Fairytale Retellings & the 7 Core Questions of Life

Here's a secret of storytelling.

Not only is it okay to tell the same story over again, but it's inevitable.

No  matter how many times you try to tell the same story, it will always be different if you tell it in your own voice and from your own soul.

Just look at how many times Fairy Tales can be retold.

All stories address at least one of the same seven core perennial human questions.

  1. Where do I come from?
  2. What is my purpose?
  3. How do I grow up from a child to an adult?
  4. How do I find love?
  5. How do I face fear, pain, and hostility?
  6. How can I find justice if I have been wronged?
  7. Why do I have to die?

Our most sacred literature also deals with these 7 Core Questions, usually focusing on the first and the last questions, the Big Ones of Where Does It All Come From and Where Are We All Going. ("Why do I have to die?" might be transmuted into, "How can I ensure I live forever in a really swell place?")

Fairytales primarily address the questions that formal, "weighty" books ignore, like, "How do I grow up?" "How do I find love?" 

Trickster Tales and Heroic Myths and their modern equivalants in Murder Mysteries, Thrillers, and Military Fiction show heroes facing fear, injustice, crime and war.

The Unfinished Song series was originally inspired by a very short fable from either Polynesia or Madagascar (I thought I knew which one, but when I looked it up, I thought I might have been mistaken) about the origin of Death.

Kind of a downer.

It was also a very, very short fable. There wasn't much of a story arc. There certainly wasn't enough material for twelve novels, or even one 200,000 word novel (which was the length of my very first complete draft of The Unfinished Song).

Obviously, I wanted to use the fable merely as a touchstone to leap into a larger story, one of my own devising, yet drawing on fairytales. Faearth is a land of fae and pixies and sprites, so I wanted to mix in elements of fairytales too.

While not exactly a Fairytale Retelling of Snow White or Cinderella, like Melanie Cellier's Four Kingdom's series and many other popular retellings.

In Faearth, the world of the Unfinished Song series, I always mix in elements of fairytales as well as other forms of mythology, like Trickster Tales or Shamanistic mythology from Africa, Polynesia and North America. 

Root, Book 4, also took inspiration from Les Liaisons Dangereuses, so sometimes I slip in "Literary Retellings" too.

Coming up in Maze, Book 9, the observant reader may notice how the legend of the Minotaur and the Maze mixes with a Beauty and the Beast motif in the tragic figure of the Lord of Nightmares.

Since Maze culminates in a dance contest that determines the future of the entire realm, I channeled both Cinderella and Swan Lake as I wrote the "Vaedi Vooma," the dance contest scenes. (I also researched dance quite extensively so I could bring the various competing dances to life visually.)

Maze isn't out until September, so you'll have Pre-Order it if you want to find out if it worked!

Meanwhile, you can read Mirror, Book 8

In Mirror, I wanted to have a magic mirror that declares "the fairest of them all." 

That was a bit tricky, considering that the tribal civilization in Faearth haven't invented the smooth combination of polished glass and metal necessary to fashion mirrors. 

Magic to the rescue.  A mysterious Fae, who guards the Looking Bowl (itself a primitive mirror that uses a bowl of water to reflect images and prophecies) also controls the Mere of Ore, the "lake of stone," a naturally shiny rock. It's a meteorite of naturally shiny, flat metal. To the tribes and Fae, it looks like a solid "lake" or "mere of ore," a "mirror,"...

Yeah, I sometimes get lost in word play. Moving on...

The result is that Dindi has to enter a beauty contest to earn the Looking Bowl. But is she "the fairest of them all?" Why is that what society values so much in women? (Kavio and the men-folk have a very different contest: they have to fight to the death). 

Sprinkled through-out the book are also other legends that comment on appearance versus reality, such as "Why Vulture Cut Her Hair," and "Why Bat Lives in the Dark." These stories the Histories of Dindi's people, told through Dance.

Meanwhile, the Seventh Question weaves through the story, as Dindi plays a game of tricks and schemes with Lady Death herself. Lady Death comes to Dindi with an interesting proposal. Dindi has to decide--is this a trick? And is it even possible?

At heart, though, the entire series is one long love story. 

And so Dindi is also constantly asking herself, is there any way to free the man she loves from Death's shadow?

If you do like Fairy Tale retellings, 
or an Epic Fantasy enriched by fairytale allusions,