Posts tagged Wrap Up
Posts tagged Wrap Up
Sleeping Beauty Wrap Up
Well, our twelfth month of fairy tales has come to a close, and we’ll address the future of this project in a bit, but for now, let’s talk about Sleeping Beauty.
I think I mentioned that I took a class on this fairy tale in college? Yeah, the predominant conclusion from that class was that this was a supremely boring fairy tale, and we weren’t wrong. And I think that’s why this month, like Beauty and the Beast’s month, every novelization was an improvement on the original.
We talked at the beginning of the month about how this is a story defined by passivity. And so, the number one thing I was looking for was stories that made the characters more active, turning the story into one where characters make things happen instead of just having things happen to them.
Let’s look at our Sleeping Beauties –
Beauty Sleep’s Aurore, who expresses to her father how she is defined by her need to go beyond the palace walls and live at least in part the kind of life that her subjects lead. Who leaves home in the middle of the night to get the curses plaguing her kingdom to follow her and allow peace to descend once more over her home. Who sacrifices seeing her parents again to do what is best for her kingdom.
The One Who Took the Really Long Nap’s Rose, who was driven by her desire to find where her talents lay, outside of what was fairy-given. Who wasn’t afraid to try and fail, who even took pleasure in her failure. Whose curse at the end of the spindle came about out of this desire to find what she did well. Who had a secret part of the spell to work out before she could be free.
A Kiss in Time’s Talia, who was a spoiled brat in the beginning of her tale, whose growth and story arc became entirely about growing into a decent person and learning how to look at the world beyond herself. Who came to be the kind of person who wanted to help others succeed. Who had to relive her curse a second time and find a way to help her prince find her and fight his demons to free her.
Thornspell’s Rue, who was asleep for almost the entirely of the novel and still managed to keep her prince out of danger, guiding him through the spirit world and always being present at the right moment to ensure that he saw what needed to be done. While asleep, guys.
Spindle’s End’s Rosie, who spent the whole of her story fighting against the image of the princess she was supposed to fulfill, albeit unknowingly. Who was awoken and went out and sought out and faced down her evil fairy three times, almost died, and still found the energy to save her best friend’s life.
Those are five pretty active and kick-ass Sleeping Beauty’s. And their princes are just as active. Ironheart, the unnamed Prince, Jack, Sig, Narl/Rowland, they all were invested in the finding out and helping and breaking of the various curses. Each novel this month built SB and her prince into a unit, working with each other, helping each other, working in tandem to break curses and wake princesses, and I just love it so much.
And also across the board, we’ve got better explained motivations for the parents, more defined conflict, more clearly drawn worlds. Each novel this month got full points across the board.
And as I said, we barely scratched the surface in terms of the Sleeping Beauty novels out there. We’ve also got:
The Gates of Sleep by Mercedes Lackey, which places the story in Victorian England and is one of Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, which you all know I adore.
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, which sets Sleeping Beauty during the Holocaust and is half-brilliant (the actual Sleeping Beauty narrative is wonderfully drawn; the modern-day framing story leaves a lot to be desired).
Briar Rose by Robert Coover, which is very post-modern and very meta and very not for everyone, but which is absolutely fascinating if you can get past all that.
Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, The Wide-Awake Princess by ED Baker, and gosh, guys, so many others that I haven’t read. (And hopefully, one day, in publication for you all to read, a novel called Spinning Tales, Spinning Truth by yours truly. But that’s currently just a pipe dream).
Rankings are super hard this month, and don’t ask me to choose favorites; my answers will be super biased towards the novel that defined my adolescence.
But Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley, Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey, and A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn all come Highly Recommended, and Sleeping Beauty: the One Who Took the Really Long Nap by Wendy Mass and Thornspell by Helen Lowe are both Recommended.
And as for the future of Fairy Tale Reviews, well, don’t worry. I imagine I’ll continue to post reviews here, as there are tons of fairy tale novelizations out there and I’m sure gonna keep reading them. I won’t commit to any sort of schedule from here on out, but when I read one, I’ll review it. I’ll follow my checklists if applicable, and I’ll summarize the new fairy tale and throw a quick checklist together if not.
