Neil Gaiman wrote in Coraline, ““Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Perhaps this explains why we as readers are continually caught up in the genre—and why writers and publishers continue to give us more tales to keep our minds entertained and our imaginations running wild.
The Turnip Princess: And Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Xavier Schonwerth, translated by Maria Tatar (Penguin Classics) Schonwerth traveled across northern Bavaria in the 1850s collecting fairy tales. Most of his work was believed to be lost until editor Erika Eichenseer discovered his manuscripts in 2009; those once-lost stories are published in English in The Turnip Princess, which is essential reading for anyone looking to explore the history of the genre. The collection spans magic and romance, mythical creatures, and legends, and each of the short tales is delightfully strange.
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman (Pengin Classics) Pullman’s work also explores the classics of the fairy tale genre, but instead of giving us newly discovered stories, Pullman has instead reinvented fifty of Grimm’s classic tales—both the best-known ones and those he deems the most interesting—and offers them here with commentary on each. The resulting collection is a testament not only to the lasting appeal of the original Grimm stories, but of Pullman’s skill as a storyteller himself.
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyoyemi (Riverhead Books) Oyoyemi’s fifth novel, Boy, Snow, Bird is a re-imagining of the classic Snow White story. Oyoyemi uses some details from the original fairy tale (a girl named Snow, a character’s fascination with mirrors) and changes other aspects of the story (set in 1953, and Snow has a half-sibling) to suit her own design, giving readers a story of race and identity that will feel vaguely familiar and yet entirely new.
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel & Friends) Each volume of the Lunar Chronicles series offers a new take on an old tale, moving fantasy into the world of science fiction. Cinder updates Cinderella, Scarlet takes on Red Riding Hood, and Cress tackles Rapunzel’s long hair. Good news for those intrigued by this concept: the novels are linked together, and the fourth volume in the series, Fairest, is scheduled for release later this year.
Fables created by Bill Willingham (Vertigo) What would happen if all of our favorite characters from fairy tales were actually acquaintances, driven out of their magical homeland by an unknown adversary and forced to live in our boring, modern world? Fables would happen. In this comics series, creator Bill Willingham imagines our world full of fairy tale characters: a farm full of talking animals (and three blind mice), a Prince Charming who actually cheated on both Snow White and Cinderella, because he’s not so charming after marriage, and a strange cohort of characters trying to live “normal” lives and find a way back to their homes. Action, adventure, romance, humor: Fables is a fairytale for the modern age.—Kerry McHugh