Before we get started, I just want to make clear note of the fact that I actually really enjoy faerie tale retellings. I loved the Lunar Chronicles, Geekerella is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and so on so forth. This is just something that has been bouncing around my head for a while, and I wanted to toss it out to the blogosphere and see what came back.
So way back in the day (also known as junior and senior high school), I went through a phase of writing fanfiction. I would take the characters and settings I loved from books and television, and I would create my own plot lines for them to explore. At the beginning of each fic, I would make a disclaimer: these characters and this setting is not mine, and all credit for them goes to the author, I only created the plot.
I was thinking about this the other day, because I got an email from the site I used to post my fics on because someone had posted a review to the only story that you can still find online. I haven’t touched it in years, but it got me thinking.
When you write a fanfiction, you are supposed to acknowledge that you don’t own all of the material. You can’t publish fanfiction, because it’s technically plagiarism. Not to mention, who would want to publish a story that steals aspects of another story or programme?
This got me thinking about retellings. Because aren’t retellings the same thing as fanfiction, but instead of borrowing setting and characters, you’re borrowing plots?
There are obvious differences. First of all, when I was writing fanfiction, I was working with material that was still under copyright, whereas most retellings use faerie tales that are well beyond their copyright. As well, lots of adaptions are made to the story, and I admit that I don’t know how that affects copyright or plagiarism or anything like that issues.
But if you don’t need to actually come up with a plot for your book, and you just adapt one that someone else has created, is it lazy?
Well, maybe. Taking the plot from some other story and making some changes is definitely easier than thinking up something completely original. Though I doubt many authors write retellings because they just can’t be bothered to think up a plot. It’s also probably a lot easier to write, because there are a million and one versions of each story that you could possibly retell, so you can literally pull inspiration from anywhere.
Okay, so maybe they’re lazy. At least a little. But we can hardly talk about this without commenting on the fact that these retellings are insanely popular.
You’ve heard of a few. Geekerella has been getting a lot of praise around here lately. The Lunar Chronicles are super popular, as is A Court of Thorns and Roses. And the list goes on (speaking of lazy, too lazy to name any more).
And if you google discussions on faerie tales, you’ll get an incredible list of posts and articles talking about why they are still so incredibly popular these days, despite many being hundreds of years old.
Storytellers have always been important to society. We get stories in all forms these days, but way way back, people used to sit around fires and tell stories. This article talks about how all of our favourite old faerie tales contain the symbols and archetypes that allow us to relate the stories back to our own lives (they use Rapunzel as a metaphor for anyone who feels trapped in their life). As well, these stories are simple enough to appeal to children, but are complex enough that adult gets something out of them too So there’s that.
Touching back on what I said before about it being easy to adapt a story that is already plotted out, these stories are also easily adapted to suit an age range, generation, or time. The original Sleeping Beauty involved rape, but that was easily edited out and romance added in to make it more suitable for children. And then Marissa Meyer took that story and added people living on the moon and madness, without ruining the integrity of the story.
So it becomes clear, the more I research into this that the biggest thing about faerie tales is that they’re easily relatable. So perhaps it makes sense that we continue to see them appearing in new forms in our favourite genres. The author takes a well-loved story and breathes new life into it, maybe even keeping it alive for another generation.
So lazy? I suppose that’s up to you to decide. But an important culture thing we’ve been doing for a lot longer than I had thought before I started researching for this post? Totally.
So this post has taken a few turns I wasn’t anticipating as we got from beginning to end, which only makes me more curious about your thoughts on this matter. Let me know what you think down below!