Top 5 Tuesdays: Top 5 Retellings

Welcome back to the Tuesday series brought to you by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm! The past two weeks have dealt with 5 Must-Read Topics & 5 Avoid At All Costs Topics. This week, I’m proud to bring you a list of my top 5 retellings, which was a lot harder to write than I thought it would be. (But honestly, that’s how every blog post starts out.)

Now, the dictionary defines “Retelling” as

ˌrēˈtel/
verb
gerund or present participle: retelling
  1. tell (a story) again or differently.
    “Walker retells the history of the world from the black perspective”

This is the default Google definition. Merriam-Webster apparently thinks a retelling can only be of a Greek myth, because that’s their definition:

 a new version of a story retelling of a Greek legend

And then good ol’ dictionary.com defines it as:

noun
1. a new, and often updated or retranslated, version of a story.

It doesn’t give a second definition.

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Peter & the Starcatchers

This has long been one of my favorite books. While the third one (and certainly the fourth one) do it no favors, the first one will forever hold a place in my heart. I read it years ago, and to this day, the page where we see Captain (not-yet-named) Hook’s ship fly an enormous brassiere as his ship’s sails will never fail to make me laugh. This is a retelling of Peter Pan’s beginnings, something different (and much darker, mayhaps?) than the Disney movie leads you to believe. (Because let’s face it, most people haven’t read Peter’s original tale.) I’m also a fan of the heroine in this book, because she’s very “Let’s just do it!”, and doesn’t seem to take into account that she’s female and “shouldn’t be getting up to these shenanigans.”

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The Looking Glass Wars

I think everyone’s gone through an Alice in Wonderland phase at some point in time. I devoured this series, and was incredibly angry when my little sister borrowed one and damaged the cover. (She still hasn’t replaced it.) This is a story of Princess Alyss Heart, who was pushed out of the rabbit hole to England, because her royal life had become too precarious and her family was murdered in an uprising. She eventually has her “fantastic tales” beaten out of her, and forgets all about where she came from…until her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, shows up and takes her back. This book is apparently the source of much contention on GoodReads, which means I probably need to give it another read. I’ve got some very fond memories of this series, but I did read it when I was in eleventh grade. That’s seven whole years ago, so I probably need to give it a shot.

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The Lightning Thief

Does this count? It’s got all of your Greek gods, a lot of adventuring, and some old characters from the original myths. I remember being incredibly amused by the chapter titles the first time I read through this series. (It’s one of the reasons I never got into the second Greek series by Riordan, I think.) This is literally the only thing my sister would read for about four years. She would read through the series, finish it, and start all over at the beginning for an entire four years. And this was before all of the books were released. Once the final one was released, she read it maybe two or three more times through before she stopped. I gave her The Lost Hero for Christmas one year, because I knew how much she’d loved Percy Jackson, and she told me she didn’t like it. Ugh.

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The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories

I was introduced to this collection of short stories by my Literature of Sexuality & Gender professor last spring. We read three of the retellings, and I read many more. I’ve always been fascinated by fairy tales, and these have a feminist twist on them. Some were not so good, and others were great. I’m including it on this list because I think the premise is something absolutely astounding, and I wish I had more fairy tale retellings that are short and sweet like this. Don’t get me wrong; I love reading long books, but sometimes you just want to be able to sit down and devour things in small settings.

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Grendel

Beowulf is one of my favorite classics. Have you ever thought, though, what must’ve happened before Beowulf arrived at Hrothgar’s hall? We get a tiny bit of backstory, but we don’t get the monster’s backstory. And that’s where this book comes in. It’s just a slim volume, but it’s all together consuming. The creature is more intelligent than the men it hunts, which is what makes this novel slightly unsettling. I’ve actually ended up with three copies over the years (I think I keep picking it up at thrift stores, believing myself not to already own it, just to get home and find it already there, mocking me). I’ve given all of my extras away already, so I’m afraid it’s up to you to find your own! I first read this in twelfth grade as part of my Beowulf unit in AP Lit, and read it again my freshman year of undergrad in a Myths, Gods, & Monsters class. If you’re interested in Beowulf at all, you owe it to yourself to read this.

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Honorable Mention:

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

This is a story I would beg my parents to read again and again when I was little. It’s a short book (I most recently reread it for a Children’s Lit class I took Spring 2016; it’s still on my bookshelf in the hall as I’m writing this), but it’s fantastic. The story behind it is chilling, and there are several things hidden in the illustrations that would take a sharp eye to find. It’s not necessarily a “long” book, but I do remember my parents groaning whenever I pulled it off the shelf.

In fact, this is the book that inspired me to write my own version of The Three Little Pigs. I’m hoping to one day see it in print. I’ve got it all written up; I just need someone to illustrate it and then we’ll send it off to a publisher and see if someone bites. Who’s up for it?

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I’ve never stopped to think about books being retellings. I ended up going on GoodReads to lurk through their lists to see if they could jog my memory, because I started this post off not knowing where I was going to go with it. I just took it and ran.

Retellings are tricky. If you read any of the reviews for The Looking Glass Wars on GoodReads, you’ll see what I mean. You have to walk a thin line between not offending fans of the original while still making it interesting and accessible enough to those who don’t know the source material.

What are some of your favorite retellings? Got a beef with one of the books I put on this list? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check out Shanah’s blog and let her know that her topics are really thought-provoking!

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THE READING QUEST update!

  • Books Finished: 5
  • Pages Read: 1,954
  • EXP Earned: 50
  • HP Earned: 185

Be sure to follow me on Twitter to see what I’m up to! I update that more on what I’m reading than I do here, because it’s faster.

3 thoughts on “Top 5 Tuesdays: Top 5 Retellings

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