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Fairytales in Romance

andrew-langs-fairy-booksFirst there were vampires, then zombies, and now fairy tale adaptions seem to be the new entertainment trend. The newest film adaptation of “Sleeping Beauty,” Maleficent, scored big at the box office and has added momentum to the fairy tale fad. Studios hoping to capitalize on this are already planning live-action versions of “Cinderella” and more than one “Beauty and the Beast.” I have been a fan of fairy tale retellings since childhood and have spent my life reading and watching them so, obviously, the renewed interest in fairy tales recently has been right up my alley. Although I wasn’t crazy about Maleficent (I think it took the bite out of an otherwise fantastic villainess), I was pleased to see one of my favorite fairy tales getting revamped.

We already have a fantastic, and comprehensive, Special Title Listing of fairy tale romances but I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite fairy tale based books, movies, and television that don’t necessarily fall under the romance genre.


Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon – Based on “The Little Mermaid” – This was an odd book, but there was something about it I enjoyed. The author stuck to the original version of The Little Mermaid as conceived by Hans Christian Anderson. I won’t spoil anything for you about Mermaid, but if you’re not familiar with the true fairy tale, I will say it isn’t the happiest of stories. Turgeon has also written a book about Cinderella’s fairy godmother.

Anything by Gregory Maguire – Many know Wicked thanks to the musical version. This account of The Wizard of Oz tells the story from the point of view of the Wicked Witch and there are sequels about her son and the Cowardly Lion. You can also check out Mirror Mirror or Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, his retellings of Snow White and Cinderella respectively.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Based on “Snegurochka” (a Russian tale) – This book was a Pulitzer finalist and it is easy to see why. The story is set in the Alaskan frontier in the 1920’s. The cold, stark, unforgiving atmosphere is so present it is almost a character in its own right. The Snow Child tells the story of a childless couple who build a little girl out of snow. One day, their prayers for a child are answered in a mysterious way.

Beastly by Alex Flinn – Based on “Beauty and the Beast”- This is a romantic, Young Adult take on the traditional fairy tale, set in New York City. It also spurred a movie adaption starring Vanessa Hudgens. Flinn has several other fairy tale inspired novels as well. This one comes recommended by AAR’s Maggie.

Snow Queen by Joan Vinge – Although it might be a challenge to find this one, this futuristic version of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” is well worth the read, according to AAR’s Anne. The book won the Hugo Award in 1981.

Mercedes Lackey has a number of fairy tale based novels. Her body of work includes The Fairy Godmother, One Good Knight, Fortune’s Fool, The Snow Queen, The Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Werewolf, A Tangled Web, Firebird, and The Black Swan. Lackey is a great choice for fans of romance who also enjoy fantasy.

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card – Based on “Sleeping Beauty” – An American graduate student finds himself drawn into the role of the prince in the Russian version of the fairy tale.

Robin McKinley – Spindle’s End (a version of “Sleeping Beauty”) was my first encounter with McKinley’s unique adaptations. Later, I found Beauty (a revised version of which was published as Rose Daughter) and fell in love with the romantic, artful take on Beauty’s love for the beast. McKinley could teach a master class on how to adapt a fairy tale while remaining the heart of the original story.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – Based on “Cinderella” – Take Cinderella, make her a cyborg mechanic in the future, and you have an idea of what Cinder is about. I adored this book from the first paragraph. Meyer offers a fresh, unique version of the tale. Cinder is a sassy cyborg who repairs androids. Prince Charming is Prince Kaito in the futuristic New Beijing. Cinder remains my favorite of the series but the sequels Scarlet, and Cress are enjoyable as well. Meyer does a fantastic job bringing the independent storylines together as the story advances. The book also has a Sailor Moon feel.

Entwined by Heather Dixon – Based on “Twelve Dancing Princesses” – A fluffy, Young Adult take on the lesser-known fairy tale. I enjoyed that all of the girls had flower names and I liked the atmosphere of the story, although it isn’t the most exciting book.

Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede – Based on the tale of the same name – Recommended by AAR’s Maggie.

Jessica Day George has several Young Adult books based on the “Twelve Dancing Princesses”, including Princess of the Midnight Ball, Princess of Glass, and Princess of the Silver Woods as well as Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow ( based on “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”).

Shannon Hale has written Goose Girl (the first of three books in a sequel), Book of a Thousand Days and a graphic novel called Rapunzel’s Revenge, all of which are fairy tale adaptations aimed at middle grade children.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge – Based on “Beauty and the Beast” – A retelling of the fairy tale with the addition of classical mythology, demons, and the idea of a Beauty as an assassin intent on killing the Beast. According to AAR’s Jenna, “It fell a bit short of the great expectations I had based on the books’ blurb, but it seems to have a lot of fans on Goodreads.”


Hook – Based on “Peter Pan” – This is an absolute favorite of mine. I watched this movie a dozen times before I ever even saw or read “Peter Pan”. Robin Williams as the adult Peter Panning is just too fun and Dustin Hoffman is a nearly perfect Captain Hook. You can find it on Netflix now and relive the early 90’s nostalgia.

