Definition of a "retelling"

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Definition of a "retelling"

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Redigeret: okt 21, 2010, 1:57 pm

What, for you, is the definition of a fairy tale retelling? Does it have to do with changing or expanding certain elements, or does every version count as a retelling (if the story has no canonical text)? Do you subdivide fairy tale retellings into any other groups?

Redigeret: jan 5, 2011, 5:35 pm

I did a project on fairy tale retellings in one of my graduate classes (about five years ago now) -- I will have to look and see if I can figure out how I defined and limited it for that. I think I looked at novel length works published for young adults, based on a single fairy tale (not a combination of tales or incorporating various fairy-tale elements into a new plot), that made substantial changes, enhancements, or additions to the original material (ETA: I know not all stories have a canonical "original" but I can't remember how I worded it in my research -- I believe I focused on fairy tales collected by Grimm and Perrault, with a nod to those written by a few other authors like Andersen).

Now, that was for my project, to make it something that was reasonable to work with. I certainly enjoy picture books, short stories, works published for the adult market, and books that combine multiple stories or just incorporate fairy-tale elements. I also say that all but the last of those could constitute a retelling in my opinion.

jan 6, 2011, 6:06 pm

I would seriously love to read your paper on that. (I'm interested in doing some similar research, but from the perspective of a different academic discipline.)

jan 7, 2011, 10:41 am

I'm very liberal with my definition and include in my tag "fairy tale riffs" any story that features any theme or character that I can recognise from 'tradional' fairy tales.

jan 7, 2011, 5:52 pm

#4 -- Ooh, I like that tag, especially for books like Once Upon a Marigold or Dealing with Dragons that throw in bits of recognizable fairy tales but use an original storyline. Hope you don't mind if I "borrow" it! ;-)

Redigeret: jan 9, 2011, 10:43 am

"What, for you, is the definition of a fairy tale retelling?" It depends, as always I suppose, on your definition of a fairy tale, whether the classic European tales re-told (and often re-written) in early modern times by the like of Perrault and the Grimms, the literary fairy tales (beginning with Andersen and continuing on through the Victorian era to the present) or the scientifically-collected oral versions using the authentic language of traditional tellings in particular non-commercial contexts. And these three categories by no means are exclusive.

"Does it have to do with changing or expanding certain elements, or does every version count as a retelling (if the story has no canonical text)?" Every version would count as a re-telling, whether it changed or expanded certain elements, or was told in a different context or by a different narrator but using the same elements. Also remember that many of the so-called classic fairy tales were preceded by earlier versions using similar motifs and tale types (see The Fairytale in the Ancient World by Graham Anderson, or The Past we Share by E L Ranelagh, for example). So, in a sense, the classic fairy tales are in themselves re-tellings.

"Do you subdivide fairy tale retellings into any other groups?" There is no end of subdivisions. Think of Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes for example, which adapts, updates and versifies the classic tales: do you call them parodies, comic verse, or what? I suppose that's what tags are for, you can include any title under a number of categories. "Fairy tale riffs" is as good a tag as any for Dahl's work or for authors who re-use motifs and types but for a modern literate audience (Joan Aiken and Diana Wynne Jones spring to mind, but you can add almost anyone else you like: Richmal Crompton's comic Just William books often include fairy tale motifs but set in an early 20th century middle-class context).

jan 9, 2011, 12:16 pm

It depends, as always I suppose, on your definition of a fairy tale

That's an interesting point - what about retellings of things like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland? They aren't traditional fairy tales, but are often considered part of the genre.

And what about stories like Fables, which take the characters and the stories we know as canon, but then keep going?

Redigeret: jan 9, 2011, 3:25 pm

>4 reading_fox:

I like that tag, too. The books you've tagged with it look like a great collection; I'll have to check out the ones that are unfamiliar.

>6 ed.pendragon: It depends, as always I suppose, on your definition of a fairy tale . . .

For what it's worth, I'm interested in retellings, generally, so I also like variations of Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz. But I asked the question in terms of fairy tales, because that's the nominal focus of this group.

jan 10, 2011, 4:58 pm

The Classic Fairy Tales, edited by Maria Tatar, gives a good selection of both ancient and modern interpretations of, er, the classic fairy tales.

Incidentally, does anyone else these days join up the two words to form the single word "fairytale"? It happens increasingly with "folktale" (compare "folklore" which is a common variation on "folk lore" nowadays) and I tend to use "placename" more often than "place name" in reference to its study.