Today I want to discuss the multitude of fairytale re-imaginings that have become so popular in the last decade. The major surge in re-imaginings in my opinion began with Once Upon a Time in 2011. Also in 2011 the film version of the novel Beastly came out. In 2014 Maleficent turned the tale of Sleeping Beauty on its ear. In 2015 Disney released a live action version of their Cinderella. In 2017 there was the live action version of Beauty and the Beast. Over the last few years Disney has announced several more live action versions of their classic tales! In 2019 Maleficent: Mistress of Evil became a sequel to the re-imagined version of Sleeping Beauty to a deeper level.
What has inspired me to write this post is that I am just now beginning to watch the show Tell Me a Story, which began in 2018 and was created by the amazing Kevin Williamson! It takes on a fairytale re-imagining with more adult content. Of course fairytale re-imaginings do not only include television and films, but also books and musicals! Back in 1998 the film Ever After gave a new twist on the classic Cinderella story.
Into the Woods began as a Broadway musical, and later became a Disney film! It brings together several fairytale elements in unique ways. This obviously pre-dates television shows like Once Upon a Time, but I think that show (and it’s popularity) is what made the idea of tweaking classical tales into greater popularity. For younger audiences Disney Channel made original movies (and Melissa de la Cruz wrote companion books) called Descendants that featured the children of classic Disney villains.
In book form there are several stories being written by many authors that combine fairytale characters and elements. Beginning back in the 1980s Tor publishing began having great fantasy and sci-fi writers adapting classic fairytales for adult audiences. In many ways adapting for adult audiences is in fact bringing fairytales back to their original intent, as they began as stories for intellectual adult circles. Fairytales were tamed for children when adults tired of them.
Jennifer Donnelly has released two books that are fairytale re-imaginings focusing on the villains of these tales. The first was Stepsister in 2019, and then Poisoned in 2020 was the second. Marissa Meyer wrote a series of four novels called The Lunar Chronicles that utilized fairytale re-imaginings. Her twisted tales included Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Back in 1998 Gail Carson Levine wrote the book Ella Enchanted that took the Cinderella tale and used a twist where she was forced to do anything anyone asked of her (she had been gifted obedience). This book became a rather adorable Anne Hathaway movie in 2004. In 2007 Disney released the film Enchanted which mingled several fairytale elements and utilized both animation and live action acting!
Neil Gaiman published the graphic novel Snow, Glass, Apples in 2019. This took a twist with the Snow White tale in making it a tale where the Snow White character was the villain and the Wicked Queen is the heroine! The graphic novel is based on a story Gaiman originally published in 1994.
All in all the stories of fairytale re-imaginings are incredibly fun tales to read and watch. It also proves that the tales of famous fairytales are now just as popular as ever. The need of fairytale archetypes are just as needed now as in the past, if not more!
- Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
- Once Upon a Time (2011-2018)
- Beastly (2011)
- Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
- Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly
- Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman
- Tell Me a Tale (2018-2020)
- Ever After (1998)
- Enchanted (2007)
- Maleficent (2014)
- Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)
- Into the Woods (2013)
Note: The other works mentioned in this blog were mentioned due to their connection to the subject matter. I however have not watched or read them, so they are not listed in further reading. I cannot personally vouch for them, but I know that they are likely great! I hope this post has inspired you to give a chance to all of the books and films and television shows I have discussed!