Friday, November 15, 2013

Guest Post: Fairy Tales and the World

by Bethany Cassel

[Dear friends and readers, when Bethany contacted me about the premise of her Snow White retelling, I was immediately intrigued.  I'm fascinated with Pomona, my favorite Roman deity   She is really like no other; diminutive, local, and domesticated, she's different at an essential level than the her sister harvest and vegetation goddesses.  Those mythologists among us tend to make the connection between Demeter and Persephone's story and Snow White and the Queen's . . . but Pomona is an altogether refreshing choice of interpretation.  I'll be reviewing Shadowskin as I am able to further read the Kindle copy Bethany gifted me.  In the meantime, enjoy this palate-teaser from the author!--C.]

Hello, everyone!  My name is Bethany Cassel, and I recently self-published my own fairy-tale retelling, Shadowskin, on Kindle, CreateSpace, and Nook.  Christie has graciously agreed to allow me to write a guest post for Spinning Straw Into Gold.  So here it goes!

When I first started considering what to write for a guest post, the first thing I thought about was a concept I’ve considered regularly over the course of writing a fairy-tale retelling.  It revolves around one question that sounds deceptively simple: “How do fairy tales and the world we live in impact one another?”  To those who don’t regularly study fairy tales, the answer is that they don’t, not really.  Fairy tales were written ages ago and they really don’t say much about our world today.  Scenes of grandmothers dwelling alone deep in the forest, glass slippers, and magic mirrors all seem part of a time long gone by.  For those who still love fairy tales long past childhood, however, the truth is that fairy tales are part of one of the most relevant genres in literature.  One need simply look at the studies of Bruno Bettelheim and Jack Zipes to see that a true fairy tale never ceases to be important.

I was relatively early in the development of Shadowskin when I began to understand that one cannot simply write a fairy tale retelling without a purpose.  According to Professor Zipes, a fairy tale must say something about the world it exists it.  As he writes in his introduction to Beauties, Beasts, and Enchantments: Classic French Fairy Tales, the fairy tales of the French courts in the late 18th century were direct commentary on the courts.  Some of the fairy tale writers were even exiled for their ‘traitorous’ words.  Likewise, Hans Christian Andersen’s stories stirred deeply in the midst of a late-19th century Europe in which poverty was a rampant tragedy. 

Pomona, Caisa M. Howerin, source

So where did that leave me?  I sought to retell Snow White after a simple thought: why would the evil stepmother really want to kill Snow White?  She must have another motivation.  This led directly to the invention of the queen’s daughter, the protagonist Pomona.  The queen’s motivation would be maternal.  I didn’t begin to think of it in a modern sense until much later in the process, but I realized that this queen character represented the change in motherhood that is taking place in our current century: the queen essentially works in a profession that she does not want in order to bring the best for her children, whom she cannot spend time with as a result.  I will avoid getting too political here, but the present-day conversation about mothers who must make the unfair choice between a career and a family had made its way into my writing without my even knowing it. 

This is why fairy tales are such a powerful genre.  They are vehicles for social commentary, and they will comment on the world whether bidden or no.  As a writer I am not alone in using my writing to express my feelings about the world, but as a fairy tale reteller I realized that I had chosen the perfect genre.  Shadowskin is not a political novel by any stretch of the imagination, but as a fairy tale it carries these ideas in its bloodstream.  I gained a great deal by writing Shadowskin, and I hope that future readers will gain something from it as well.

Thank you Christie once again for giving me the opportunity to write this guest post.



  1. Sounds really interesting! Will you be publishing in paperback at all? Despite my best efforts, I can't get into a "deep read" I prefer for novels via the e-book format. (I'm commenting on-the-fly here so haven't had time to search for links to your site or the formats you mentioned and I can't see any in the post - my apologies if the answer is there somewhere!)
    I really enjoy seeing what people do with Snow White so am exceptionally curious and interested... :)
    Wishing you much success!

    1. Hello Gypsy! I'm feeling a little starstruck at the moment, as I check your blog daily! Yes, "Shadowskin" is available in paperback on or directly through CreateSpace. Below is the link to the Amazon product page. Thanks for stopping by to read this post!


  2. Your story sounds great - I love retellings that look at the antagonist in more detail, and it's interesting to hear about your process of writing a fairy tale retelling. Best of luck with the book!

  3. Just put your book on my wishlist. Thank you!


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