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Monday, August 7, 2017

The Initial Post About Fairy Tales

Hello, my lovelies!

When I was growing up my family used to visit my grandma (who lived in a different state) a couple of times a year. We visited every Thanksgiving and maybe once more sometime in the spring.

My sister and I always stayed in the same room, which had shelves of books that were all boring and adult. I would always look through them, hoping to find something new and exciting to read, but was instead met with the same thing- boring non-fiction (I have since grown to love and appreciate non-fiction but that is a story for another time).

So every time we went to visit I would end up reading the same book- a beautiful, thick 800+ book of fairy tales. Oddly enough, I always read the same ones over and over too, maybe branching out and trying another one or two each visit. But I read those fairy tales over and over again, disappearing into their world with glorious pleasure.

I started collecting my own volumes of fairy tales over the years after that, finding that most of them contained different versions of the same stories and I ate each version with the same fervor and delight that I had the last. It was in those years of my childhood that I fell in love with my favorite tales: King Thrushbeard, Rapunzel, The Goose Girl, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Pea.

I don’t remember the first fairy tale retelling that I read, which is sad because whatever book that was it changed my life. But whatever book it was, that’s where it all started and it hasn’t stopped since. Over my high school years I would stumble across new retellings as I scoured the library shelves for something new and interesting. I never sought them out really; they always seemed to find me.

I still have favorites from my childhood that I vividly remember reading and having my mind blown by- the classic retelling that breathed new life into my favorite tales, the twisted tales that played around with changing major elements and pointing out the things that didn’t make sense, the silly ones, the serious ones, the mash-ups, the short stories, the novels. I am so excited that I get to share these stories with you someday, to review the old favorites of my childhood and give you a peek into what played such a major role in forming me into who I am today as well as sharing with you new treasures as I discover and fall deeply in love with them.

Each one of these tales holds a special place in my heart, reminding me of my childhood and the magic I used to live in. I think most of my wonder and idealism came from those stories I read as a child, the brightly illustrated versions of tales that had been told and changed and retold to children for years and years and years before. It made me feel connected to the world, knowing those tales that meant so much to me had meant something to a little girl a hundred years before.

Then I became a teen and started reading some of the original tales and I hated them. They made me mad, that my stories, my childhood wonder, was being messed with in such dark and creepy ways. How dare Brothers Grimm write such tales! I wanted the Disney versions, the children’s versions, that were full of brightly colored illustrations, adorable princesses, dashing princes, true love, and good that always triumphed.

As I’ve gotten older I have come to see the beauty in darkness, in how it plays in our lives to contrast the light. It is a necessary evil that deserves much more credit than I give it. I am still not a fan of darkness for nothing more than the sake of darkness but I find that often what I thought was that in stories was in fact something more nuanced and layered. And if that is so not in the original tale, then surely it is my job to make it so in the retelling of it.

I think I remember my first fairy tale retelling idea (I apologize to my characters if I am forgetting another story that came first). Her name was Sage, a version of Rapunzel, who had the power to heal people by taking their pain upon herself. Unlike the original Rapunzel, Sage was broken and cynical and she needed the help of an annoyingly charming runaway prince and an earnest clergy-to-be nobleman’s son to bring her back to her childlike wonder. And I wasn’t three chapters into the book before I had turned the book into a series spanning at least five books.

There was the Rumpelstiltskin retelling about the girl called Rinity who could weave worlds with her words. There was the Beauty and the Beast retelling about the girl unfortunately named Beauty Amen (nicknamed Amy) who worked at a library in order to pay off a debt incurred by her father. There was the Princess and the Pea retelling about the princess who had not yet been named who set out on a quest to recover a precious heirloom the kingdom had lost years before. Somewhere in there fit the Cinderella retelling about the girl who fit the shoe but wasn’t the girl the prince had danced with the night before. The Mulan retelling about the girl called Orchid who had been turned into a soldier but was really just the earnest girl who cleaned things when she was mad. And (upon my sister’s request) a Robin Hood retelling in which Robin Hood’s morals were called into question by the lovable Maid Marian.

These stories sadly never saw the light of day and I don’t know that they ever will. But there are still a very special part of my childhood and I adore them in ways I cannot even begin to express.

Several years ago, I started to realize just how much I love writing retellings. I had of course already played around with some ideas (even more than the series I mentioned) but I started to realize that whenever I would get a new idea I would start to ask myself “What fairy tale is this like?” or “Can I make this a retelling?”

I cannot come up with plots to save my life. Characters and premises come to me with ease but I have a hard time coming up with the plot. The number of times I have explained a new idea to a friend and ended it with “And then they do… stuff…” is almost laughable.

But fairy tales, they solve that problem. See they give me just enough that my story has a goal of some sort, some sort of general idea about what characters are supposed to be doing, but they also leave enough room for me to fill in my own details, characters, setting, premise, and the like.

And fairy tales have so many beautiful questions begging to be answered and when I read them my brain just wants to find solutions to those questions. I can’t let them lie. Fairy tales beg to be explored and I want to be that explorer. I want to be the adventurer who forges ahead and looks for the answers everyone else was looking for, even if they didn’t realize they were.

And there it is. My fairy tale journey.

I would love to hear about your own journey, about the fairy tales that meant something to you as a child and the ones that mean something now. Be sure to tell me all about them in the comments below.

I hope to see you on Friday when I share another book review. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess


  1. This was an absolutely delightful post! I'm the same as you!!! I grew up on a very conservative home, so it surprises some people that I was raised up on a steady diet of fairytales. I remember all the gloriously illustrated takes and the tapes Mum used to bring from the library. When I was eleven I read my very first retelling, and that's when I decided to start writing. I haven't stopped since.

    This post reminded me of the joy of the fairytales I love so much, and brought back to mind some of my own old retelling. Thank you so much!

    1. Aw!! Thank you <3 It made me really happy to write this post and sort of relive some of the best parts of my childhood, so I'm glad I could bring those memories back for you as well! Do you remember what retelling it was that was your first?

    2. The Fairy's Mistake, by Gail Carson Levine. It was a retelling of an old favorite, not particularly well-known tale, and it was simple and funny and rather sweet.

    3. Ooh!!! I love that retelling so much!! All the books in that series are so lovely :3

  2. You didn't mention your "Epic" retelling here, so I am hoping that one still has the hope of seeing the light of day!
    I have such fond memories of strolling the sidewalks of our neighborhood on at least one occasion discussing plot and characters and whether or not there was too much content for just one stand-alone book. I must say, I became rather invested in that one... :)