Until then, y’all, this is Cassie, signing off. :)
Little Red Riding Hood Wrap Up
So, this month, we looked at another of those problem fairy tales, those “Then I Found Five Dollar” tales. And similarly to Rumpelstiltskin, in wrapping up the month and looking at how our different authors chose to handle adapting the tale, we’re going to set aside Cloaked in Red for the time being, and look at the three novels that weren’t written specifically to address the issues of the original tale: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, Scarlet Moon by Debbie Vigue, and Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George.
So the first thing I noticed about these three novels is that in exactly none of them is Little Red a child. Scarlet is 19 and Ruth and Petunia are both 16, and this directly ties in with the second thing I noticed, which was that in exactly none of these novels was the wolf an actual wolf. Scarlet came the closest, making Wolf a sort of human-wolf hybrid, and there’s the werewolf bit in Scarlet Moon, but essentially, all of these novels portray the wolf as human. Which leads directly to the last thing I noticed:
In each and every one of these novels, the wolf became a love interest for Little Red.
This point is a little disturbing to me. I mean, I get it, we live in a culture where every story has to have a romance, and Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t, but … the wolf? The creature who preys on Little Red in the original story, who wants to kill her? That’s who we’re choosing to turn into a love interest?
And I mean, yes, all three of these novels also have a secondary wolf in there somewhere who fills the bloodthirsty, wanting Little Red to die role, allowing these primary wolves to also play the role of the hunstmen, but … still.
Honestly, as much as I loved Scarlet and Princess of the Silver Woods, I am a little disappointed that no one took a different direction with this story. No one made the wolf a real wolf, no one made Little Red a child, everyone turned it into a romance. Which is fine, looking at each novel individually. But all together, seeing the stories that, boiled down to essentials, are so similar … I don’t know. To me, making Little Red older and turning the wolf into the love interest is the easy way to retell this story, and I find myself wishing that someone had taken a more challenging route.
So to that end, thank you Vivian Vande Velde.
I also noticed that of the people we read this month, only one chose to deliberately retell Little Red specifically, creating a world around that story. We’re leaving Cloaked in Red aside again, because of the different motivation in writing it, and Scarlet and Princess of the Silver Woods both used LRRH as a sequel structure, fitting the fairy tale into a world already established for another fairy tale, and while they both did it very well, LRRH was not the starting point for either of them.
At the end of the day, the offerings we have on this story say a lot about how well it lends itself to retelling, which is: not very well. The most successful adaptations this month didn’t try to retell the story on its own, but wove the elements of the story in with others, which I feel like you almost have to do with a story this problematic.
So! Rankings for the month:
Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde, Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George, and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer all receive Highly Recommended ratings for vastly different reasons.
Scarlet Moon by Debbie Vigue gets a Not Recommended from me, but with the caveat that it is very much not my cup of tea, but isn’t necessarily badly written.
May’s fairy tale, and the last fairy tale of the year and the project, is Sleeping Beauty. See you tomorrow!
As ubiquitous as the fairy tale of Cinderella is in cultures around the world, it is easily as ubiquitous in fairy tale novelizations. There have been months in the past where the struggle was finding enough novels to fill a full month. Here, the struggle lay in narrowing down the choice (in other words, the “Other Notable Novels” section is going to be quite full this month).
And yet, for all that that is true, almost every novelization I could have read and reviewed pulls from Perrault’s Cinderella. There are exceptions, of course. Donna Jo Napoli has a wonderful one that uses the Chinese Cinderella as its basis, and Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters Cinderella retelling uses more of Grimm’s, but for the most part, authors tend to latch onto Perrault’s.
And that got me thinking — why? Why fixate on arguably the weakest version of Cinderella out there, a story with a heroine so helpless she can’t even voice her own wishes? And then it occurred to me (and hang onto your hats, folks. I’m about to go Super Meta):
Maybe authors latch onto Perrault’s Cinderella because she’s the one most in need of rescue. Not from an evil curse, not from enforced servitude, but from the very confines of her own story told by an incredibly sexist narrator (appreciate as much as you want the work that Perrault did in terms of collecting and reproducing oral tradition tales in France; I certainly do. But that appreciation aside, you can’t deny that he was sexist and chauvinistic, and the stories he chose to collect and the way he chose to tell them reflect this).
