I am a sucker for a good retelling. But while I usually stick to stories of mythology and my favorite classics and fairytales, I’ve found that there are so many stories being overlooked! I went through my (probably too extensive) library to pick out 12 stories that need to be retold.
‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Brontë
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is credited as one of the first modern feminist novels, so why hasn’t anyone tried their hand at a modernized retelling? It’s incredible and inspiring, and I’m sure someone could make this fit perfectly into a contemporary genre.
In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Helen flees to a remote house to escape her abusive husband. Telling everyone she’s a widow, she grows close to the others living in the hall and starts earning her living as a painter. The story is told through letters between brothers-in-law Gilbert Markham and Jack Halford.
‘Seven Little Australians’ by Ethel Turner
Shortly after losing his wife and the mother of his six children, Captain Woolcot marries a young woman. Together, they have his seventh child. The novel tells the story of the family dynamics of the stern father to the rambunctious children.
Seven Little Australians reminds me of Yours, Mine, and Ours without the blended family aspect. And to be honest, I would read or watch any modern retelling of this. I wouldn’t even care if it’s still set in Australia or another country; I just want more big family stories.
‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Daniel Defoe
Before he became a sailor, Robinson’s father warned (or cursed, your choice) him that nothing would ever go right for the boy if he ever left home. As an adult, Robinson leaves home and eventually gets stranded on an island.
He manages to survive for about 30 years before finding a footprint on the island. What he finds are cannibals and their victims. He saves three men. After a bit more time, they manage to escape the island, and Robinson returns home.
I honestly think if someone wrote a retelling of Robinson Crusoe in the style of Disney’s Treasure Island, I would be ecstatic. And while some may not want this story to be retold because of the content, I think a talented writer would be able to modernize it well.
‘Around the World in 80 Days’ by Jules Verne
I’m sure we’ve all heard the story, either by reading the book, watching the countless adaptations, or just by hearing about it, but here’s a refresher. One day, Phileas Fogg bets that he could travel the world in under 80 days. He leaves soon after with a companion and takes whatever he can to get around the world in his allotted time.
Like Robinson Crusoe, I think a retelling in the style of Disney’s Treasure Planet would do this story justice. Or maybe we get another installment into the Journey to the Center of the Earth franchise where Josh Hutcherson’s character gets another father figure to escort him around the world like Phileas.
“The Story of a Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear” by the Brothers Grimm
This story is about a young boy who doesn’t feel fear but wishes to. He goes through several “teachers” who fail to make him fear anything. In the end, he marries a princess, but he also realizes he may never learn what real fear is.
I only recently learned of this story a few years ago and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. In nearly every genre, we see protagonists try to conquer their fear, not find it. Imagine this as a horror or thriller–it would be a bestseller, for sure.
“The True Sweethearts” by the Brothers Grimm
Also known as “The True Bride,” the story follows a young girl doing strange tasks for her stepmother. However, instead of doing them herself, an old lady does them for her. After one of the tasks, the stepmother is killed by a door, and the young girl lives alone. A while later, she is wooed by a prince, and she sets out to marry him.
Yes, this story is similar to Cinderella, but I honestly prefer this tale. It’s interesting seeing the girl actually going after her prince instead of the shoe mystery. I think it would be in either contemporary, fantasy, or sci-fi. Heck, even better, someone retell this with the girl falling in love with a princess instead of a prince.
“The Seven Ravens” by the Brothers Grimm
I’ve seen a version of this story in a book retelling several Grimm fairytales, but never a faithful retelling of this in another setting. I’ve loved the story since elementary school and wish more people talked about it. If someone made a sci-fi retelling of “The Seven Ravens,” I might explode from excitement.
In “The Seven Ravens,” a man sends his seven sons out for water for his sick newborn daughter. When they don’t return, he curses them, and they turn into ravens. Years later, the daughter sets out to find her lost brothers. She gets help from many different places before she finally gets her brothers back.
“The Stolen Farthings” by the Brothers Grimm
One night, a dinner guest saw a girl in white enter the house he was visiting. The same thing happened many days in a row before he asked his hosts who it was. Eventually, the mother suggests it might be their dead daughter who was looking for farthings she hid under the floor. The guest and the hosts find the farthings and donate them. The young girl never returns.
It’s rare to see a happy and wholesome ghost story nowadays. Other than Caspar, there’s not enough. So, why not use that space to modernize this story? Someone needs to make “The Stolen Farthings” a horror novel where the young girl looks and seems scary but, in the end, is just checking in on her money.
“The Three Snake-Leaves” by the Brothers Grimm
When the man marries the princess, she has one demand: if either dies, the other will be buried alive with the deceased. One day, the princess dies, and he follows her order. While he tries to eat a snake in the crypt, another snake revives the dead one with three leaves. He uses the same leaves to bring his princess back to life.
When they return, the princess betrays the man and tries to have him killed by a ship captain. A servant saves him with the same leaves, and they return to the kingdom where the princess and captain are killed for the attempt on the man’s life.
I love this story, and I just discovered this last year. I don’t know why there hasn’t been a retelling of this yet, but it’s about time. And I don’t mean Disney’s type of retelling. Give me the dark version that would make the Grimms proud.
“The Nightingale” by Hans Christian Anderson
In this fairytale, the Emperor of China falls in love with the nightingale’s song, so he sends for the bird to be brought to him. After some time, the king receives a mechanical nightingale and forgets about the real bird.
The real bird returns to his forest. However, the mechanical bird breaks, and the emperor gets really sick. The nightingale visits to sing one last song and persuade Death to let the emperor live.
“The Nightingale” is a beautiful story that we need to talk about more. It would translate well to nearly every genre, even horror, if done correctly. Imagine if the world was full of retellings of this story instead of the princess fairytales like “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
“Izanagi and Izanami” from Japanese Mythology
The story of Izanagi and Izanami is similar to Adam and Eve and Eurydice and Orpheus. In the myth, Izanagi and Izanami were created to create lands and populate the Earth. But when Izanami died in childbirth, Izanagi went to the land of the dead to bring her back. Sadly, Izanami had eaten food there, so she wasn’t able to come back with Izanagi.
There are several similar stories to this, but I want a heart-wrenching accurate retelling that will make me sob as I get closer to the ending. Whether it be fantasy or science-fiction, I’d be happy to read thousands of versions of “Izanagi and Izanami”. Can this be our new Persephone and Hades book trend?
“The Three Princes and the Princess” from One Thousand and One Nights
“The Three Princes and the Princess” is one of my favorite lesser-known stories from One Thousand and One Nights. And I would do anything to get a modern contemporary (or fantasy or science-fiction) retelling. And just because I’m sure someone’s thinking it – yes, this would fit perfectly into the Mafia romance genre.
In this story, three princes (Hussein, Ali, and Ahmed) are vying for the hand of Princess Nouronnihar. As part of the competition, the princes set off on a trip to find the most precious gift for the princess. Whoever brings back the rarest good will become the princess’s husband.