Fairy Tales, Fantasy, and Folklore – Revisited and Retold

We all grew up with the stories, so we know them backward and forward.  But in the past few years, some writers have taken those stories and turned them inside out, upside down, and sideways.

Usually when Hollywood decides to make or remake (or remake and remake!) a fairy tale or fantasy novel or folklore, the story stays basically the same.  Walt Disney stayed close to original sources, though he softened some parts of the stories and even introduced some original characters.

I could be wrong, but I believe that a few writers just decided it was time to rethink the classic stories we know so well.  They started wondering What made the wicked witch so wicked?  Why were the stepmother and stepsisters so mean?  What happened before “Once upon a time…?” What happened after “happily ever after?”

The Wiz movie is one of the first altered versions of a classic story that I remember.  The Wizard of Oz has been told in various forms since its first publication in 1900.  The most famous is the 1939 movie musical starring Judy Garland as Dorothy.  In 1975 The Wiz, a new version debuted on Broadway.  It, too, was a musical featuring new songs and starring Stephanie Mills as Dorothy.  While the Broadway show kept the setting in Kansas, a movie adaptation reimagined the story, with Dorothy as a 20-something schoolteacher living in New York and played by Diana Ross.  The Land of Oz is still inspiring new tales, with the novel and Broadway musical Wicked and the recent movie Oz the Great and Powerful.

Television has also joined in retelling familiar stories.  In 1987 the series Beauty and the Beast came to TV.  The fairy tale was reimagined in modern times and set in New York City.  The Beauty was Catherine Chandler, a lawyer.  The Beast was Vincent, a mysterious man who did have the appearance of a beast, although at the time actor Ron Perlman said his character looked more like a rock star.  The other world quality of the story and the chemistry between the main characters made a show a hit.  It still ranks high on lists of cult TV shows.  More recently, we’ve watched Once Upon a Time present a modern twist on traditional fairy tales and fantasy novels.  And Grimm gives us a police detective who can see and battle and even make friends with creatures he once thought were only in folktales.

In the past 20 or so years, we’ve seen an extraordinary number of retold tales.  Sometimes the story we know is told from a different point of view.  Sometimes the characters are transported to a different setting or time.  And, of course, there are prequels and sequels.  If you’d like to revisit some of your favorite bedtime stories, check out the titles on the list below.

Added note: How could I have forgotten Into the Woods?  Another Broadway musical inspired by fairy tales.  It, too, was adapted for the big screen in 2014.  The movie version of Into the Woods starred Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Johnny Depp.  

 


Movies

Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)
Beastly
Descendants
Ella Enchanted
Ever After
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Hook
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Into the Woods 
Jack the Giant Slayer
Maleficent
Mirror Mirror
Oz the Great and Powerful
Pan
Red Riding Hood
Snow White & the Huntsman
The Wiz

 

Television

Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990)
Beauty and the Beast (2012-2016)
Grimm
Merlin
Once Upon a Time