Journal of Writing & Environment

Webrove: Like a Fairy Tale

by Chloe Clark

Lately, I’ve been listening to “Orpheo,” by Andrew Bird, rather obsessively. I love Bird’s music, but I think what I am particularly drawn to in this song is its use of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. I’m a sucker for a mythic reference or a fairy tale reference. Coincidentally, I also recently saw a conversation on Twitter between two excellent authors that touched on the lack of understanding of fairy tales in our current culture. I yelled at my computer screen “yes, right! EXACTLY!” I’ve mentioned fairy tales and myths that I think of as common knowledge and been met with blank stares (even at the graduate writing level). What happened to myths and folklore being part of our common knowledge?

So, for this web rove, I decided to seek out pieces that specifically make reference to myths, fairy tales, or folklore—whether these be poems, short stories, or essays on the retellings themselves. I was delighted to find so many wonderful pieces that are keeping these tales alive, creating new tales using myth/ fairy tale logic, and finding light in old places.

Eurydice’s Version by: Carol Shillibeer (from Halfway Down the Stairs) This lovely poem takes a different perspective on the Orpheus and Eurydice poem. There’s a bittersweet sense of humor in this piece that takes a much-told tale and gives it a new shape.

Conjunctions by: Neil Gaiman (done for National Poetry month and available at Gaiman’s own website). Gaiman is king of the fairy tale reference—and seems to have endless knowledge about the tropes of fairy tales and myth. This poem tells the story of the stars in a hauntingly beautiful way. (Bonus points: read his amazing poem “Instructions” and see how many references you can spot!)

Orpheus through the Ages by: Kate Bernheimer (from The New Yorker) This is an essay on the Orpheus myth and how it has been retold in a multitude of ways. The author of the essay is one of best contemporary fairy tale writers out there!

Here, as well, are two bonus links to essays on the best retellings out there (I have ones to add to these lists, but I think they’re good places to start) and on how retellings have been used in Young Adult literature!

Twenty Must Read Retold Tales-An Introduction to the Genre (from Ranting Dragon)

An Epic Chart of 162 Young Adult Retellings (from Epic Reads)