I think authors tend to hone in on Perrault’s Cinderella because they want so badly to rescue Perrault’s Cinderella, above and beyond the other Cinderellas out there. Because Grimm’s made her own way to the ball. Chinese, Russian, Native American Cinderellas took charge of their own destinies. And so many other Cinderella figures out there – even if they couldn’t go after what they wanted, they could at least articulate it. But Perrault’s is so terribly helpless, you can’t help but want to give her a stronger personality and some small measure of control.
Because that’s what I noticed this month. Without exception, every Cinderella from every novelization was far less passive, far more proactive, far less willing to sit around and wait for her life to improve. Across the board, we got Cinderellas with gumption and fire and stubbornness, far more than Perrault’s ever showed.
I also noticed that all five of these novels offered Cinderella friends, another thing missing from Perrault’s tale. Ella from Just Ella had Jed and Mary; Poppy had Christian and Marianne and Dickon; Cinder had Peony and her android and Kai; Cindy had Malcolm and India; and Ella from Ella Enchanted had Char and Areida and Mandy. None of our Cinderellas were left alone, and in four out of five cases, they all met and became friends with the prince long before the ball, and in the one instance they didn’t, he turned out to be an idiot.
So, we give her passion, and we give her friends, and I think that’s significant. Every novel we read this month stressed the importance of those two things above and beyond the importance of romance, and it’s hard not to be a fan of that.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George both come Highly Recommended and remain some of my favorite novel adaptations.
Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix and Cinder by Marissa Meyer are both Recommended for sure.
Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer was pretty disappointing, and I wouldn’t want anyone to go out of their way to read it.
Other Notable Novels: Tons. Seriously, guys, there are so many.
Bound by Donna Jo Napoli, which tells the tale of the Chinese Cinderella.
Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey, which is one of my favorite of her Elemental Masters series.
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire, which I haven’t read for a while but remember being blown away by.
Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey, which has a fantastic take on Cinderella’s father.
I Was a Rat by Philip Pullman, which examines the story from the perspective of one of the rats turned into a footman, and is tons of fun.
And I’m gonna go ahead and throw out The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C Hines and The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey, both of which have Cinderella as a character combined with other fairy tale characters in truly wonderful ways.
Also, someone please read Cinderella: Ninja Warrior for me? My copy had to go back to the library before I could read it, and I just want to know!
There are so many others, guys. Cinderella is everywhere! But the month is up, and we have to move on.
April’s fairy tale is Little Red Riding Hood!
Jack and the Beanstalk Wrap-Up
So, as discussed at the beginning of the month, Jack and the Beanstalk has never been one of my favorite fairy tales. There were just too many problems with it and I couldn’t stand the end where this boy tricked, cheated, lied, stole, and was rewarded in the end. Maybe that said something about real life, but fairy tales aren’t real life, damn it! If I wanted stories like that, I’d just watch the news!
So I always kinda shrugged this story off as a kid, and then I fell in love with Into the Woods – and let me tell you something, I could write you an entire post on Into the Woods, and maybe someday I will (no promises, but maybe). And what I love about Into the Woods is that, in the first act, the stories are all pretty much exactly what they are in real life. They play out just as we know them, interconnected, but in the end, it’s the happily ever afters we expect: Cinderella and Rapunzel get their princes, Little Red is rescued from the wolf, and Jack and his mother are rich off stolen goods.
And then we have Act Two. The whole idea behind Act Two is what happens next? What comes after happily ever after, and is it as perfect as we think? And the driving action of Act Two? The new problem that brings with it so many other problems? The Giant’s Wife has come down the beanstalk, looking for Jack and for justice to be served upon the boy who stole her goods and killed her husband.
And I watched this musical and thought, Yeah. That’s about right. Maybe not kill him, but shouldn’t he answer for what he did?
So since that time (and I was about eight, mind), that’s been my prevailing attitude toward Jack in this story. If I’m going to read about him, I want his wrongs to either not be wrongs as such or to be something he either regrets or has to answer for.
