the prince at first.
  • A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. I’m sure that most of you have heard of this book. Hey, I warned you above that most of these books would be popular books. But this is the single B&B retelling that I’ve read and while I agree with April that kidnapping is most certainly NOT a good way to start a relationship I did like how awesome Harper was (yes, bask in my amazing descriptive skills in which I use the word awesome to describe someone).
  • Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim. So, I actually don’t know anything about the original tale for this book. Well, I guess if I’ve read this book I know something about it. But this is a retelling of the Count of Monte Christo and it’s super unique in that way!
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  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. You’ve probably heard of this one since it’s been all over ever since it came out several months ago–and before that even. I’d highly recommend reading this while reading Romeo and Juliet (that is, if you have to read R&J–don’t suffer if you don’t have to) because it’s super fun to see how the books are similar and different.
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Honestly, I feel a little weird putting this on here since this might be the most well known retelling out there. I know a lot of people have problems with it and it’s definitely not the most original retelling (Yes, I did just say original. retelling) but I, personally did still enjoy it.

Classic/fairytale inspired books

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  • Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. Well, I wouldn’t call it a retelling but it’s like…if King Arthur’s round table and all the processes for knights, etc. took place in modern day. Sorry, I described that super badly. But it’s a super good story with really intricate storytelling…just get ready for some major info dumps
  • Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron is such an amazing idea for a book, it’s amazingly original. And I did really enjoy most of this book, however I felt that there were some parts that went pretty slowly and there was a lot of sitting around planning what to do next.
  • Legend by Marie Lu. So, I’m not entirely sure if I should put this on here but you know what? I did. You’re probably wondering what the heck it’s doing here for and supposedly the author got the idea for the book while she was listening to Les Miserables–and if you know Les Mis and you’ve read this book, you can sort of see the similarities.

Well, that’s it for this post! Please, check out April’s post here, where we discuss retellings even more–we’ll cover things like what makes a compelling retelling, what makes a retelling less good and, my personal favorite, where does ‘retelling’ end and ‘inspiration’ start.
I hope that all of you had fun with this post! What do you think about retellings? Do you think that retellings lack originality? What sorts of retellings do you want to see more of? What are some retellings that you love? Thanks again for stopping by, everyone, and as always, stay safe and keep reading!