This week’s topic: What fairy tale would we pick to rewrite and why?
I’ve written a couple of fairy tale themes into my books – probably most notably with Trapped on Talonque, which my SFF7 buddy Vivien Jackson was kind enough to mention earlier this week. Sleeping Beauty has always been one of my all-time favorite stories, both Disney’s version and the more general folk tale, so I thoroughly enjoyed taking the concept and running with it. I relished doing a scifi take on the story… Bithia, the ‘sleeping beauty’ in the novel is from an ancient, spacefaring civilization. To make the story work I had to think long and hard about why such a person would be left behind on a more primitive planet by her own people and how she could survive without aging. Then I got to have fun imagining what it would be like to be her, and finally be set free…but thousands of years into her future. Suffice it to say nothing is as she hoped or expected.
There’s no prince, only my gallant and resourceful Special Forces soldier, Nate Reilly. He becomes fascinated with Bithia, needs her help to survive and rescue his men, and of course falls in love with her. Instead of helpful fairies, we have a clan of priests and priestesses who know many of the secrets of the Sleeping Goddess, as Bithia is called on Talonque, but have their own agenda.
And how long can even the best alien technology keep functioning with no maintenance? (I did enjoy throwing problems at this group of characters.)
I’ve also invented my own fairy tale, that of The Princess of Shadows, for the scifi romance Mission to Mahjundar. Here’s how the novel’s heroine Princess Shalira explains the story to the Sectors Special Forces soldier who of course will be her handsome ‘prince’: “It’s an old folktale about a girl of royal blood who hid from her enemies in the shadows of the palace walls, disguised as a beggar, until her true love rescued her.” Gesturing to her eyes, Shalira said, “It’s meant as an insult to me, since I can’t see, not even shadows, and I’ve lived the past fifteen years on the fringes of the court, out of the ‘sun.’ I’m tolerated, protected only because my mother was the emperor’s Favorite till she died."
The hero is of course thoroughly captivated and determined to help her.
My personal favorite fairy tale is Cinderella. I’m not that big on the Disney animated version because frankly there isn’t enough of the prince in it. I enjoyed the Disney live action version more, principally because I loved Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. In my opinion they did not do justice to the waltz in that movie though. The dress, although impressive, was too big to allow the prince to really dance with her. Mostly he spun her around to make the dress’s skirt flare out. Okayyyy….
But the best version I’ve ever seen was Drew Barrymore’s movie “Ever After.” Let me pause a moment and bask in my happiness s over that retelling! I love to rewatch that one. A close second for me would be the Rogers & Hammerstein stage musical, as performed by Lesley Ann Warren in the role of Cinderella for television. So many good songs, such a handsome prince, and oh the WALTZ.
(I also enjoy the version of the waltz scene the Broadway cast of ‘Cinderella’ did for the 2013 Tony Awards.)
I’ve actually written a take on Cinderella, set in my ancient Egyptian paranormal romance world, entitled Healer of the Nile. I had fun figuring out how to work the key elements of the fairy tale into my Egyptian framework and I was determined to have Pharaoh be the ‘fairy godfather’ who made things right for Mehyta, my heroine, and Tadenhut, her disabled soldier hero.
One of the oldest versions of the story actually is from ancient Egypt, about 2400 years ago, in fact. But my story for Healer was entirely original and didn’t involve anyone having to fit into any particular sandal!
Soooo…I’ve basically already written versions of my two favorite fairy tales. Not saying I won’t ever write another book using a fairy tale type trope but I don’t feel particularly pulled to do it. I’d say my third favorite story is Beauty and the Beast as done by Disney in the animated version but at the moment my Muse doesn’t feel inspired.
I will also say that frankly the Brothers Grimm version of anything was too dark, violent and scary for me as a child. Someone made the mistake of giving me a volume of their tales when I was a kid, not the cleaned up, pastel cheery Disney versions and I was horrified. Scarred for life to some extent! So I’m just really not a huge fairy tale fan. I leave that genre to others!