And in each of my four novels this month, we’ve gotten that. Two chose the route of giving Jack stronger motivations in going up the beanstalk (Crazy Jack and The World Above), one had Jack regret his actions later in his life (The Thief and the Beanstalk), and one did both (Calamity Jack).
In Crazy Jack, the giant’s wife had been stolen, and Jack was trying to set her free. She helped him steal the goods as her way to stick it to the husband she was trying to escape from. Jack was also a bit crazy in this one. I love that this book chose to go the route of insanity/stupidity because it called to mind all those other Jack tales, the Foolish Jack stories that this one isn’t really a part of, but could be.
In The World Above, Jack isn’t fighting against the giant, really, but against his father’s usurper, so he’s taking back what rightfully belongs to him. In this story, I love the choice to have Jack originally from the giant’s world, trying to go back and find a place in his rightful home. This Jack was still reckless and impulsive, like Jack from the story, but with a firmer purpose in place.
In The Thief and the Beanstalk, though, we go in the other direction. Jack is a thief, he did do wrong, he lied and cheated and betrayed, all of it. And he knows it. He got rich off of horrible deeds, and that fact has haunted him his whole life, but he’s too much of a coward to go up again and put things right. But he has answered for his crimes, in the guilt that has consumed and defined him most of his life.
And in Calamity Jack, we get this marvelous combination, where Jack is climbing the beanstalk to try and take down the tyrant running his town and making life miserable, but on the other hand, he is also a stupid, reckless kid getting in trouble just for the hell of it. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. That was a fascinating spin on Jack, and I’m glad it was taken.
So we have four very different Jacks here, and four very different takes on the beanstalk and the world that lies at its top, but I enjoyed them all. Rankings:
The World Above by Cameron Dokey is my favorite of the month. I love how she explores the world and the way Robin Hood is intertwined so seamlessly. Highly recommended.
The other three then fall right behind, all recommended, but I love them for such vastly different reasons it’s hard to rank them further!
March’s story will be Cinderella, and truly, I need about five more weeks in the month! There’s a lot to tackle! See you then!
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Wrap Up
So, as Matthew pointed out in his guest post from earlier this week, Snow White is one of those fairy tale with not a lot to recommend it, and if Walt Disney hadn’t sunk his teeth into it, it probably wouldn’t be remembered much at all these days. The evidence of this is, I believe, in the way we saw the story retold this month. More than any other fairy tale we’ve looked at, this month’s novels seem to stray far from the original plot line.
Snow takes the story to an entirely different time period, replacing magic with science and dwarfs with half-human/half-animal hybrids.
Snow in Summer does a similar thing, taking the story to the Appalachia mountains and infusing it with those superstitions and traditions, churches of black magic, demons and devils, and things of that nature. Both Snow and Snow in Summer feel much more grounded in the real world than the original story does, and both take dramatic turns away from the elements of that story.
Fairest departs the most dramatically, using the basic outline of Snow White more as a vehicle to use to explore a world already created by the author. The ideas inherent in Snow White are there, but they are used in drastically different ways, and the plot takes a lot more twists and turns.
Fairest of All is the closest to the original story, and even it exists as a deliberate retelling of the Disney movie, in much the same way that Gregory Maguire’s Wicked does with The Wizard of Oz.
Because I think these authors found what Matthew and I have observed: there’s just not that much too this story, and there’s so much about it that is problematic. So they found their own way to spruce up the story. And you know what? It works. While we have to have respect for an original source material that we work from, it’s also important to feel the freedom to branch out, to take the story down to its bare essentials and build up from there. That’s what our authors this month have done.
So! The rankings.
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine and Fairest of All by Serena Valentino come Highly Recommended, while Snow by Tracy Lynn and Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen both come Recommended. All in all, a good showing this month.
Other Notable Novels: Serpent’s Shadow by Mercedes Lackey, and given that her Elemental Masters series is one of my favorite fairy tale series out there, I really should actually include one in a review one of these months. I get daunted by how long and complicated they are, making them really hard to summarize, but they’re fantastic!
