Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wacky and Weird Twists on Old Tales

So I came down to the kitchen to find bald Cinderella staring at me today.

Her dress a little smudged, her hair a little - er, missing, but still recognizably blue-eyed and blue-dressed and perky personalitied.

Now I'm assuming that my 7yo simply lost ol' Cindy's hair piece, and wasn't trying to make some kind of social commentary on hair-as-beauty, illness related alopecia, commercialism or otherwise trying to undermine the pink and poofy Disney princess narrative that seems to have a psychic stranglehold on this country's collective imagination. (But you never know, look at the cool girls at princess free zone, or this viral video of 5year old Riley ranting about big business and the pink-washing of girls' toys, or even my own daughter's previous performance piece using Barbie and Ganesh in all sorts of gender bending ways) 

But hairless Cinderella did get me thinking - why is it so many of us love wacky and weird twists on old tales? I certainly do - the middle grade novel I have on submission is based on a combination of Bengali folktales - with a liberal dose of oddball humor thrown in. Michael Buckley, in his Sister's Grimm and N.E.R.D.S. series, certainly takes similar amusing liberties with the fairy tale and spy genres. So too has John Scieszka taken broad liberties with history in his Time Warp Trio series, fairy tales in his The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and fables in his Squids Will Be Squids.

I recently had the delightful opportunity to read an ARC of yet another entrant into the wacky and wild world of re-imagining old tales, the hilarious The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy.(I'll be sharing my interview of Christopher, and hosting a giveaway of his book, on From The Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors on April 9!)

Which I guess got me thinking - what is it about the juxtaposition of the weird and silly with the traditional that amuses me so? (Case in point, I came across this blog casting various dog breeds as Downton Abbey characters today - resulting in hours of completely silly amusement on my part)

What are your favorite irreverent takes on traditional tales?


  1. I'm a fan of the Mercedes Lackey series (she has two, actually) that are fairy tales retold with a twist. I think Phoenix and Ashes, a retelling of the Cinderella story set in the UK around WWI, is my favorite. In this tale, both the hero and heroine have actual personalities, and in the end, they rescue themselves and each other.

  2. Thanks Beverly - must look that up! Is it humorous or serious? I'm realizing that I'm so terribly drawn to the irreverence of some of these re-tellings and have actually been wondering if that irreverence is more predominantly seen in books categorized as "boy books". Looking forward to reading this one!