To avoid blogging about the tedious business of writing, I'm going to do a series of themed posts on fairy tale retellings, which are, admittedly, one of my favorite genres!
I started reading the original fairy tales around seven, including the unedited editions. I read about the ugly stepsisters cutting off their toes so they could fit in Cinderella's glass slipper, the evil queen in Snow White being given red-hot iron shoes that she must wear and dance until death, and the prince's mother who ate Sleeping Beauty's children. Strangely, I wasn't grossed out by the violence as a child, but as an adult, all that cutting and cannibalism make me uncomfortable now.
In college I also took a course on fairy tales and folktales. I remember reading a translation of Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty, and there were places I wondered if the author was deliberately being funny. Like, when the prince refrains from telling Sleeping Beauty that she dresses like his grandmother. And during the night, they don't sleep because the princess has slept long enough, haha.
Anyway, today I'd like to start with two retellings of The Goose Girl. I've always found it interesting that the princess is forced to switch with her servant and live temporarily as a commoner--her adaptation makes excellent material for retelling.
Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale.
It starts out a bit slow, but Hale's writing is so lyrical and beautiful so you can't help savoring it. I enjoyed how she gave the princess Ani a flaw--she can't talk cleverly (a trait I sadly lack as well), but her servant Selia is good at "people-talk," which explains how Selia convinces Ani's servants to rebel. Hale did a nice job with the world building. The princess's kingdom and the prince's kingdom and the people living in the forest--all have their own cultures. And when Ani becomes the goose girl, she still has to live in constant fear of being discovered, which contributes tension to the leisurely pacing. While it's a great retelling, I have to admit it's rather too faithful to the original tale. My favorite book by Hale is actually The Princess Academy : D
Thorn, by Intisar Khanani
I was pleasantly surprised by Intisar's exquisite story when I was looking for a new retelling to sink my teeth in. This is a darker version of The Goose Girl, dealing with abuse and justice being central themes. The heroine Alyssa starts out a bit weak, but she gradually grows into her role. Like Hale, Intisar writes beautifully, it runs smooth and poetic in a unique manner. The scenes between the hero and heroine actually inspired me to write The Ugly Stepsister, which is also kind of weird considering these are different retellings. But anyway, I love her writing and bought every book of hers (she has a free short story here), and am eagerly anticipating her future work.
Although these are the only versions of Goose Girl I've found, both are truly excellent and hold up well to re-reading. And so, if you haven't read them yet, I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did : )