Poison by Bridget Zinn, our March book of the month, is a charming and witty story that incorporates many elements of the fantasy genre and classic fairy tales. So today, we want to take a closer look at the genre and how it relates to Poison.
Once Upon A Time
It’s hard to trace the true origins of fairy tales, as they first began as an oral tradition — in which the stories were told out loud, and passed on person to person in this manner. In fact, it’s because of this narrative origin that many fairy tales have different versions. In the process of retelling the story, facets were changed — and until a story was written down, they continued to morph. In fact, many of today’s best-known fairy tales not only have different versions — but they are rooted in different cultures!
In the most classic definition of a fairy tale, they are stories that contain “folkloric” qualities — such as magic, enchantments, fairies, witches, goblins, etc.
Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm first published their collection of fairy tales in 1812, with additional volumes coming out in the following years. They gathered most of their stories by collecting oral folk tales. Nineteen of their best-loved stories are credited with coming from storyteller Dorothee Viehman.
Though many of their stories are now beloved by children, the Grimms were originally criticized for publishing their book under the title “Children’s and Household Tales,” because many believed the stories were inappropriate for kids. Many of the stories were subsequently revised in future editions to appease these critics. (For example, the wicked stepmother in Snow White was originally her actual mother.)
Some of the Grimms’ best-known stories today include Rapunzel, Hansel & Gretel, Cinderella, The Elves & the Shoemaker, and Snow White.
Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen published his first fairy tale in 1835, with more coming out in 1836 and 1837. At the time, they were received poorly and did not sell very well. However, these days his stories are very well known — many having been adapted into longer retellings, movies or TV specials. Andersen’s stories, unlike the Grimms’ stories, are known for often having darker, less “happily ever after” endings.
Some of Andersen’s best-known stories today include The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, The Little Match Girl, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Ugly Duckling, and The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Most fans of fairy tales may not know Charles Perrault’s name off the top of their head, but they should know some of his best-loved stories: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Puss in Boots.
Like most fairy tales, Perrault’s stories were largely derived from pre-existing folk tales. His beloved stories were published in 1695 under the title Tales of Mother Goose. (Actually, Tales of Mother Goose was, at the time, a subtitle for the book’s original name: Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals.) The publication of Perrault’s book is largely considered the true beginnings of the “fairy tale genre” as we know it today.
Other Fairy Tale Auteurs Of Note:
Joseph Jacobs is best-known for writing Aesop’s Fables, he also produced a series of popular anthologies of children’s fairy tales.
Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve is credited as the author of the original version of Beauty & the Beast, though the version most well-known today was adapted by another French novelist, Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont.
Benajamin Tamart published his collection of fairy tales in 1807, and included the first print edition of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Of course, fairy tales continue to be told and retold in various versions. They’ve been adapted into novels, both for adults & YA readers … they’ve been turned into movies, varying from the Disney classics to darker versions more akin to the earliest folk versions. Some fairy tales have even been turned into ballets!
The beauty of fairy tales is that they are universally appealing stories, with seemingly endless possibilities available for retellings and adaptation. In fact, it’s in the very nature of their origins as oral stories that makes them so perfect for being adapted, modernized, and retold … over and over again.
Here are some other YA books based on fairy tales:
Fairy Tale Inspiration: “Little Red Riding Hood”
Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris– the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She’s determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.
Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts fiercely alongside her. Now Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves and finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax– but loving him means betraying her sister and has the potential to destroy all they’ve worked for.
Fairy Tale Inspiration: “Hansel & Gretel”
Twelve years ago, Gretchen, her twin sister, and her brother went looking for a witch in the forest. They found something. Maybe it was a witch, maybe a monster, they aren’t sure—they were running too fast to tell. Either way, Gretchen’s twin sister was never seen again.
Years later, after being thrown out of their house, Gretchen and Ansel find themselves in Live Oak, South Carolina, a place on the verge of becoming a ghost town. They move in with Sophia Kelly, a young and beautiful chocolatier owner who opens not only her home, but her heart to Gretchen and Ansel.
Yet the witch isn’t gone—it’s here, lurking in the forests of Live Oak, preying on Live Oak girls every year after Sophia Kelly’s infamous chocolate festival. But Gretchen is determined to stop running from witches in the forest, and start fighting back. Alongside Samuel Reynolds, a boy as quick with a gun as he is a sarcastic remark, Gretchen digs deeper into the mystery of not only what the witch is, but how it chooses its victims. Yet the further she investigates, the more she finds herself wondering who the real monster is, and if love can be as deadly as it is beautiful.
Fairy Tale Inspiration: “The Little Mermaid”
Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant — until Celia meets Lo.
Lo doesn’t know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea — a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid — all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she’s becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she’s tempted to embrace her dark immortality.
When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude’s affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there’s only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her . . . and steal his soul.
Fairy Tale Inspiration: “The 12 Dancing Princesses”
The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.
Ash by Malinda Lo
Fairy Tale Inspiration: “Cinderella”
In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Fairy Tale Inspiration: “Beauty & the Beast”
I am a beast.
Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright. I am a monster.
You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll, stay this way forever ruined unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly…beastly.
Cloaked by Alex Flinn
Fairy Tale Inspiration: “The Elves & the Shoemaker”
I’m not your average hero. I actually wasn’t your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all.
It all started with a curse. And a frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission.
There wasn’t a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I’ve ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Everglades.
Don’t believe me? I didn’t believe it either. But you’ll see. Because I knew it all was true, the second I got cloaked.
Fairy Tale Inspiration: “Cinderella”
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling.
For the comments: Tell us about our favorite fairy tales, and your favorite YA books inspired by fairy tales!