Why I Love Fairytales

Mel of The Daily Prophecy asked us to write a post as a part of the Fairytale Retelling Challenge. It’s supposed to be about our first fairytale-related memory and our reasons for loving both fairytales and modern retellings. This topic is very close to me because fairytales were an integral part of my childhood and are still very important to me today.

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Neuschwanstein Castle (dubbed “the Disney Castle”) in Germany. Photo by me (2012).

The fairytales of my childhood came in two types: the literary ones (Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Italo Calvino, Oscar Wilde…) and the made-up ones. My mom was the primary source of the first and my maternal grandparents entertained us (I have a younger brother) with the second.

We had this ritual at home where my brother and I would crawl into my parents’ bed in the evening, one on each side of our mom, and she’d read to us – not just fairytales but other stuff as well – and we loved it. I remember her reading Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid to us and it was so damn scary I cried and was afraid to go to sleep (if you think you know The Little Mermaid based on Disney, think again o_O).

We also used to spend quite some time with our grandparents (who are, incidentally, thrilled to be great-grandparents at the moment) during the holidays, and they both had a number of tales to tell in the evenings. We always got “another one”, too, because they’re delightfully soft-hearted when it comes to their grandchildren.

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I then started reading on my own, and while I read a lot of children’s fantasy novels (Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter and The Witches were my favourites), I didn’t read fairytales as such. I watched all the Disney movies, but it wasn’t an obsession or anything. I high school and university, I read loads and loads of classics, but I also became interested in mythology, which is an integral part of fantasy literature and has inspired works of art for millenia.

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This is me during our first performance. I couldn’t find a photo where I looked less silly! :)

But my adult encounter with fairytales probably coincides with this wonderful storytelling festival that takes place in Ljubljana every year. It’s all about modern storytelling (mostly folk tales), with Slovenian storytellers and guests from abroad. I heard some wonderful, magical stories there, and I decided to participate in a storytelling workshop three years ago. I was a part of a great group and we had three public performances. I can tell you that storytelling is hardFor this purpose I read loads of folk tales and I discovered that Scottish and Irish folktales are my absolute favourites.

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Nowadays, I read quite a lot of fairytale retellings because I read a lot of young adult fantasy, and fairytales (and mythology) are a great source material for authors. I really like those that subvert the old tales, but they aren’t so easy to find (I will probably be reading The Book Smugglers’ collection soon).

I am also looking forward to reading fairytales to my son (we’ve started reading other stuff to him but he’s a bit young for the Grimms at 5 months, I think), because it will be a chance for me to revisit all the old favourites and discover new ones.

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Which fairytales are your favourites? Did you read them as a kid?

Which fairytale retellings are a must-read for you now?

  • I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings/reimaginings! Tough to find the really good ones that stand out though. I’ve enjoyed the Lunar Chronicles as well as Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest which I finally read recently.

    • Kaja

      I’ve heard such great things about Daughter of the Forest! It’s definitely on my tbr for this year (and for this challenge). I liked Cruel Beauty, I listened to the audiobook last year and it’s different from your typical YA retelling.
      Thanks for stopping by! :)

  • I love fairytales too. I can’t remember not loving them. I loved the whole princess thing particularly. And I did love Disney (okay I still do) even though the fairytales were often adapted. And reading fairytale retellings is a favorite of mine.

    • Kaja

      Oh, don’t get me wrong – I still go see every Disney movie (and drag my husband along, not that he complains too much!). I just grew up with other fairytales, mostly because my parents thought Disney was too much fluff and too little substance – which is true, in a way, but yeah.
      I’m hoping to find some interesting titles for this challenge this year!

  • What a lovely post! :) That storytelling festival sounds like so much fun; I wish there was something like that near me.

    Scottish and Irish folktales are great, aren’t they? Have you read The Mabinogion? They’re a collection of Welsh folktales that are believed to be some of the first stories ever written down in Britain. They’re absolutely crazy, but they’re a lot of fun, and Seren Books, where I work, have published ten books, all written by Welsh authors, which are modern day retellings of the tales from The Mabinogion. :) I read White Ravens by Owen Sheers and The Meat Tree by Gwyneth Lewis this month, and I recommend checking them out if British folktales interest you! :)

    I’d also recommend checking out The Falconer by Elizabeth May if you haven’t already; it’s set in 19th century Edinburgh and tells the story of a young woman who hunts faeries. :D And I think Elizabeth May herself specialises in Scottish folklore and mythology!

    • Kaja

      Hey, Jess, thanks for stopping by! :)
      I’ve heard of The Mabinogion but I haven’t read it yet – I will try and find it here! :) I also have the Edda on my reading list, but hey, a woman can’t read everything… I’m hoping to get to both soon!
      Ugh, I have read The Falconer (you can check out my review) but I didn’t really like it :( I think it was a case of a much-hyped book not living up to my expectations plus some personal pet peeves, but yeah. Thanks for the recommendation, though! I see why you think I would like it :)

  • Ohhh, that storytelling festival sounds amazing! I wish we had something like that over here too. I haven’t read many Scottish/Irish fairytales/folktales. Most of my love is based on the more popular stories, retellings and Disney, but I’m trying to branch out to more. My love for fairytales knows no bound :D Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Kaja

      Yes, the storytelling festival is great! Fairytales and folktales really come to life when you hear them spoken instead of reading them. I like Disney, don’t get me wrong, but I’m enjoying the new movies a bit more because they seem to be working on their portrayal of women :)
      Thanks for the comment, Mel, and thanks for organizing this challenge – I don’t think I’d have written about this if it wasn’t for you. :)