Next month, we look at Jack and the Beanstalk! See you all tomorrow!
Rapunzel Wrap Up
Okay, I need to write this before I get so caught up in NaNo that it falls completely by the wayside.
So. Rapunzel. Let’s go through the checklist point by point and see how the month’s novels stack up.
Explanation for the parents’ behavior. Specifically: Why was the husband so afraid of the witch? Why was the wife so insistent on that particular vegetable? Why did the father agree to hand over his child, and why didn’t the wife object really at all? And what happened to them after the witch took their child away?
Of the four novels, each had a different approach to the parents. Golden made the mother hard-hearted and shallow while finding a way to introduce the father in a different capacity. The mother agreed because she didn’t care, and the father had no say in the matter. And we’re told, once Rapunzel went with Melisande, the mother died, and the father followed.
In Rapunzel: The One with All the Hair, the parents were under an enchantment. The witch here is thoroughly evil, and she stole Rapunzel away forcefully, using magic in a deceitful way to get what she wanted. The didn’t object because they weren’t themselves, and in the end, Rapunzel is returned to them.
In Rapunzel’s Revenge, we have a similar situation. Mother Gothel is entirely cold-hearted, and she needed an heir, so she waited for one of her desperate workers to steal food and used it as an excuse to take their daughter. It was a forceful move that the parents had no say in. And again, Rapunzel is reunited with her mother in the end.
And finally, Zel. We honestly barely get a picture of Zel’s parents, but really, that’s okay because of the way the novel is structured. They aren’t relevant. As far as we know, they went on to have plenty more children. Although we are told that the father promised Zel away because it was that or his life.
Of the four, I think I like Golden’s treatment the best, if only because I like that the father at least remains present. I also like that sympathetic side of the witch and how she was willing to let him be a part of his daughter’s life in some capacity.
Exploration of Rapunzel’s childhood with Mother Gothel. What was her childhood like? What was her relationship with Mother Gothel like?
It’s interesting to me to see how Mother Gothel is treated in these novels. One paints her as the picture of all evil with no redeeming qualities whatsoever (The One with All the Hair). Another paints her as an evil, manipulative woman hidden under a veneer of cold aloofness (Rapunzel’s Revenge). Still another portrays her as mildly sympathetic, genuinely loving her adopted daughter, but still doing evil in the name of protection (Zel). And one alone paints her as genuinely sympathetic, as much a victim as Rapunzel and Rapunzel’s father (Golden).
I bring this up because how the novels treat Gothel directly influences Rapunzel’s childhood. I think I like the glimpse we get from Golden and Zel best, and again, it’s because I like that mix of villainy and a loving household that we don’t get from the others. I think the story is so much more powerful if that relationship is complicated and a little gray.
Explain the unexplained elements. How did Rapunzel’s hair grow long enough to hoist a full grown woman up a presumably tall tower, and how was Rapunzel able to stand having her head used as a ladder? Why did her tears heal the prince’s eyes? Could her tears heal other things? Has she always had this ability?
For the hair, we’ve got ‘enchantment’ as the reason pretty much across the board, which is the reason that, when you think about it, really makes sense. As for how it affected her, in Golden and The One With All the Hair, Rue and Rapunzel couldn’t feel it, in Rapunzel’s Revenge, I don’t think anyone actually climbs the hair, but in Zel, we’re really given insight into what it would be like to suddenly have this weight literally on your shoulders, and how much it hurts to have a full person’s weight hanging from your head, and I appreciate that more than the others.
As for the tears, honestly, they weren’t used in half our novels (Golden, Rapunzel’s Revenge), and in Zel, the explanation is meh. But I really did like what The One with All the Hair did. This novel probably younged the story down more than any other, but they handled that element very well. I loved the “blindness” being like mine, and that she cured it by having his spare glasses. Honestly, though, my vote for this element goes to Tangled, which isn’t even technically in the running.
Wrap up the loose ends. There are a lot of them here. What happened to Rapunzel’s parents? What happened to Mother Gothel? Did the prince live in the wilderness with Rapunzel, or did he return to his kingdom to rule? What about the kids, folks? What about the kids? Oh, yeah, along with this – keep the pregnancy in or find a better way for Mother Gothel to discover Rapunzel’s secret.
