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Wicked Tales

"See, he suggests you don't need the story because you have already internalized it so completely. That's one thing writers can do with readerly knowledge of source texts, in this case fairy tales. They can mess around with stories and turn them upside down."
~page 60 of Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor

It is interesting when authors do this, because it really does make you look at the original tale differently. The first book I thought about when I read this quote was Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Though I am more familiar with the musical adaptation than the book, they both have the same general concept. It takes the well-known story of The Wizard of Oz and, as Foster puts it, "turns [it] upside down." Wicked focuses on the story of Elphaba, more commonly known as the Wicked Witch of the West. It changes her character from one that we all automatically hate to a character that we can sympathize with--she becomes more human and much less evil.

Another book that does something similar is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. This novel plays off of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre by showing the story of how Rochester's wife, Antoinette, went insane. It focuses on her story while all of the main characters from Jane Eyre take a back seat, for the most part.

Overall, this just stood out because it is an interesting and creative way to play on readers' knowledge. It also helps to add more to the originals by giving the reader more to think about.


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Comments (2)

Christopher Dufalla:

The idea of toying with existing works by writing a new spin on some element within is a fascinating concept. While I have not read either of the examples listed above, I can imagine that such literary twists would indeed grant a new light on audience perspectives.

Andrew Adams:

I really do enjoy this type of story. I do not remember what the book was called, but it was pretty much a bunch of fairy tales told from the perspective of the bad guy in each one. One of the examples was the three little pigs, and the big bad wolf was wronged by the pigs and goes out to seek retribution. Sometimes I forget that we only see stories from one side, and when someone takes the time to explore things the reader had not thought of, it is quite enjoyable.

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