Swan Sister: Fairy Tales Retold

Swan Sister: Fairy Tales Retold

4.0 1
by Ellen Datlow

Just as fairy-tale magic can transform a loved one into a swan, the contributors to this book have transformed traditional fairy tales and legends into stories that are completely original, yet still tantalizingly familiar.
In this book you will find:
• a Rapunzel whose most confining prison is her loneliness
• a contemporary rendering


Just as fairy-tale magic can transform a loved one into a swan, the contributors to this book have transformed traditional fairy tales and legends into stories that are completely original, yet still tantalizingly familiar.
In this book you will find:
• a Rapunzel whose most confining prison is her loneliness
• a contemporary rendering of the Green Man myth
• two different versions of Red Riding Hood
• a tale that grew out of a Celtic folk song
• Sleeping Beauty's experience of her enchantment
• two works inspired by the Arabian Nights
• and more
In the follow-up to A Wolf at the Door, thirteen renowned authors come together with a selection of new and surprising adaptations of the fairy tales we think we know so well. These fresh takes on classic tales will show you sides of each story you never dreamed of.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Swan Sister: Fairy Tales Retold, ed. by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, 13 authors transform traditional fairy tales into original stories. "The Girl in the Attic" by Lois Metzger follows a lonely, silent 14-year-old girl who hides away in an attic room, in a story with parallels to Rapunzel. In "Lupe," by Kathe Koja, a girl enters the dark woods and bravely faces a wolf and a mysterious witch, in a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Jane Yolen, Bruce Coville and Neil Gaiman are also among the contributing authors in this companion to the editors' previous collection, A Wolf at the Door. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This fascinating collection of classic stories-retold pairs each new story with a brief recollection by the author of where or how the inspiration for the story appeared, thus introducing the reader to the fun of playing with story. For example, Jane Yolen's story of magic first love sprang from the tales of the Greenman, but she moves her Greenman from the old country to the new...and magical havoc as well as teenage bliss follows. Other stories also explore the aspects of love; a dethroned prince fulfills three tasks to rescue the beautiful princess hidden in the tiny Golden Fur; a young neighbor girl becomes the last of Bluebeard's wives and lives with the knowledge of hidden death. Others introduce the complexity of story: Will Shetterley's edgy "Little Red and the Big Bad" explains "there's uno problemo," no ending, but for sure "one dies. One lives to tell the tale," thus moving the reader to confront the basic question of story and storyteller. Using classic tales as a springboard and language and story as their medium, the writers and editors create fun and fantasy for the reader. 2003, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Ages 8 to 12.
— Elisabeth Greenberg
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-In this anthology, noted children's and adult fantasy writers play with the bones of traditional stories, songs, and characters to create 13 vibrant, imaginative short stories. Bruce Coville, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, and Jane Yolen are among the contributors. In the tales, the fisherman and his wife are viewed from across the water by a lonely motherless girl; fairies give Sleeping Beauty a century of time to explore the world before she wakes up and settles down; Lupe, in her mother's red cape, faces down the wolf. Some stories are set in the folkloric past, others weave in contemporary details such as harried urban life, computers, and cell phones with pleasing results. The final moving story, Katherine Vaz's "My Swan Sister," based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Wild Swans," presents a family introducing their new baby, who is attached to an oxygen tank, to all of the pleasures of their New York neighborhood before she dies in the unfinished jacket her sister has knitted. The author says, "Rachel was a real little girl who did not live long, but-pretty as a swan, light as a feather-she managed to remind my family that even when time runs short, even when we cannot speak, we can still work wonders." There's something for everyone in this anthology, which proves once again the immense flexibility of traditional tales in the hands of gifted storytellers.-Susan Hepler, Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Thirteen new stories along the lines of those in the editors’ Wolf at the Door (2001), several by the same authors. Some tales stick closely to recognizable fairy tales, others are original creations that incorporate folkloric elements: Will Shetterly offers an urban, open-ended "Little Red and the Big Bad," Neil Gaiman’s poem "Inventing Aladdin" captures the pressure on Scheherazade, Gregory Frost’s "Harp That Sang" is a prose rendition of the "Cruel Sister" ballad. Lois Metzger’s redemption of the stepmother in her Rapunzel-like "Girl in the Attic," and Pat York’s tale of a wish-granting fish caught by a child who is wise beyond her years, aren’t the only pleasant surprises that lurk here for readers up on their folktales. The collection ends on a strong note with Katherine Vaz’s title tale about a child learning from her short-lived baby sister that joy is not measured by time. Despite perfunctory author’s comments at each story’s end, an above-average gathering. (introduction) (Short stories. 11-14)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow

