I stayed and saw the second act. And while I was a little shaken up at the time, I am so glad that I stayed. Sure, the second act of Into the Woods challenges the idea of "happily ever after," but in doing so, it provides a means for fairy tales to become more than familiar bedtime stories that fit in a comfortable box created by "once upon a time" and "they lived happily ever after." It provides a way for them to speak to the issues that we all deal with in everyday life.
Fast-forward to my high-school years. I was part of a contemporary issues peer-education group, and one of our main roles was to provide sexual harassment and assault education for middle school and high school students around the state. To do this, we performed a play called "Alice in Sexual Assault Land," where we took familiar fairy tales and used them to talk about issues like date rape, teasing someone because of her appearance or sexual orientation, and the consequences of harassment and assault. The familiar fairy tales provided us with a way to grab the students' attention and make them feel comfortable, even at home, while our contemporary retellings challenged them to think about their own lives and actions in a new way.
It is this juxtaposition of the familiar and the uncomfortable, the simple and the challenging, that I think is the real power of the fairy tale retelling. Kat Howard and I are both big fans of this genre, and to continue our celebration of the release of Jim Hine's The Snow Queen's Shadow, we thought we'd list a few more of our favorites.
- Pamela Dean's Tam Lin
- Robin McKinley's Deerskin...also her Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
- any of the fairy tale themed anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
- Charles de Lint's Jack of Kinrowan (Jack the Giant Killer and Katie Crackernuts)
- Jane Yolen's Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty)
- the young adult Once Upon a Time series--Jen's favorite is Before Midnight
- another musical--Stephen Schwartz's Wicked (not quite a fairy tale, but pretty close!)
- Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl
- Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber
- Kate Bernheimer's anthology My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me
- Peg Kerr's The Wild Swans