The Beanstalk, a Glass Slipper, and a Frog Prince: Fairy Tale Mash-Ups in YA Lit
In honor of Tell A Fairytale Day tomorrow, let’s talk about fairy tale mash-ups. YA authors do lots of great things with fairy tales, from detailed re-tellings like Robin McKinley’s Beauty (one of my favorites) to wild re-imaginings like Marissa Meyer’s cyberpunk version of Cinderella, Cinder (2012 Teens’ Top Ten). One of my favorite of the many contemporary takes on fairy tales is the mash-up. This is a story that recombines elements or characters from multiple fairy tales to make a new story. Below, I’ve compiled a list of five notable fairy tale mash-ups. Be sure to add your favorites in the comments if you don’t see them here!
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (2007 Alex Award winner)
Set during WWII, The Book of Lost Things tells the story of David, a lonely and grieving boy who is drawn into the dark space between fantasy and reality. When he ducks into a dark crack in the garden wall while avoiding a bomber overhead, he’s sucked into another world, one where the characters from his favorite books are real. The world is being held hostage by a missing king with secret book, and David must find the king and the Book of Lost Things before he can return home. Familiar characters like Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and Rumplestiltskin are given new, often nightmarish life, in this Alex Award winner.
Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross
Mirabelle Lively is a sheltered girl. Her guardians won’t talk to her about her parents or the way they died. Sick of half-truths and desperate for anwsers, Mirabelle runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday. Her destination is Beau Rivage, the town where she was born and where her parents lived and died. When she reaches Beau Rivage, Mirabelle finds a place that’s even stranger than she could’ve imagined. In Beau Rivage, fairy tales are real, and the stories are played out over and over again. Mirabelle has a part to play as well, but when she begins to fall for a boy who’s not the smug prince she’s destined to end up with, her feelings threaten the very existence of Beau Rivage and all who live there.
Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst
All her life, Julie’s heard stories of the Wild, the land her mother escaped from before Julie was born. Julie’s mother is Rapunzel, she of the long hair and the high tower. Rapunzel’s history in the Wild has been nothing but stories — until Julie gets home from school one day and her mother is gone and her house is disappearing into a deep forest. As the Wild threatens to take over her hometown, Julie ventures deep into the woods, determined to save her mother. On the way, she meets familiar fairy tale characters like Cinderella as well as characters from less well-known tales.
A Tale Dark and Grimm and In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
Gidwitz’s wonderful Grimm series is technically middle grade, not YA, but it’s a funny, wry mash-up with enough dark and gory moments to appeal to teen readers too. Hansel and Gretel are the stars of this story, but their quest takes them through eight other fairy tales, originally recorded by the Brothers Grimm and repurposed in all their bloody detail by Gidwitz. The sequel, In A Glass Grimmly, borrows from Jack and the Beanstalk, the Little Mermaid, and more.
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten)
And finally, the book that inspired this post. I read Enchanted for the 2013 Hub Challenge, and I adored the cleaver way Kontis weaves together elements of familiar fairy tales into something new. Sunday Woodscutter is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, and like her siblings, Sunday is not even close to normal. Still, she manages to live a pretty normal life — until she meets a talking frog in the woods who turns out to be not a frog at all. Her kiss turns him back into a human, setting off a romantic adventure that features elements of at least half a dozen different fairy tales. The frog prince makes an appearance, obviously, as does Cinderella’s dropped slipper, Jack’s beanstalk (complete with fearsome giant), the old lady who lived in a shoe and many more.
Do you have any favorite fairy tale mash-ups that I missed? Leave them in the comments!
–Emily Calkins, reading Page by Tamora Pierce