Fairy Tale Retellings: How Classic Stories Tackle Modern Issues and Themes


Fairy tales have captured the imaginations of children and adults alike for centuries. These timeless stories have shaped our understanding of good and evil, love and sacrifice, and the power of hope and courage. And while they may originate from a different time and place, their messages still hold relevance in today’s modern world.

However, as the world evolves, so does the way we tell and interpret these classic tales. In recent years, there has been a surge in fairy tale retellings that not only bring these beloved stories to a new generation but also offer a fresh perspective on age-old themes and issues.

One of the most notable ways fairy tales have been retold is by providing more empowering and diverse representations of female characters. We all know the Disney version of Snow White, where her only goal is to find a prince and live happily ever after. But in Snow White and The Huntsman, Snow White takes control of her own destiny and fights against the wicked queen with courage and determination. Similarly, in Beauty and the Beast, Belle is portrayed as an intelligent and independent woman who teaches the beast about love and kindness, instead of the stereotypical damsel in distress waiting to be rescued.

Fairy tale retellings also explore different forms of love and relationships. In Cinderella, it’s always assumed that the prince is the ultimate prize, but in Ella Enchanted, the titular character learns to stand up for herself and follow her own heart. The retelling of The Little Mermaid in the movie Aquamarine portrays a love between two best friends, instead of the traditional heterosexual romance. These retellings challenge the idea that love can only be found in certain ways and give readers and viewers more diverse narratives to relate to.

Moreover, fairy tale retellings also tackle more complex and relevant issues by incorporating them into the original storylines. For example, in Dorothy Must Die, a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, the familiar characters and world are reimagined in a dystopian society where the wicked witch has taken over. This not only adds an element of action and suspense but also raises questions about power, government, and corruption.

In some retellings, heavy themes such as domestic abuse, mental illness, and societal pressures are also addressed. In A Court of Thorns and Roses, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, the main character Feyre deals with trauma and mental health struggles as she navigates a dangerous and magical world. By infusing these issues into the story, it not only adds depth and realism but also shows that these are ongoing battles that people face in real life.

Fairy tale retellings also give voice to marginalized communities and cultures. For instance, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an anthology of retellings of Asian myths and legends. Through these retellings, readers are exposed to a different cultural perspective and storytelling style while also bringing attention to these lesser-known tales.

Overall, fairy tale retellings offer a way to connect the past with the present and explore age-old themes in a modern context. They challenge traditional ideas of gender roles, relationships, and love, and address issues that are relevant to today’s society. Not only do they introduce these tales to a new audience, but they also breathe new life into them, making them more relatable and engaging for readers and viewers of all ages.

In a world where classic stories and messages can sometimes feel outdated, fairy tale retellings provide a platform for these stories to evolve and continue to inspire and teach us valuable lessons. So next time you come across a fairy tale retelling, don’t dismiss it as just a copy of the original. Take a closer look and discover how these classic stories are being retold in a way that speaks to our modern world.