Fairy Tales Aren’t Just for Children

Janet Clapp
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Once upon a time, you probably heard a fairy tale or two. From “Beauty and the Beast” to “The Wild Swans,” there are numerous stories that take place with a little bit of mystery and magic. These oft-repeated yarns are sometimes reshaped as short stories or novels with a different perspective on the characters or events. Here are a few fairy tales retold in a new way for adults.

‘Bitter Greens’

by Kate Forsyth

“I was Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force…If I must enter a nunnery — quite against my own wishes — it would be in my finest clothes, with my head held high and no traces of tears on my face.” This novel braids together stories of three women: Charlotte-Rose, who wrote a French version of “Rapunzel”; Margherita, who was imprisoned in a tower; and Selena the witch. Removed from Versailles by King Louis XIV, Charlotte-Rose is hidden away in a convent, where she learns the story of Margherita, who was captured by Selena. “She uncoiled the plait from Margherita’s snood, wound it about a hook at the side of the window, then threw the end over the windowsill. It unfurled like a rope of living gold, reaching to the bottom of the tower a hundred feet below.”

‘The Emerald Circus’

by Jane Yolen

“Beauty stared down at it. The trouble with running a large house this far out in the country, even with magical help, was that there was never any real spending money.” This collection of short stories includes many retellings of fairy tales, along with imagined accounts from history or literature, including a fantasy of Emily Dickinson meeting an alien and adventures with Alice from “Alice in Wonderland.” “She had found over the years of regular visits that it was always best to praise Wonderland aloud for its bounty, however bizarre that bounty might be. You didn’t want to have Wonderland mad at you. There were things like…the Jabberwock, for instance.”

‘The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales’

edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

“The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard. The real story is, the miller’s daughter with her long golden hair wants to catch a lord, a prince, a rich man’s son, so she goes to the moneylender and borrows for a ring and a necklace and decks herself out for the festival.” So begins Naomi Novik’s take on Rumpelstiltskin. Various authors contribute their versions of fairy tales from around the world. “Once upon a time, a woman fell in love with a bear. She didn’t mean to; it was only that he was both fearsome and kind to her, that he was dangerous and clever and could teach her about hunting salmon and harvesting wild honey, and she had been lonely for a long time.”

‘Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister’

by Gregory Maguire

“Nothing in my childhood was charming. What fortune attended our lives was courtesy of jealousy, greed, and murder,” according to Iris, the narrator. She, her sister Ruth, and their mother flee to Holland, where they meet the beautiful young Clara. After Clara’s mother dies, then Iris’s mother marries Clara’s father, Clara prefers the safety and privacy of the kitchen. “She puts down the small hearth broom and suddenly, with a chuckle, dips her hands in the ashes. She smudges her cheeks and her forehead. ‘I am no beauty anymore, I’m a simple kitchen girl, a cinder-lass, at home in my ashes and char.’”

The Rutland Free Library has fairy tales for all ages.

Read them happily ever after!

Janet Clapp

Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.

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