Earlier this week I read and reviewed the darkest book in the history of ever. Even though I loved it, I needed some brighter fare in its psychological aftermath. A collection of fairy tale retellings for younger readers? SIGN ME UP.
Swan Sisters, a 2005 compilation edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, is a lovely little book of thirteen stories. While it’s written for youngsters, adult fans of transformative fairy tales (of which I am one) will almost certainly find stories in it that they appreciate: for example, Neil Gaiman writes a poem version of “Aladdin,” and Tanith Lee retells “Sleeping Beauty” in a feminist fashion. The titular story, written by Katherine Vaz, is about a little sister born with very little time to live but with great capacity to touch and mend hearts.
For the sake of brevity, here are a few of my favorites from the book:
Midori Snyder’s “Golden Fur,” inspired by the Arabian Nights, is a prince-saves-the-princess story that is totally redeemed from the land of “blah” by a couple of very cool twists.
“The Fish’s Story,” by Pat York, tells the tale of the fish in The Fisherman’s Wife, and is a story of parental love and of generosity of spirit.
Kathe Koja’s “Lupe” is a retelling of Red Riding Hood that delightfully embeds the story of the brave little girl and her basket into a Latin American setting.
And finally, the poetic “The Children of Tilford Fortune,” by Christopher Rowe, is indistinguishable from the classics, while also being the sweetest new original fairy tale I’ve read in a long time.