Tale as old as time…

I haven’t made it to the new Beauty and the Beast movie, but I am looking forward to it. It has made us think though about retellings of fairy stories.

Probably my favourite movie retelling of a fairy tale is the excellent “Ever After”. Caro was able to nominate a 1946 Jean Cocteau black and white film version of Beauty and the Beast (“La Belle et la Bete”). She also recalls a TV series called Faery Tale Theatre from the 1980s with Shelley Duvall introducing the series and Robin Williams, Carrie Fisher and numerous others starring in the remakes. Needless to say this demonstrates that Caro’s film experiences are eclectic and far ranging!

My favourite fairy tale ever is Leda and the Seven Swans, and my favourite retelling of it is Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier.

Daughter of the Forest

For all that I love Leda, there’s something about the Beauty and the Beast story that seems to catch everyone’s attention. Is it the hostage drama? Or the brave self-sacrifice of Beauty? Is it the idea of the lonely, brooding beast, doomed to roam the halls of his castle for all eternity in punishment for arrogance? Does the recurring theme of the rose add to the delicacy, pain and strength of the story? Is it just the hope it inspires in us that love is not defined by outward appearance, but rather by character? Or is it just that the Beast is far sexier than the Prince? Perhaps we always prefer the bad boys…

Another of my favourite authors, Robin McKinley, wrote  a wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast in her 1978 novel “Beauty”. Clearly she was still fascinated by the story, as nearly twenty years later, she wrote another, significantly different version, “Rose Daughter”. “Beauty” remains one of my most re-read books and I’ve had to replace the paperback I originally bought. I also like “Rose Daughter”, in part for the different slant it paces on the story. Incidentally, McKinley also wrote an excellent Sleeping Beauty retelling called “Spindle’s End”. Very worth reading.

I don’t know if all romance writers and readers like fairy tales as well, but I’ve always loved them. The themes are very straightforward, the magic, the happy ending and I guess the romance is always appealing as well, for me personally. Just a note here that Caroline prefers the far more gruesome and punishment heavy original Grimm stories. Beauty and the Beast is her favourite fairy tale – but not the Disney cartoon version with the singing crockery (although she does admit to shedding a tear during the ballroom scene).

Reading fairy tales led me on to Hans Christian Anderson, then Norse Mythology, and from there to Celtic myths and legends, and then to King Arthur. King Arthur led me to fantasy and from there it was a hop skip and a jump to romance and science fiction. For Caro, it was the Andrew Lang fairy tale books and original Grimm stories. Looking back on the progression, it seems to me that the imagination of it all is what attracted me the most. It inspired me write my own fairy tales, starting a lifelong love of writing as well as reading

What is your favourite fairy tale? What about a movie version? And a book version? We’d love to hear your take on it!