Does anyone ever really fall out of love with fairy tales? I could probably list fifty or so fairy tales that I know for memory, despite not having read them or thought about them in years. What sticks with me even more than the stories, however, are those nostalgic, magical memories of settling down to read or listen to a fairy tale. It’s been far too long since I’ve indulged or revisited those feelings, and I’m willing to bet that a lot of you feel the same way. So, to celebrate National Tell a Fairy Tale Day, I decided to share my seven personal favorite fairy tales (or fairy tale-like reads) from the library collection for you to check out.
And for those who ask, “Why seven?” pick a number between 1 and 4 and scroll to the bottom.
First up is Princess Furball by Charlotte Huck, a book I remember reading over and over again as a child. Like many fairy tales, this one’s a bit odd when you return to it as an adult (I never thought to question as a child that requesting a coat made from a thousand different animal pelts could be considered cruel and wasteful in addition to resourceful, or that putting a thimble into soup isn’t exactly the recipe for a normal courtship) but it sure does have a lot of beautifully drawn, medieval tapestry-esque illustrations by Anita Lobel. It’s like Cinderella without the fairy godmother and a very wicked actual-not-just-a-step father.
Second I have to recommend everything illustrated by Ruth Sanderson, who does some of the most beautiful, rich, detailed, luxurious illustrations I’ve ever seen, and who colored my imagination as a child more vividly than words could. I forget to read the words sometimes when I’m looking at her books because the pictures just take me away into the story by themselves. Some special favorites I recommend include Twelve Dancing Princesses (for a little while, I wanted so bad to meet my husband because he was a poor gardener spying on me with the aid of an invisible cloak), Papa Gatto (this one will probably remind you of Puss in Boots, but only because there’s a very stylish and clever cat–the story is different and you’ll like it!), and The Golden Mare, the Firebird, and the Magic Ring (another “whoa this is weird” story that will give your childish side so many pretty horse paintings to drool over and your adultish side lots of odd things to think about, such as whether or not you would adopt your enemy if he turned into a really cute baby).
Third is The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Andersen. Has anyone read this fairy tale? It’s awesome. Twisted, messed-up, romantic, unexpectedly violent, high-stakes kind of awesome. I recommend reading every illustrated version you can get your hands on because it’s always FASCINATING to see how each illustrator chooses to portray the three dogs with three varying degrees of eye-size (I mean, the size of a TOWER? THOSE ARE SOME BIG EYES).
Fourth I have to recommend an author I stumbled upon as a teen who writes some of the funniest, most original, creative, and compelling fairy tale retellings I’ve come across. I should mention here that I am kind of a sucker for fairytales retold, or “fairytales with a twist!” Anyway, as a teenager I absolutely LOVED Ella Enchanted and The Fairy’s Mistake, retellings of Cinderella and that weird fairy tale about the toads and diamonds, respectively. Check them out and if you like them, try some of Levine’s many, many other fairy tale-esque writings.
Fifth, getting further into not your typical fairy tale territory, I highly recommend The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. It blends the harshness and unfairness of reality so well with the fantasy and possibility of imagination. The story is full of familiar developments and fairy tale-like motifs, but it feels so rooted in truth and honesty. I loved it. Need to read it again.
Okay, now two for the adults.
Sixth: The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I know, I know, you’ve probably seen or at least heard of or seen the “famous parts” of the movie. But I’m telling you. If you haven’t read the book, YOU. ARE. MISSING. OUT. It is hilarious and will make you look at the movie with totally new, refreshed eyes. I was honestly crestfallen when I finished because I wanted so bad for this book to never end.
And seventh, the book I’ve read most recently of everything on this list and that still gives me chills when I remember how intriguing, mysterious, and unusually beautiful it was: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This is the first book that pops into my mind when I think of “fairy tale for adults.” It’s about a circus and two young magicians who must eventually confront each other (but don’t know exactly how), and it’s a mystery, a fantasy, and a romance all at once. My imagination really got swept into the visual descriptions and beautiful writing and didn’t let go for a long time. If I ever want to take a break from the world for a good long while, I’ll be looking for this book.
Answers to the question asked above.
- Because I couldn’t think of more, duh.
- Why not?
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
- Wrong question! You are turned into a toad and must wait for your younger, smarter sibling to pass the test and rescue you. If you have no younger siblings, you’re out of luck, but don’t worry. Life as a toad isn’t too bad, generally. Particularly if you can get a princess to kiss you…