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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

AWFairyTale - The Retellings

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I read two retellings of the fairy tale The Six Swans - "Daughter of the Forest" by Juliet Marillier and "Swan Kingdom" by Zoe Marriott.

I'll have a proper review of both of these books coming in a week or two, but right now I 'm just going to focus on comparing these books to the original and my thoughts on how well they retold the fairy tale.  For reference, here's my post on The Six Swans from yesterday.

To compare these two books to the original, I'm going to go over what I thought were the important points in the "The Six Swans" and how these retellings captured that.  I think retellings of fairy tales really impress me when they can do these three things:
  • Stay true to the emotion and intent of the original tale
  • Add a new take on the plot (but not in a way that deviates too much from the original)
  • Make the fairy tale feel real 
And if these retellings can do that and capture what I think in "The Six Swans," are the important themes (a strong family connection, the strength of women, and the pain women have to endure) then I feel these were very successful books as retellings.

Family Connection:
"Daughter of the Forest" had one up on "The Swan Kingdom" because it had all six brothers, while "Swan Kingdom" only had three.  And with the six brothers in DotF, they were detailed, with different personalities and believable hopes and dreams.  Which made their enchantment all the more tragic.  TSK was strange because there's quite a long time when the main character - Alexandra - just waits around for her brothers to find her, and yet a few more times after that when she kind of "forgets" the urgency of her task to weave the shirts.  While Alexandra is close to her brothers, there's definitely more of a stronger sibling connection in DotF and a greater sense that Sorcha needs to make these shirts as quickly as she can.

The Strength of Women:
Did I mention that Alexandra just waits around for her brothers for a good chunk of the story?  Yeah, she was a bit more naive, and less inclined to take the initiative than Sorcha from DotF.  These are two very different kinds of books though, so I don't want to fault TSF for trying to create a believable arc for Alexandra.  Alexandra becomes empowered in her story, but I did feel more empathetic with Sorcha who was a much stronger and admirable character.

Endurance of Pain:
In "The Swan Kingdom" Alexandra doesn't start on her task until 2/3rds of the way into the story.  So she doesn't have to endure too much (especially since she only has to make three shirts), while with Sorcha - it seemed like every page of the book was underwrit with the pain she had to go through.  DotF is a darker story too, so Sorcha is abused and it's very disturbing to read.  She also maintains her silence through some very trying times, although neither books touched on the original fairy tale's plot line of having the mother-in-law steal away their babies.

In many ways "Daughter of the Forest" is a stronger retelling because it is so gorgeously detailed and nuanced, and realistic, but "The Swan Kingdom" is a lighter story, with more of a focus on the villain which I felt was an interesting choice.  It certainly helped bring out more of the danger and the suspense of the fairy tale.  Both books have a wonderful romance which adds a different dimension to each book - the romance in DotF is heartbreakingly beautiful, while TSF is more sweet and understated - a lifeline for Alexandra.  It's interesting that both books has the main character unwillingly breaking her silence to save the man she loves.
"Daughter of the Forest" is a darker, more complex and detailed retelling, while "The Swan Kingdom", since it is YA, is more entertaining, while also taking some liberties with the original fairy tale to create a somewhat different kind of story.  I appreciated the changes in "The Swan Kingdom" though, but I do think "Daughter of the Forest" was the better book in most ways.  
Are there any important things you look for in a good fairy tale retelling?

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