It has been said that all art is derivative. Voltaire claimed that “originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed from one another.” The retellings recommended below take the well-known narratives of popular folklore, legends, myths, and fairy tales and plop them into new adventures.
This story is a spin on the beloved tale of Wendy and Peter Pan, inspired by the author’s trip to the Pacific Northwest, though much darker than the both the original story and Disney adaption. In this version, Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but only she came back. When more kids disappear a few years later under mysterious circumstances, the town’s attention is brought back to the fate of her brothers. As she attempts to leave her past, Wendy comes across a boy named Peter she believed to have only been in stories, and he needs her help rescuing the missing children.
Set in 1920s Mexico, this story blends the Jazz Age and Mayan mythology to create a unique adventure across the Yucatán peninsula, Mexico City, and even Xibalba, the Maya underworld. Casiopea Tun finds a chest full of bones in her grandfather’s room. When a fragment pierces her thumb, the death god, Hun-Kamé, becomes bound to her. In a quest to find the rest of his body parts and eventually rule Xibalba, he enlists Casiopea’s help and takes her on said adventure.
Though Homer never explicitly stated Patroclus and Achilles were romantically involved in The Iliad, their bond is indisputable. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to appear as more than friends in various artworks. Madeline Miller capitalizes on this interpretation to bring us a moving love story about two young men facing a battle between gods and men.
This reimagining of Norse mythology is about more than the relationship between the giant, Angrboda, and Loki. It is a love story about family, and a mother who will do anything to protect her children, even if those children are known as monsters in the traditional myth. With the help of the huntress, Skaldi, Angrboda intends to re-write the story we think we know.
Probably one of the most well-known titles on the list, Good Omens ran as a miniseries on Amazon Prime Video and BBC Two. The tale originates from this novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and follows biblical figureheads Aziraphale and Crowley as they are forced to team up and stop Armageddon, as they’ve grown accustomed to their living in England. What ensues, in both film and on screen, is the type of dark comedy that’s to be expected of the authors.
Comprising several elements of Russian literature and Slavic folklore, Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale is a spin on the Russian fairy tale Vasilisa the Beautiful. Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids the family from honoring the spirits of their property that guard the family from evil. As they pull away from their traditions, strange, dark things threaten the village and Vasilisa is the only one who seems to notice.
Many graphic novels use folklore and myth inspiration and take it a step further by using visuals to showcase their unique take on these stories we know. For fans of the show Once Upon a Time, the graphic novel series, Fables, takes place in New York City, where denizens of Fableland take Glamour to appear human so that they can safely live among the Mundanes (us). The first volume follows gruff detective, Bigby Wolf, on his quest to discover who murdered Rose Red. Throughout the course of the story, we meet characters such as Snow White, her ex, Prince Charming, Beauty, Beast, and more.
Folk and fairy tales come from all over, and this list barely scratches the surface of retellings, let alone their origins. I encourage anyone who enjoys anecdotes of this sort to do their own research and learn more about what other stories have been told. And if you would like research assistance, call or stop by any of our 20 locations. We would love to help!