Are Fairytale Reimaginings Becoming Unimaginative?

If you have perused a YA section of a bookstore in the last three years, then you’ve likely come across the cover of a fairytale reimagining.

Perhaps one book tells the story of Cinderella, a valiant warrior, who loses her magical boot in the middle of a battle and an infatuated warlord must return it to her. Or maybe another centers around a wolf-hunter named Red who falls in love with a werewolf that killed her father, the huntsman.

Regardless, I once thought reimagining fairytales was a creative thing to do.

I loved Wicked in my tween and teen years and all the interesting questions it posed about how history can be biased towards the victor.

But it seems like there’s been an overload of “new” fairy tales in the last few years and it’s made me question if most of them are even truly necessary.

Are most of these books actually trying to improve upon or modernize great stories, or are they just using fairytale references as a crutch to make a quick buck because they don’t think these novels could stand on their own?

In truth, it depends on the book.

If there are nods to the classics here and there, it’s tolerable. However, if it follows the exact same path as it’s predecessor, just with more feminism and modern sensibilities, then it becomes predictable and a drudgery to get through.

Because we already know what’s going to happen. 

I think the creative drought in pop culture also feeds into this crisis. The publishing and film industry are so paranoid about losing money that they are just rehashing stories that they know work. Fairytales have been around for centuries so, in theory, stories that feature classic characters should turn a profit.

I’m not saying we should completely do away with reimaginings. Maybe we could just take a break from them for a decade or so and come back to them later.

Perhaps writers could create their own warrior princesses that have absolutely nothing to do with any previous fairytale.The princess could have a sentient sword or a best friend that was turned into a battle stallion or something. Maybe she could fight her wicked stepfather for a change.

That’d be cool, right?

Could someone get on that?

8 thoughts on “Are Fairytale Reimaginings Becoming Unimaginative?

  1. I’ve always been a fan of fairy tale retellings/reimaginings….so I don’t know. I have loved this burst in the genre. But with any popularity there are a lot of tedious works published among the great ones. I agree, it is still problematic. Publishers should not merely publish a work because it is within a popular genre at the moment. However, I don’t think that it is a problem of being afraid to publish things outside of what has been proven as much as publishers following trends too much, even when a book isn’t that great. Because there are still fantastic re-imaginings being published along with the not so good ones. There are just too many being published.

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    1. A good point. I agree there are several good works out there that are written in this vein. One book I personally love, Princess Ben, uses a lot of fairytale elements in it and makes several references to the classics. My problem is with HOW some of these stories are being written, not necessarily the concept itself. I prefer subtlety when it comes to these types of works and allowing the reader to make a connection to the original story rather than having everything spelled out for us. Although in some cases like Wicked that approach might not cut it. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference, I think. And my contrary nature pertaining to trends in the publishing industry. Trends tend to ruin a lot of good books for me.

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      1. Oh yeah, Princess Ben is a fantastic example of a good use of the fairy tale motifs! Another I loved was Cinder – while it kept closer to it’s original tale I think it offered a really fun and unique approach to the genre. But, it’s true, trends tend to ruin things 😉

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