Fairy Tales Retold: Powerful Retellings From the Villain’s Perspective

Step into the shadows, where fairy tale villains emerge not as archetypal evildoers, but as complex figures navigating the intricate shades of moral ambiguity.

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In the enchanting realm of literature, fairy tales have long captivated readers with their timeless narratives of heroism, magic, and adventure. Yet, amidst the celebrated tales of gallant protagonists and happily-ever-afters lies a shadowed realm often overlooked — the villain’s perspective. In recent years, a captivating trend has emerged within the literary world, offering readers a fresh and compelling vantage point: retellings of classic fairy tales from the villain’s perspective.

These narratives delve into the depths of darkness, exploring the motivations, complexities, and untold backstories of characters traditionally cast as antagonists. From the chilling allure of Maleficent to the haunting tragedy of the Queen of Hearts, these reimaginings breathe new life into age-old tales, inviting readers to reconsider the boundaries of good and evil while embarking on an unforgettable journey into the heart of villainy.

1. All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother by Danielle Teller

We all know the story of Cinderella… or do we? Told from the perspective of Cinderella’s stepmother, Agnes, this Cinderella retelling outlines Agnes’s tough upbringing and her difficulties in building a relationship with her stepdaughter, the shining Ella.

A colorful mess of vines and leaves with a scroll of parchment in the middle with the title. In the middle is a red head with a bun hairstyle, at the top is a small castle, the bottom right a glass slipper, and the bottom left an hourglass.

Her stepmother, Agnes, has privately recorded the true story. A peasant born into serfdom, forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she was only ten years old, Agnes was seduced by an older man while a teenager and became pregnant. She had no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind, where her new position was nursemaid to Ella. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.

2. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

In this version of Peter Pan, Captain Hook has been cursed to be killed by Peter over and over and over again. When an adult woman, Stella, makes her way to Neverland, Hook sees his chance to escape.

The silhouette of captain hook standing on an island with the silhouette of a woman by his legs.

Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook.

3. Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran

This graphic novel tells the story of Snow White from the perspective of the Queen, who views Snow White as a bloodsucking monster who must be removed from the kingdom.

a stylized image of the evil queen in a long black and blue and silver dress holding a bleeding heart that is dripping on her dress making part of it red.

A not-so-evil queen is terrified of her monstrous stepdaughter and determined to repel this creature and save her kingdom from a world where happy endings aren’t so happily ever after. From the Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy, and Nebula Award-winning, and New York Times bestselling writer Neil Gaiman comes this graphic novel adaptation by Colleen Doran.

4. Grendel by John Gardner

Gardner reimagines the Old English poem Beowulf from the perspective of its well-known monster, Grendel, and includes many philosophical questions about death, warfare, and existence.

An image of grendel the monster howling up towards the top of the cover with a yellow clouded background.

Through the eyes of Grendel, readers witness his existential struggles as he grapples with his place in the world and his encounters with the humans who fear and loathe him. Gardner’s novel explores themes of isolation, identity, and the blurred lines between good and evil, offering a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of one of literature’s most enduring villains.

5. Heartless by Marissa Meyer

In this young adult prequel to Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts is a girl who is skilled at making pastries with ingredients she’s pulled from her dreams. However, she has caught the romantic attention of the king.

white cover with black, thorny vines with red rose buds starting to bloom. in the center there is a dagger with a red crown on top.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. When Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker, she finally feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

6. Villainous: An Anthology of Fairytale Retellings by K. A. Miltimore

It is time for the other side of the story. Ten fairytale villains set the record straight, sharing their version of classic tales.

A red cover with dark trees in the background and white branches in the front. From those hang bones, a glass slipper, a red apple, a golden threat, a golden horn and a green vine.

They may still be villainous or redeem themselves — you decide. Retold stories feature the Evil Queen, Rumpelstiltskin, the Giant from Jack and the Beanstalk, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, the Ogress from Rapunzel, the witch from Hansel and Gretel, the Big Bad Wolf, the Pied Piper, Bluebeard, and the stepmother from Cinderella. Villainous features twisted tales sure to intrigue you because, after all, what would a fairytale be without its villain?

7. Villains Series by Serena Valentino

Valentino’s books are each based on and told from the perspectives of iconic Disney Villains and explain their lives and how they became evil. The series also focuses on original characters, such as the Odd Sisters (a trio of sister witches who are often responsible for leading the focus villains down their paths to evil) and Princess Tulip Morningstar.

On the left of every cover is half of a disney villains face smirking.

The series is broken down by villain and is connected by the influence of the meddling powers of the Odd Sisters:

  1. Fairest of All: A Wicked Tale of the Wicked Queen (Evil Queen)
  2. The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince (the Beast)
  3. Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch (Ursula)
  4. Mistress of all Evil: A Tale of the Dark Fairy (Maleficent)
  5. Mother Knows Best: A Tale of the Old Witch (Mother Gothel)
  6. The Odd Sisters
  7. Evil Thing: A Tale of That Devil Woman (Cruella De Vil)
  8. Cold Hearted: A Tale of the Wicked Stepmother (Cinderella’s Evil Stepmother)
  9. Never Never: A Tale of the Pirate Captain (Captain Hook)
  10. Fire and Fate: A Tale of the Lord of Darkness (Hades)
  11. Kill The Beast (Gaston)

Book 6 in the series is the connecting story for the previous novels. Throughout the Villains series, the Odd Sisters have meddled in the lives of the Wicked Queen, The Beast, Ursula, Maleficent, and Mother Gothel, changing the course of fate for the greatest villains ever known. Now, it’s time for their reckoning. This novel goes deeper into the lives of the twisted, diabolical Odd Sisters, finally revealing the dark truth about who they are and where they’re from.

The 11th book in the series, KILL THE BEAST, follows the downfall of Disney’s slickest, quickest, and smarmiest villain: Gaston. It is currently on pre-order and will be released on July 30th, 2024!

Discover a new way to read Fairy Tales with our article on Horror Fairy Tale Stories here!

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