Once Upon A Time - Modern Twists On Traditional Fairy Tales

Once upon a time.....that traditional start to some of our favorite favorite tales resonates in our conciousness from childhood forward.  Most of us grow up on the old fairy tales, everything from the classic Cinderella to the Little Match Girl.  Maybe an adult first read us the stories or told the to us or we read a version printed in a Little Golden Book but fairy tales have become part of childhood.

Walt Disney's magic brought many of the classic fairy tales to the silver screen and collecting Disney classics has become something that parents seem to feel that they must do.  Periodic advertising suggesting that one or another favorite is about to "go into the vault" spurs many parents to rush out to buy a certain title before it vanishes forever.

Fairy tales, however, are finding an entire new audience these days and a new popularity in new forms.  This year alone, an increasing number of old fairy tales are finding new twists and appearing on the silver screen.

The recent Tangled brought the familiar tale of Rapunzel to a new 21st century level and although aimed for the younger market, it has a broad enough appeal to please parents too.

But the real shift in the fairy tale world comes from films like the recent Red Riding Hood from the makers of the popular Twilight films.

This retelling of what's billed as "the 700 year old legend" offers up a far more adult version of the classic story.  This heroine is no little girl but a woman who falls in love with someone who doesn't gain approval from her family and the love issues are just part of the story.  Add in a werewolf who is terrorizing the village and a werewolf hunter from afar to find a suspenseful, intriguing story based on the original legend.

Another re-telling of a well-known classic is the film Beastly.  This film takes the familiar look at Beauty and the Beast, moves the story into a contempary New York City setting.  These characters are high school students, teenagers which makes the film popular with that age group.   Seventeen year old Kyle Kingson is the perfect student, attractive and talented with just one flaw - he can be cruel.   A Goth student - who just happens to really be a witch - Kendra becomes his target and Kyle becomes an  ugly beast who must find someone who loves him as he is to gain redemption.   Quiet, shy Lindy becomes his only hope.

The familar tale of Puss in Boots will debut with the character from the Shrek series of films with a movie devoted to the feline.

Other upcoming Hollywood films based on fairy tales include The Brothers Grimm: Snow White starring Julia Roberts and set for release in June 2012,  Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters, and a remake of Sleeping Beauty in which the young woman, Lucy, is a university student.  Other new looks at everything from Pinocchio to the Snow Queen seem to herald a new age of fresh looks at old stories.

Books based on fairy tales are also popular these days.

The question is why - why have these ageless tales survived into our modern age and what is the appeal?

While there is no easy or simple answer, I like to think it's because the human animal is at heart the same.  Our society shifts as we gain technological advances but we still seek tales of love, of fear, of loss and of redemption.   Something in our psyche seeks to find hope and no matter how dark, most fairy tales offer hope.  They also provide us with escape from our everyday world, a chance to visit an alternate reality where things are clear cut - good and evil are well-defined.

Whatever the reason, fairy tales are seeing a resurgence that goes far beyond those told for children.   It should be very interesting to see what evolves from this trend and to enjoy the retold tales from an adult perspective.

- Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
Romance That Lives And Breathes The Power of Love
Love Tattoo


  1. Most of these stories, if you read them in their original versions, are not child-friendly at all. For example, Red Riding Hood is eaten in the end.
    If you like Adult versions of these stories I really do recommend you read Angela Carter's book of fairy tales called The Blood Chamber and other stories.
    Her work flips the typical damsel in distress and makes the woman the sexually empowered.
    Her story of the big bag wolf (can't remember what its name is) is about loss of virginity. Rather than the wolf forcing it upon her Ol' Red is the aggressor.
    She also tells of Puss n Boots. She makes the works apply to women for today's world where women are no longer reliant on the man.
    A must read! Her work is dark and yet really funny.

    Thanks for the post!
    Murissa Maurice

  2. Thanks, Murissa. I actually recently bought some of the old fairy tales (Grimms and Hans CHristian Anderson) in the original and I'm enjoying them but you are correct; they are not really kid friendly - at least not for kids in this era.

  3. I want to watch "Tangled" and plan on getting it on DVD but that Red Riding Hood movie looks like it sucks. Based on the trailer, the movie seems phony and I don't plan on renting that.

    The Madlab Post

  4. Hi Lee Ann
    I actually love re-telling of fairy tales - there is no end to what our imaginations can come up with - so i think it's fun and i totally applaud it - great post!


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