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Folklore and Mythology

21 Captivating Fairy Tale Retellings and Folklore Books

A list of must-read books that will take you on a captivating journey through the worlds of fairytales and folklore.

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

fairytale retelling and folklore books

Are you looking for captivating reads to take you away to faraway places?  If so, you’ll love these enchanting fairy tale retellings and folklore books!  Fairy tales and folklore stories never seem to get old.  Something about them draws us in, intrigues us, and leaves us wanting more.  Besides, human beings are natural storytellers.  We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others.  Across the world, different groups and cultures have myths, legends, and fairy tales unique to them.  They share stories of life, creation, destruction, good and evil, passed down from generation to generation.  Some stories have existed for over a millennium, some a few decades, and others as recent as a few years.  But one thing these stories have in common is that they’ve often been recreated over time to span cultures and to meet a present moment in time.  If you’re looking for new reads to add to your collection, or if you’re starting out and wondering where to begin, then look no further!  From spellbinding stories set in magical places to gripping tales, there’s something for everyone here.  So curl up with a good book and prepare to be swept off your feet with these fairy tale retellings!

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All About Fairytale Retellings

What are fairy tale retellings?

Fairy tale retellings are a popular form of literature that reimagines and expands upon original fairy tales.  They take beloved and familiar stories, such as “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” or “Beauty and the Beast,” and rework them to add depth, investigate different perspectives, or modernize their settings or themes.  These retellings can be set in different time periods, incorporate new characters, or even blend elements from multiple fairy tales to create an entirely new narrative.  The aim is often to explore unaddressed or overlooked aspects of original tales, while maintaining the magical essence that has made these stories enduring favorites.

What makes a good fairy tale retelling?

A good fairy tale retelling remains faithful to the essence of the original tale while infusing it with fresh perspectives and imaginative reinterpretations.  Crucial elements include a strong narrative that maintains the enchanting, magical feel of fairy tales, well-developed characters that foster emotional connection, and a seamless blend of old and new elements that add depth to the story.  The retelling should also offer something new to readers, such as a previously unexplored point of view, a shift in setting or time period, or a unique thematic focus.  This novel aspect provides the allure of unfamiliarity, while the use of a well-known tale gives a comforting sense of familiarity.  Lastly, a good retelling often grapples with complex themes and moral dilemmas inherent in the original tales but maybe glossed over, allowing for a richer, more nuanced reading experience.

Why are fairy tale retellings popular?

Fairy tale retellings resonate with readers for various reasons.  Their popularity can be attributed to their blend of familiarity and novelty.  Readers find comfort in the predictable structures and themes of the original tales while also being intrigued by the fresh perspectives and unexpected twists offered by the retellings.  These reinterpretations often delve deeper into the psychological and moral complexities of the characters, providing a richer and more nuanced understanding of the tale.  They offer an opportunity to engage with diverse cultures, time periods, or perspectives that were not present or were overlooked in the original narratives.  The retellings can also address contemporary issues and values, thus making these timeless stories more relevant to today’s readers.  Lastly, the transformative nature of fairy tale retellings allows readers to rediscover and reconnect with the magic and wonder of these stories in new and exciting ways.

What books are based on fairy tales?

There are numerous wonderful books that are based on fairy tales, each offering a unique spin on familiar stories.  For example, “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer is a futuristic retelling of “Cinderella,” featuring a cyborg protagonist.  “A Curse So Dark and Lonely” by Brigid Kemmerer reimagines “Beauty and the Beast” in a contemporary setting.  “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik is inspired by the classic tale “Rumpelstiltskin,” while “The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyer is a series of science fiction novels that retell various fairy tales including “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rapunzel,” and “Snow White.”  It’s also worth mentioning “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale, a beautiful adaptation of the Brothers Grimm’s tale of the same name, and “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine, a beloved retelling of “Cinderella” with a twist.  Each of these works brings something new to their source material, providing a fresh perspective on the time-honored tales they draw from.

Captivating Fairytale Retellings and Folklore Books

21 Captivating Fairy Tale Retellings and Folklore Books

Thief Liar Lady by D. L. Soria

Thief Liar Lady by D. L. Soria

“Happily Ever After” is a total scam, but at least this time the princess is the one controlling the grift—until her true love arrives and threatens to ruin the whole scheme. Intrigue, magic, and wit abound in this Cinderella fairytale reimagining, perfect for fans of Heather Walter and Naomi Novik.

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A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday

A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday

From USA Today bestselling author Jenny Holiday comes a modern fairy tale just in time for Christmas about a tough New Yorker from the other side of the tracks who falls for a princess from the other side of the world.