When we were kids, we were told that fairy tales were only for little children — which implies, of course, that we'd lose our interest as we grew up. But we kept on reading fairy tales year after year, and they were just as wonderful as ever. Was there something wrong with us, we wondered, that we were so enchanted by nursery stories? And why, we wondered, were fairy tales considered suitable for little children anyway? Some of the stories we read in the Brothers Grimm volumes seemed grim indeed! There were queens who danced to death in red-hot shoes, wicked witches burned up in ovens, ghostly children weeping blood red tears, and wolves lurking in Granny's nightclothes.

Eventually we learned that in previous centuries fairy tales weren't considered children's stories — back then, they were told to everyone, young and old alike. But in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, certain book editors, as well as the Walt Disney Studios, took hold of fairy tales and changed them. They turned harrowing, suspenseful stories into sweet and simple tales full of frolicking bluebirds, giggling mice, square-jawed heroes, and dumb-blonde princesses. In these new versions of fairy tales the Good were always unambiguously Good, and they always triumphed over Evil. Real life, however, is more complex than that. The old fairy tales were more complex than that too. Underneath their fanciful trappings, the old tales had a lot to say about human nature: about cruelty, vanity, greed, despair — and about the "magic" that overcomes them: kindness, compassion, generosity, faith, persistence, and courage.

Back in the seventeenth-century France there was a group of writers in Paris who loved those older, complex stories. And so they made it into a game, as they sat together in their elegant salons, to retell traditional fairy tales in clever, interesting new ways. In fact, some of the tales we love best today are versions first told in French salons, such as Charles Perrault's "Cinderella," complete with fairy godmother and rats turned into coachmen. Sometimes two writers would choose the same tale, and each would rewrite it in his or her own way — and then the other salonnières would decide who'd done it best. Today, three hundred years later, many of us still love playing this game — trying to discover fresh new ways to retell beloved old stories.

The authors in this book are also people who never outgrew their childhood love of fairy tales — as adults, they're still reading magical stories, and writing them too. For this collection (the sequel to our previous book A Wolf at the Door), we asked writers to send us brand-new stories based on older tales — fairy tales, folklore, legends, and even old folk ballads. You'll find new versions of "Bluebeard," "Rapunzel," "The Fisherman's Wife," "Tom Thumb," "Sleeping Beauty," and "The Seven Swans;" as well as two works based on The Arabian Nights; two different versions of "Red Riding Hood;" a story inspired by "Greenman" legends; and one Celtic folk song. Each of these authors has taken traditional material and fashioned it into something of his or her own — just as those French writers did in Paris three hundred years ago.

Who knows? Maybe three hundred years from now groups of writers will still be telling these stories. We hope so. Because there will always be readers who don't outgrow their love of magic.

If you'd like to know more about fairy tales, here are three good collections of them: Spells of Enchantment edited by Jack Zipes, The Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar, and Favorite Folktales from Around the World edited by Jane Yolen. If you're looking for strong female heroes, try Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls edited by Jane Yolen, The Serpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women adapted by Katrin Tchana and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, and Strange Things Sometimes Still Happen edited by Angela Carter. A fascinating book about fairy tales is Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie and Folklore in the Literature of Childhood by Jane Yolen. On the Internet, try these Web sites: The SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages (www.surlalunefairytales.com) and The Endicott Studio of Mythic Arts (www.endicott-studio.com).

Copyright © 2003 by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Introduction copyright © 2003 by Terri Windling

Meet the Author

Ellen Datlow has edited and coedited many anthologies, including A Wolf at the Door; the Snow White, Blood Red adult fairy-tale series; and The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror annual volumes (all with Terri Windling). She has won six World Fantasy Awards, a Hugo Award, and a Bram Stoker Award for her editing. She lives in Manhattan's Greenwich Village with two demanding but terrific calico cats. Her favorite fairy tale is "The Goose Girl" and she always felt sorry that Falada lost her head. Visit her Web site at www.datlow.com.

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