Fairy Tales Essay by Jenelle Schmidt
I’ve got a special treat for you today. In honor of the release of her newest book An Echo of the Fae—which you should totally get right now—I’m welcoming my dear friend, Jenelle Leanne Schmidt to share her thoughts on fairy tales. Since she just finished writing one, you might find her thoughts rather interesting. I certainly did.
How I’ve Been Influenced by Fairy Tales
by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt
I grew up reading fairy tales. One of my earliest “reading on my own” memories is of a huge book full of fairy tales that my grandpa gave me when I was young, probably about six or seven years old. It was full of fairy tales beyond the few that Disney has turned into cartoons. We also had a beautifully illustrated Random House Book of Fairy Tales that I would read over and over. And my mom had an old book of fairy tales that I can’t remember the cover of, but it houses my all-time favorite fairy tale.
I guess it’s no surprise to anyone that I’ve continued to enjoy fairy tales throughout my life. Original fairy tales, retellings, adaptations, loosely inspired by… if it has its origins in faerie, I’m there. Possibly the only surprise is that it took me so many years before I even attempted to write my own retelling of one. I didn’t even try to write my own version of a fairy tale until 2013 when I entered a Cinderella story in Rooglewood Press’s “Five Glass Slippers” contest. Even though I didn’t win that year, I kind of fell in love with fairy tales all over again through the experience.
My absolute favorite fairy tale is The Apple of Contentment by Howard Pyle. It’s kind of a twist on the Cinderella story, but definitely has its own unique elements. There is no ball, for example, the King isn’t looking for a bride, and there’s no glass slipper. There is a magical apple that only the main character, Christine, can pick, but everyone else who sees the apple suddenly desires it more than anything else. This leads to some entertaining shenanigans.
The Light Princess by George MacDonald is another favorite, even if it might not be considered in the “cannon” of fairy tales. But I loved that one as a kid and read it over and over again. In it, a princess is cursed at birth by an evil fairy that didn’t get invited to the christening (because everyone thought she was dead) to have “no gravity.” This means that she both floats around (and has to be weighted down so she doesn’t fly away and get lost forever), but also that she can’t take anything seriously. (This is probably where I get my love of plays on words). It is such a delightful story, and sweet, and I loved how the princess had to learn selflessness and kind of taught it to everyone else, as well.
Twelve Dancing Princesses is another one I’ve always loved, even though I honestly couldn’t really tell you why. At its heart, this is a very simple story about a king who is baffled by the fact that his 12 daughters’ slippers are worn to shreds every morning even though they never leave their room. He promises half the kingdom and one of his daughters’ hands in marriage to any man who can discover the mystery. I think I like this one because it is a portal fantasy (the princesses are slipping into a magical realm at night) and because the young man who eventually discovers the mystery seemed like such a down-to-earth, nice guy with a lot of common sense. I like characters with common sense.
I would be remiss not to mention Beauty and the Beast, which became even dearer to me after the experience of writing my own retelling, Stone Curse, for the Five Enchanted Roses anthology. Robin McKinley’s retelling of this story was the first retelling of any fairy tale I’d ever read and so this story in particularly really shaped a lot of what I enjoy reading and added to my love of this particular genre.
And finally, though I could go on for quite some time talking about my favorite fairy tales, The Snow Queen is also up there near the top of the list. (And let me be clear… Frozen is NOT the same thing as The Snow Queen! Frozen can only be said to be “based on” The Snow Queen in the absolute loosest definition of the term). It is a story of two friends, a boy and a girl. The boy gets abducted by the Snow Queen after two shards of magical mirror glass slip into his eye and his heart. The girl spends the better part of a year searching for her friend, and having all sorts of adventures and mishaps along the way until she finally finds him. Though he doesn’t recognize her or even acknowledge her presence, she hugs him and cries all over him and her tears wash away the shards of glass in his eye and heart and he recognizes her and becomes like his old self and she is able to rescue him. I love this story because I love what it says about friendship, forgiveness, loyalty, and perseverance.
When I began thinking about An Echo of the Fae, back in those extremely early days of dreaming up ideas, I was originally looking for a way to retell the story of Rapunzel. However, the story that got written can in no way be termed a “Rapunzel retelling,” which is why I haven’t mentioned it on the cover or the title page or anywhere in the book. There are certainly glimmerings of Rapunzel that still made it into the story, echoes of themes and elements from that fairy tale, but this tale is undeniably its own thing. I’m sure that other fairy tales I’ve read and loved somehow influenced various elements of this story, but I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly which ones. I am eager to hear which fairy tales my readers see glimpses of through the pages of An Echo of the Fae!
An Echo of the Fae
Thanks for sharing those lovely thoughts. I think it’s only natural that when you love and enjoy a certain tale that the inclination to “give back” will arise at some point in life if you are a writer.
Here’s a little more about the book, which you should absolutely pick up and read.
Echo enjoys the peace and solitude of the Faeorn forest, regardless of how strange spending time in the “haunted” wood seems to others.
But on the cusp of her thirteenth birthday, the discovery of a family secret reveals why Echo has never been drawn to the sea like her mother. This discovery shakes the foundations of her world and sends Echo on a quest, not merely into the forest, but into the heart of the fae-lands themselves, to rescue the sister she didn’t know existed.
Elves, dragons, and fairy courts will put Echo’s wit and resolve to the test. But with time running out for her sister, will Echo even be able to save herself?
A fairytale adventure perfect for fans of The Secret of Roan Innish and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.Buy the Book