My Favourite (Chill) Fairy Tale Retellings

Today, I just wanted to share a super quick list of some of my favourite atmospheric, fairy tale retellings. All of these deliver on the wintry vibes- without you having to the hassle of going outside 😉

snow child

The Snow Child– it’s been a long while since I mentioned this exquisite historical fiction. Set in 1920s Alaska, it draws on the Russian fairy tale by the same name and delivers something utterly unique.

bear and the nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale– also inspired by Russian folklore, this has a more fantastical touch and is set in an authentically medieval setting. If you’re in the mood for high fantasy, then I can’t give you a better recommendation for the winter months.

wolf in the whale

Wolf in the Whale– this is more inspired by a patchwork of different mythologies, stories and histories- which I think qualifies it to be on this list. Plus, it certainly delivers on the atmospheric quota- you’ll need to be nice and snug while you’re reading this, or you’ll catch a chill!

to kill a kingdom

To Kill a Kingdom– if you’re looking for something a bit creepier, then look no further! This deadly little mermaid retelling will cut you to the quick!

hazel wood

Hazel Wood– while not technically a retelling, it does draw on so many fairy tale motifs. Plus, it has a gothic edge to it too.

So, have you read these? Do you plan to? And what retellings give you the wintry vibes? Let me know in the comments!

Fantastic Folklore-Inspired Stories from Around the World

orangutan list

Hello all! Since I’ve been speaking a lot about fairy tales and folklore in the last week, I thought it would be fun to just to a little list for this Sunday’s post. I decided (cos I’m a fussy reader that’s picky about retellings) to go with books that I think are great, which aren’t necessarily retellings, but rather are simply awesome stories, inspired by mythic tales. And these they are:

shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox– it’s not just that I really enjoyed this book- I also thought Kaguwa’s light touch was perfect when it came to representing the wonderfully complex creature that is the kitsune.

ForbiddenWish_BOM.indd

Forbidden Wish– I don’t think I talk about this book enough on this blog, even though I really enjoyed this unique Aladdin retelling.

bear and the nightingale

Bear and the nightingale– I think it’s fairly obvious how much I love this book. Bound up in Russian folklore, it’s become an instant favourite for me and is perfect reading for this time of the year.

anansi boys

Anansi Boys– this was the first Gaiman I really fell in love with- and for good reason. Not only does it absorb fascinating mythic elements, but Gaiman also puts his own unique humour and twist on the story, elevating it to the levels of genius.

circe

Circe– ah Greek mythology is so close to my heart- so I’m delighted to have read what I believe to be the *definitive* retelling of the Odyssey. It’s simply sublime.

Hobbit_cover

The Hobbit– I went back and forth about putting this on this list, because it doesn’t necessarily correlate with any one story. Instead it’s an amalgamation of so many stories and goes far beyond a traditional retelling in that it becomes the backbone for future British mythology- which meant I’d be remiss to leave it off. Besides, it’s one of my all-time favourite books and I’m biased 😉

through the woods

Through the Woods– this graphic novel is not only visually stunning, but an excellent example of unique retellings. It not only incorporated elements from the original Grimm’s tales, it also embodied something of the spirit from Angela Carter’s work. For that alone, it’s a worthy read.

 

What do you think of any of these? And do have any favourite retellings or novels inspired by folklore? Let me know in the comments!

Singing the Praises of Song Of Achilles… Mostly

song-of-achilles

So I mentioned in my last post that I am a tricky customer… well you are about to find out just how tricky a customer I can be. Because, despite what follows in this review, I actually really liked this book. I thought it was very compelling, with great characters and a sweet romance. And yes, it made me cry.

For that reason (and I’m gonna break with tradition by saying this now) I gave this book 4/5 bananas:

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

However, I studied Classics at uni and this didn’t quite match up with my understanding of the history or literature. Now  this isn’t anything personal, I just don’t know if there’s ever a case where two classicists agree on any interpretation (at least in my experience 😉 )

Let’s start with some of the issues I had with the book as an interpretation of the Iliad. Some of my issues were merely niggling ones- like Patroclus not being a warrior (which made no sense because Miller had to adhere to the myth of having him kill Sarpedon)- yes he was gentle (epios) but in Greek terms that also means being harsh with your enemy. Little things- like explaining supplication and the blatant (and yet slightly out of place) nod to hubris also got on my wick as well. Then there were the slightly bigger issues- like the fact that Achilles really, really didn’t remind me of the Achilles of the Iliad- sorry but he’s just not that nice!– in order to make the plot still work, the author had to give him a personality transplant halfway through. Even then, his menis seemed more like a temper tantrum than the rage of someone who was practically a demi-god.

So that wasn’t great- but it wasn’t my biggest problem. Because from a historical perspective, I thought the way Patroclus saved Briseis was a *fundamental* misunderstanding of Greek culture. There is *no way* that they would have been rescuing the women from Agamemnon’s harem- for historical accuracy’s sake I have to point out that Greek culture was so misogynistic that it wouldn’t have been considered cheating on a male partner to be with a woman- being with a woman didn’t count. Which brings me onto another issue- gay relationships and pederasty (now known as paedophilia) were super common and totally socially acceptable- because according to some social commentators being with a man who was your equal was seen as the only way you could actually experience love- again women just didn’t count.

Still, I did like the humanising of the myth and liked how the gods weren’t missed out (as they are in so many retellings). And for the most part, I really have to praise this as a wonderful vision of the story and say that it has a brilliant power to evoke emotions. Overall, there were aspects I really loved about Song of Achilles, I just think that I will always struggle with retellings of the Iliad.

Phew- I feel bad after all that! Well- am I the only one that has difficulty with some retellings? Am I the only one that really struggles with this? Let me know in the comments!