I’m a sucker for a good retelling, and judging by the number that
But what is it that we love so much about seeing the same stories retold over and over again? We all know the stories of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast and King Arthur, so why do we want to keep reading about them over and over?
Well, as an avid lover of retellings, I have a few ideas on that matter:
We like familiarity.
Whilst we might say we don’t want to keep reading the same old thing, on a human level, we all crave familiarity. We like recognising the patterns of a story because it’s comforting, which is probably why there are supposedly only 7 different story plots in existence (so I guess everything is a retelling technically?).
The book industry itself recognises our craving for familiarity as you can see from the number of book covers that claim the book in question is for ‘fans of [another book]’, or ‘a cross between [x book] and [y book].’ Whilst we want to read lots of new and different books, we also want to know that we’re going to enjoy the story, so a certain level of familiarity is required, and retellings are by their nature a familiar entity. Through them we can experience the nostalgia of the stories we were told in childhood, but through a different lens.
We like seeing the differences and twists.
Yes, I’ve just said we like familiarity, but we also like to see how a familiar tale can be flipped on it
Coming into a retelling we know the basic story we’re going to be getting, but we want to see how this version is going to surprise us!
We like seeing more of the characters the original story consigned to the background (or cast as the villains).
In every fairytale there are characters that are in the background, that we know little about, and of course there’s also those intriguing villains! And maybe that side character had an interesting take on events or had their own equally interesting story? And perhaps the villain wasn’t actually the villain at all, or not in their own eyes anyway!
Retellings often give us fresh and unexpected perspectives on these age-old stories and shows us the depths of character that the classic fairytales lacked.
They often have strong concepts that grab our attention.
Publishers and authors want to get their books into our hands, and one of the easiest ways to have us
So take Cinder by Marissa Meyer: ‘cyborg Cinderella.’ Who isn’t going to be excited and/or intrigued by that? Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta: ‘Female King Arthur in space’. Now that sounds exciting! It’s these kinds of strong, easily summarised concepts that make retellings an easy sell for publishers. And intrigues us enough to get us reading!
So why do you think retellings are so popular? What do you love about retellings, and what are some of your favourites?