With this one, I’m gonna talk about grit. This is a gritty story in its original incarnation. And that’s why I was a tad bit disappointed with this aspect of most of the adaptations. Rather than tackle the grit, most authors chose to work around it. And though they did better than the Grimm brothers, I have to hand this one to Napoli, because she went there. And she did it well.
So here’s where we stand. There was no novel this month that made me want to tear my hair out. I enjoyed all of them, which is rare. But my favorite has to be:
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli – Strongly recommended. I think she had the best handle on the story overall, and it felt like the original rather than a version of it with a gimmick.
Golden by Cameron Dokey – Strongly recommended. Yes, a gimmick, but one that worked really well, and this is my favorite Mother Gothel of the bunch.
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale – Recommended. This graphic novel is just a lot of fun, even if it does stray from the story a decent amount.
Rapunzel: The One with All the Hair by Wendy Mass – Recommended. It’s cute and it’s fluffy, but the way she worked it for a younger audience works, and it’s a fun read.
November’s fairy tale is nothing at all – I’m taking a month’s hiatus for National Novel Writing Month. So, see you in December with The Snow Queen!
Beauty and the Beast Wrap Up
This month, we’ve looked at five different adaptations of Beauty and the Beast:
Belle by Cameron Dokey
Beast by Donna Jo Napoli
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Spirited by Nancy Holder
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Of those five novels, most hit most of the checkpoints pretty solidly – Beauty and the Beast, it seems, is hard to do poorly. Now, because the novels we looked at this month approach the story in such drastically different ways, this wrap up will be less of a comparison and ranking between the five and more a look at the similarities they share and what their individual strengths were.
It’s interesting to me that of the five novels, almost all of them (Spirited being the exception) are told in first person rather than third. This is an interesting choice because first person is the most limited perspective in a lot of ways. An author is confined to one person’s head and one person’s viewpoint. But that decision makes sense for this fairy tale. At its heart, Beauty and the Beast is really a pretty simple story, especially when we look at the number of characters. For the bulk of it, there’s only the two: Beauty, and the Beast. So it makes sense to put this story in first person – either through Beauty’s eyes to learn how she could come to love such a monster, or the beast’s to show his journey to self-awareness. And I think the fact that the one novel in third person is also the novel that brings in the most outside characters, speaks to this.
It’s also interesting to note that of the five, two chose to focus on Beauty, two chose to focus on the Beast, and the remaining novel focused on both about equally. I think that goes to show how multi-faceted a story this is – authors want to get inside everyone’s heads! As I said, this is a story with a lot of potential for improvement, and it was wonderful to read five novels this month that I enjoyed, as opposed to last month. Each of these books had a lot to offer the story, and they were all strong in different ways.
I love Belle’s relationship between Bella and the Beast, and the overall message that nothing is as it first appears and anything can change given time and the right circumstances. I love Beast’s willingness to divert from a lot of the iconic imagery of the original story, making Belle’s arrival and breaking of the curse almost an afterthought. I love Beauty’s timeless feel, the way it reads like an original fairy tale expanded. I adore the message of Spirited and the way the story was translated to real life history. And I love the modernization of Beastly, translating the story into our current society.
So where does each novel rank specifically?
Tied for first at Strongly Recommended are Spirited and Beastly. I just love the way that both of these novels took the original story and made it directly relevant to readers. I love the recontextualization, and I feel these two are the strongest of the bunch.
Belle, Beast, and Beauty follow pretty close behind, and are all recommended, but they each have some weak spots that keep them from being on par with the other two. I still really enjoyed them, though, and I do recommend reading them.
Other notable novels:
The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey remains one of my favorite adaptations of this fairy tale. You may ask why I didn’t, then, add it to the list this month, and I’ll admit, once I had the one-word title thing doing, I was kinda hesitant to break it. Also, only so many weeks. But this is a great book if you like historical fiction with a fantasy twist (terribly specific genre, that).