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Darling Girl by Liz Michalski

Darling Girl by Liz Michalski

In this beautiful, grounded, and darkly magical modern-day reimagining ofJ.M. Barrie’s classic, one woman must take on the infamous Peter Pan—who is not the innocent adventurer the fairy tales make him out to be—to save her daughter’s life.

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A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

In a contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Prince Rhen is cursed to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, turning into a destructive beast. When Harper gets pulled into Rhen’s cursed world, they must work together to break the curse and save the kingdom of Emberfall. However, powerful forces stand in their way, and their journey is far from easy.

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The Kingdom of Sweets by Erika Johansen

The Kingdom of Sweets by Erika Johansen

Bestselling author of the Queen of the Tearling series, Erika Johansen, journeys to a new kingdom in this brilliant standalone novel—a darkly magical take on the Nutcracker where two sisters, fated from birth, are forever changed one memorable Christmas…

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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik is a Nebula and Hugo Award finalist, and has been named one of Paste’s best fantasy books of the decade. The story follows Miryem, a moneylender’s daughter who sets out to claim what is owed and gains the ability to turn silver into gold. When her boast catches the attention of the king of the Staryk, Miryem’s fate becomes intertwined with two unlikely allies as they uncover a secret that threatens both humans and the Staryk.

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The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

In this enchanting first book of the Books of Bayern series, Princess Ani must first become a goose girl before she can claim her throne. After being betrayed by her lady in waiting, Ani finds herself alone and destitute, working as a royal goose girl while honing her forbidden talents. Shannon Hale’s masterful storytelling blends fantasy and romance, with a captivating protagonist at the heart of the tale.

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Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

This beloved Newbery Honor-winning story follows the journey of Ella, who receives the “gift” of obedience at birth. Despite her fate, Ella’s strong-willed nature leads her on a quest to break the curse forever. With a backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, and fairy godmothers, this fun fairy-tale retelling has been a favorite for 25 years. Now, it’s being shared with a new generation of readers.

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The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner

The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner

Experience an evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore in this fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

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White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link

White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link, Illustrated by Shaun Tan

Seven ingeniously reinvented fairy tales that play out with astonishing consequences in the modern world, from one of today’s finest short story writers—MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow Kelly Link, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Get in Trouble.

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Malice by Heather Walter

Malice by Heather Walter

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty, and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away–by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

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The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

A couple’s lives are changed forever by the arrival of a little girl, wild and secretive, on their snowy doorstep. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

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Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Influenced by gingerbread’s mysterious place in classic children’s stories, beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.

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Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

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The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

A haunting and suspenseful novel about a young woman who returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Winter lasts most of the year at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and in the long nights, Vasilisa and her siblings love to gather by the fire to listen to their nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, Vasya loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon. Wise Russians fear him, for he claims unwary souls, and they honor the spirits that protect their homes from evil.

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Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Brilliantly inventive, Wicked offers a radical new portrait of one of the most feared and despised villains in all of literature: the universally maligned Wicked Witch of the West who, in Maguire’s imaginative retelling, isn’t nearly as black-hearted as we imagined.

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

A West African-inspired fantasy debut that conjures a world of magic and danger.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

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All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller

All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller

All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of happily ever after.

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More About Fairytale Retellings

What are rewritten fairy tales called?

Rewritten fairy tales are commonly referred to as “fairy tale retellings.”  The term encompasses a wide range of literature that takes original fairy tales and reinterprets them, offering new perspectives, settings, characters, or themes.  Other related terms include “adaptations,” “reinterpretations,” or “reimaginings.”  These works maintain the core elements of the original stories while adding a unique twist or deeper exploration of certain aspects.  This genre has gained popularity for its ability to breathe new life into classic tales, while preserving their timeless charm and magic.

Is it legal to rewrite fairy tales?

Yes, it is legal to rewrite fairy tales.  Most traditional fairy tales are in the public domain, meaning that they are not protected by copyright laws and can be used freely.  This includes tales by the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen, for instance, which were written long enough ago that any copyrights have expired.  Therefore, authors can freely draw upon these stories for inspiration, adapting them into new works without legal consequences.  However, it’s important to note that while the original fairy tale may be in the public domain, specific renditions or adaptations of the tale (like Disney’s “Cinderella”) may still be under copyright protection.  Therefore, while you can freely adapt the original fairy tale, copying elements unique to protected adaptations could potentially lead to copyright infringement.  Always ensure to differentiate your work enough from protected versions to avoid legal trouble.

What do you think about the fairy tale retellings and folklore books on this list?

Have you read any books from this list?  What captivating fairy tale retellings and folklore books would you add to the list?  Let’s talk about fairy tale retellings in the comments.

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Captivating Fairytale Retellings and Folklore Books

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