Shrek – I think the first movie is still the best out of this animated series. This smorgasbord of fairy tales and nursery stories comes together in a laugh out loud film for all ages.

Ever After – Based on “Cinderella” – I know people who absolutely adore Drew Barrymore as Cinderella. I’ll admit, it isn’t a favorite of mine. I never bought her English accent and the juxtaposition of the fairy tale with the presence of Leonardo Di Vinci didn’t work for me. That said, it is a beautiful film and Anjelica Huston is a great wicked stepmother. It’s an entertaining film if you ignore the anachronisms.

The Red Shoes – Based on the story of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson – According to AAR’s Caz, “a wonderful film, and one of the few fairy tale adaptations that actually stays true to the original ending of the tale (spoiler – the girl dies!) The story-within-a-story device works brilliantly, and the film is utterly gorgeous to look at – the colors are so vibrant, they reach out from the screen and smack you round the face!”

Enchanted – A rollicking, original story that pokes fun at the traditional fairy tales. Amy Adams plays the sweet-as-pie princess who has been tossed to modern New York City and finds the normal fairy tale clichés out of place in the real world.

Tangled – Based on “Rapunzel” – A cutesy, musical take on Rapunzel. The animations are beautiful and charming.

Frozen – Based on “The Snow Queen” – This animated film hit such popularity over the last year it seems almost silly to describe it here. One nice change of pace that Frozen presents is that the focus of the plot is not on the princess falling in love with a prince, but rather revolves more around the relationship of the sisters. Be prepared to get the songs stuck in your head if you watch it.


Once Upon A Time – Some of your favorite fairy tale characters have been transported to Storybrooke, Maine with no knowledge of who they are. The show alternates between the characters living in the real world with their storybook alter-egos’ backstory as Emma Swan, a bounty hunter, attempts to help her estranged son save the town. This one comes recommended by several AAR staffers and can be found on Netflix.

Beauty and the Beast – Ron Pearlman and Linda Hamilton take on the iconic roles in this take on the tale, set in 1980’s New York. This is a favorite of AAR’s Pat.

Grimm – Crime drama meets fairy tales. I appreciate the grittiness of the show, as it better represents the original Grimm tales and not the sugar-coated versions we see nowadays.

What are we missing? Got any other fairytale remakes we’ve missed?


AAR Haley





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Elinor Aspen
Elinor Aspen
08/17/2014 12:00 pm

When I watched the George Clooney movie “”Up in the Air,”” I was struck by its parallels with The Little Mermaid (the original Hans Christian Anderson version), particularly the ending.

08/17/2014 8:45 am

Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing is lovely, and loosely based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses (I think there are only 5 sisters here). Daughter of the Forest is based on the fairytale of the princes who are turned into swans by their wicked stepmother, and their sister who knits shirts from nettles for them (while under a vow of silence) to transform them back into humans. Both are excellent

Erin Burns
Erin Burns
08/15/2014 12:20 pm

Marie Hall’s Kindom Series is a more campy, comical, harder spin set of retellings and I think there are around 10 of them.

Erin Burns
Erin Burns
Reply to  Erin Burns
08/15/2014 12:21 pm

Whoops, I meant Kingdom not Kindom.

08/15/2014 11:30 am

I was so disappointed by Enchanted. What I really wanted to see wasn’t the bland perky princess in New York but Idina Menzel’s smart, modern Nancy in fairy-tale world. That would have been such a better movie! And I can’t believe they had Menzel in a musical and she didn’t even sing – we had to wait for Frozen.

Dabney Grinnan
Dabney Grinnan
08/15/2014 11:26 am

I adore Ever After–it was the first adaptation I’d seen where Cinderella kicked butt and took names!

My daughter and I love East by Edith Pattou, a retelling of “”East of the Sun, West of the Moon,”” Runemarks by Joanne Harris which is a retelling of the Norse myths, and I can’t recommend The Goose Girl enough. It’s the best of Shannon Hale’s fairytale adaptations to my mind.

08/15/2014 10:01 am

Thought the Red Shoes was awesome. And I really really liked Beauty and the Beast. The Halloween episode was rather sad as that was the only day the Beast could wander the streets without people questioning his appearance.

08/15/2014 9:49 am

I quite liked Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child. I thought it combined realism with magical elements quite well. Vinge’s Snow Queen cycle is an old favorite of mine, but that is probably due more to the space opera elements than the fairy tale. I do so love the fairy tales where the heroine gets to save the hero, and I see a lot of my favorites already listed.

As for some memorable ones not mentioned above: Bettie Sharpe’s retelling of Cinderella (Ember) and Puss-in-Boots (Cat’s Tale) are fun (I think these are in the Special Titles Listing already). Another I really liked is Intisar Khanani’s Thorn, which is a retelling of The Goose Girl. Patricia McKillip’s In the Forest of Serre is lovely (very lyrical if you don’t mind that style of writing).