Stop Misassigning The Original Stories in Retellings

There’s something I’m seeing more and more of in the book community since retellings became the Next Big Thing, and that’s that people are assigning the WRONG retellings to books.

Is this a big deal? Probably not, in hindsight. But imagine if someone told you the book was a retelling for Little Red Riding Hood and it was really a retelling of The Three Little Pigs. You’re probably interested in it because it has a Big Bad Wolf that eats people, but although the stories are a little similar, they’re also very different. Red goes on a journey and strays from her path, and that’s how the Big Bad Wolf gets her and Granny. They’re saved by a woodcutter. The three little pigs are minding their own business and the Bid Bad Wolf comes along and wrecks their houses until they’re clever enough to outsmart him without outside help.

So. Similar stories, but also completely different.

Now I’ve noticed a few books floating around the blogosphere where bloggers are calling them retellings of certain stories. One of these books has been out for a couple of years. One of these is a new release in 2016. One of these is a brand new 2017 release.

Let’ start with A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas.

A lot of people are calling this a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ retelling, and it’s easy to see why. A beautiful, innocent girl is taken to live with a strange man in his enormous castle.

Actually, that’s the plot for pretty much any Gothic novel ever written.

The essentials for Beauty and the Beast is that the love interest has to be BEASTLY and it’s the main character’s love that turns him/her (depending on what kind of twist you’re working with) ‘human’ again.

Tamlin is not ‘beastly’. He’s a gorgeous hottie in a mask. There’s no personality quirk he needs to overcome to earn Feyre’s love, and in return, her love does not free him from his curse.

Instead, A Court of Thorns and Roses is a retelling of the fairytale known as Tamlin (complete surprise, right?). This is often itself retold in East of the Sun And West of the Moon, which is a tale about the search for a lost husband. In EOTSWOTM, the female cannot spy his real face or he will have to marry the daughter of the troll who cursed him. There are similarities, but EOTSWOTM and Beauty and the Beast ARE NOT THE SAME STORY. Tamlin is an entirely different story where he is a sacrifice who must be rescued by the woman he impregnated. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a Tamlin/East of the Sun and West of the Moon story, NOT a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, so stop saying it is.

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh is NOT a ‘Mulan’ retelling

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1)

In Mulan, a young girl disguises herself as a boy to take her father’s place in a war. If you tell me a tory is a Mulan retelling, at the VERY least I am going to expect 1) a war 2) a girl who takes her father’s place in it 3) cross dressing.

In Flame in the Mist, the heroine is NOT going off to war, she disguises herself to protect herself from being sexually assaulted, she has a twin brother, and she falls in love with her captain.

That all sounds rather more similar to Twelfth Night than to Mulan, don’t you think? Where young Violet, separated from her twin brother by shipwreck, disguises herself as a boy to protect her virginity, then falls in love with Duke Orsino while disguised as Cesaro.

So how about yo stop going around saying Flame in the Mist is a Mulan retelling then, hey? What’s wrong with saying it’s similar to Twelfth Night? Twelfth Night is an awesome play. Is it becaues Mulan is sexier than Twelfth Night? Whatever. Just stop it.

Romancing The Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney CANNOT be a retelling of or inspired by Duchess Katherine and her sister Pippa, no matter how much you say it is

Romancing the Throne

Because Kate and Pippa NEVER LOVED THE SAME BOY.

There’s another pair of sisters who, throughout history, are notorious for having banged the same royal. They’re known as the Boleyn sisters. Both of them bore Henry VIII’s children. One of them became queen of England. Sound familiar? It’s insulting to Katherine and Pippa, not to mention future king William, that a fictional version of him dated both sisters. People were shipping Pippa and Prince Harry when Will and Kate got married, but there has never been anything linking Pippa to William. So stop saying this is about Kate and Pippa. IT IS NOT.

Whew! I feel like I got something off my chest. And if you feel insulted by this blog post, then I don’t give a fuck. Misinformation cannot be allowed to spread without calling it out.



About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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5 thoughts on “Stop Misassigning The Original Stories in Retellings

  1. Alexandria

    Great post! I’ll be linking to this in my monthly recap.

    I haven’t read any of these books but I’d heard about the first one being a different retelling from the one it’s marketed as. It seems pretty weird to call something a Beauty and the Beast retelling when the “Beast” is actually a hot human being (or humanoid… I haven’t read the book).

    Alexandria recently posted: May Wrap Up
    1. Nemo

      It really annoys me, especially as I LOVE Beauty and the Beast retellings. The Beast has to be beastly! The Beauty has to overcome both the beastly looks and beastly personality and love him for who he is. Not fall in love with some hot guy! Where’s the challenge in that?

  2. Eilonwy

    This is an awesome post, Nemo!

    I’ve seen people griping about how Flame in the Mist fails as a Mulan retelling, but you’re the first person I’ve seen connect it to Twelfth Night. That actually makes me want to read it!

    1. Nemo

      Twelfth Night is one of my favourite plays so I guess it’s easier for me to spot the similarities. The first keyword was ‘twin’.

  3. Shay

    With retellings being so popular, I think sometimes books get pegged as retellings for marketing purposes, even when they only have certain, sometimes tangential, elements of the supposed original. This can definitely be really annoying if something gets described as a retelling of your favourite story, but isn’t riffing on the essential elements that you enjoy so much.

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