How to Fracture a Fairy Tale
by Jane Yolen
Genre: Short Stories, Retellings
Length: 240 Pages
Release date: November 5, 2018
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Fantasy legend Jane Yolen (The Emerald Circus, The Devil’s Arithmetic) delights with this effortlessly wide-ranging offering of fractured fairy tales. Yolen fractures the classics to reveal their crystalline secrets, holding them to the light and presenting them entirely transformed; where a spinner of straw into gold becomes a money-changer and the big bad wolf retires to a nursing home. Rediscover the fables you once knew, rewritten and refined for the world we now live in―or a much better version of it.
My thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher.
I have mixed feelings about this anthology, making it difficult to give it an overall rating that feels accurate. There were a few stories that I really enjoyed, but a few too many that never sufficiently grabbed my interest. I love fractured fairy tales, and think I was looking for more drastic changes from the original source material in some cases. What’s the point of writing a retelling without turning the whole story upside-down and making us think about it in a totally new light?
One thing that I loved about this collection was the sheer variety of stories and cultures represented. This anthology includes dragons, princesses, a vampire, and even time travel; you will find stories that feel like they could have been plucked out of a Brothers Grimm book as well as much more modern tales. The Jewish themes seemed to be the most prominent throughout the anthology, but Yolen has reworked tales from Europe, Asia, and more.
Here is a small sampling of the sources of inspiration for some of Yolen’s stories:
- The Bridge’s Complaint – Billy Goats Gruff, Norwegian
- One Ox, Two Ox, Three Ox, and the Dragon King – Chinese dragon stories
- Brother Hart – Brothers Grimm story (Little Brother Little Sister)
- Sun/Flight – Icarus, Greek Mythology
- The Foxwife – figure from Japanese folklore
- The Faery Flag – Scottish folklore
- One Old Man, With Seals – Greek mythology
- The Undine – inspired by Little Mermaid and various French stories
- Sister Death – Jewish myth
- The Woman Who Loved a Bear – Native American myth
The stories vary quite a bit in tone; many of them use somewhat antiquated language, while the occasional tale reads like something a friend is telling you over coffee. These differences helped to break up the anthology and keep it from feeling overly uniform or repetitive. The variety assures that there will be something in this collection for just about everyone. Whether you’re looking for something totally re-imagined, something with a classical feel, something whimsical, or something dark, you’ll find it somewhere in these pages.
Thank you for reading! What is your favorite retelling of a classic fairy tale? Discuss in the comments!