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley is an interesting read as well, mainly because, yes, that’s the same author who wrote Beauty. Twenty years later, she decided to give it another go, not because she wasn’t happy with the first one, but because she thought she could do it a little bit better and make the story a bit more complex. Die hard romantics will likely hate the ending, but personally, I love it, and I applaud McKinley’s guts.
And that’s all for Beauty and the Beast. Join me in July for a look at Rumpelstiltskin!
East of the Sun, West of the Moon Wrap-up
This month, we’ve looked at four different novelizations of the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon: East by Edith Pattou, Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George, and Once Upon a Winter’s Night by Dennis McKiernan. Of those four, three hit every point on the checklist. But which novel hit each point the strongest?
If we’re looking purely at “kick-ass-itude,” it’s gotta be Cassie from Ice. I mean, the things that girl goes through: diving into the Arctic Ocean to make a point, surviving an Arctic snowstorm with nothing but a sleeping bag and a bunch of bears, jumping off a cliff again to make a point? She’s not just kick-ass, ladies and gents, she’s badass.
However, in terms of complexity and three-dimensionality, I’m going to have to go with Rose from East. She’s my favorite of the four, and feel like she is the most human of the four as well. I love the wanderlust put into the story, and I feel like it’s the best reason any of the four have for leaving home. Cassie made a deal to get her mother back, the Lass went to try and help her brother, Camille got guilt-tripped into it, but Rose? Rose went because she wanted to. More than just wanting to help her family, this was her opportunity for adventure, to explore the North with her white bear as she’d been pretending to do for years. I love that dimensionality. And speaking of dimensions …
Dimension given to other players?
It’s interesting to me to see how the various novels handled certain similar characters, especially the mother. Of the three applicable examples (I’m discounting Ice because the mother was barely there), two of them (Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow and Once Upon a Winter’s Night) made the mother into this horrible, selfish, closed-off harpy. She doesn’t care about her youngest daughter; she only cares about wealth and success and the potential her daughter has to bring those. And that’s a perfectly valid interpretation, given the original story. However, I think I like how East drew the mother better. She’s a bit smothering, a bit overprotective, and overly superstitious, which leads to her making a mess of things, but she also genuinely loves her daughter, and I think that’s a stronger combination. It’s certainly more interesting to me.
I also like how many of the versions gave one of the brothers a stronger connection to the heroine (though it was interesting that it was always a brother, never a sister). Rose had Neddy, the Lass had Hans Peter, Camille had Giles, and Ice gets left out again. And I really like all these characters (even Giles!), and thought they played their individual roles in the story very well.
Lastly, I’m always impressed by authors who can handle large casts of characters, and this story certainly has room for them. Each of the four authors did their casts very well, even McKiernan. My favorite supplemental characters were probably Thor the Viking from East (I’m a sucker for a curmudgeon with a heart of gold), Jamie the munaqsri from Ice, Mrs. Grey the gargoyle from Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, and the three Seasons from Once Upon a Winter’s Night.
Elimination of Repetition?
I felt all the stories did this well except for Once Upon a Winter’s Night, in which it was even worse than in the original. East turned the winds into people with their own adventure attached to them, and eliminated the women entirely, replacing their gifts with the three dresses Rose sells along the way, and replacing their symbolic weaving with Rose’s own gift for weaving. Ice had the various munaqsri replace the women, though the winds were still there, and while Ice did get a bit bogged down in the middle, it recovered well. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow used the repetition to its advantage within the story it was trying to tell, so it became purposeful. And Once Upon a Winter’s Night … failed this checkpoint entirely.
So where does that leave us this month? Well, the standings are thus:
Ranked first, East by Edith Pattou: Definitely recommended. This book sits right at the top of my favorites list, and will be my first recommendation for this fairy tale.
Tied for second, Ice by Sarah Beth Durst and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George: Both recommended. I would recommend these two differently depending on who was asking.
And in last place, Once Upon a Winter’s Night by Dennis McKiernan: Not recommended. I mean, I’m not going to tell you not to read it; you should come to your own conclusion, and if it sounds interesting to you, then go for it. But I’m not going to be picking it up again.
Thanks for reading along this month!
June’s fairy tale: Beauty and the Beast.