Sure, Christmas is when Santa Claus is coming to town, but I'm willing to bet some people are just as excited for when Into the Woods is coming to theaters. This star-studded — I'm talking Johnny Depp stepping away from Tim Burton, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine (swoon), Emily Blunt, and the incomparable Meryl Streep — soon-to-be-blockbuster brings the famous musical theater production to the big screen and, frankly, nothing could make my Christmas more jolly.
Into the Woods intertwines popular fairytales from The Brother's Grimm to tell one cohesive, new story about a childless baker couple who want to start a family. You'll recognize pieces of Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and many others. And of course, there's singing and dancing all the way through.
Because there's still a handful more days until Christmas (and maybe you won't be one of the families braving the outside on the holiday), you're going to need some new, intertwined fairytales to tide you over until the movie's release. Each of these eight books take various fairytales and cross them over, having Rapunzel crash into Red Riding Hood, for example, so you won't know what to expect with your beloved characters.
Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann
Christine Heppermann's poetry collection is a feat. It laces real-life traumas and dramas into fairytales, tearing away any sugar-coating and making these old stories feel as real and present as anything happening today to young women. The fairy tales, like Into the Woods, appear side by side, interlocked into a longer, deeper story across 50 poems.
Once upon a time...
you were a princess,
or an orphan.
A wicked witch,
Big Bad Wolf,
Little Bo Peep.
But you are more than just a hero or
a villain, cursed or charmed. You are
everything in between.
You are everything.
Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal
Tom McNeal's Neil Gaiman-esque Far, Far Away tells the story of Jeremy Johnson, who is looked over by the ghost of Jacob Grimm, of The Brothers Grimm. The result is its own kind of macabre fairy tale that those Grimm brothers could have imagined up themselves. And it was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Edgar Award, so it's no joke.
He says that all that happens when you go far, far away is that you discover you've brought yourself along.
Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue
In Kissing the Witch, Emma Donoghue has created revisionist, totally feminist fairytales, retold in a particular order so the familiar characters interlock as each chapter changes. But still, they have the same cadence and qualities of fairy tales we know and love. Cinderella, for example, ditches the bland Prince Charming and takes off with the fairy godmother, showcasing women's power and ability to choose her own path.
If he guessed his mistake, if he wanted me back, I thought, let him suffer and work for it as I had worked and suffered. Let him follow me over a mountain of iron and a lake of glass, and wear out three swords in my defense. But at my truest, lying awake trying to count the stars, I knew my prince would not follow. In my mind's eye I saw him in his palace, stroking the gold and silver and starry dresses which were fading now like leaves in winter, weeping for a spotless princess who did not exist, who had drowned in the river of time.
A Tale Dark and Grim by Adam Gidwitz
In the children's tale that adults will love, Hansel and Gretel decide to walk out of their own fairy tale and join up in different ones. A Tale Dark and Grimm is told by a funny and irreverent narrator, but he doesn't shy away from some of the gorier elements of the Grimm tales (there's some beheading involved). Ultimately, it shows that there are no good parents in these fairy tales, children, and so the brother and sister have to be their own heroes.
There is a certain kind of pain that can change you. Even the strongest sword, when placed in a raging fire, will soften and bend and change its form...
Trust me on this one. I know this from personal experience. I hope that you never will, but, since you're a person, and therefore prone to making horrible, soul-splitting mistakes, you probably will one day know what this kind of guilt and shame feels like. And when that time comes, I hope you have the strength...to take advantage of the fire and reshape your own sword.
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
It's getting hot in here. Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber takes childlike fairytales and transfers them into an adult world filled with sensuality, a strong dose of feminism, and a little more lust than love. But all the familiar characters are there: Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Beauty/Belle, Bluebeard, and Puss in Boots, among others.
Like the wild beasts, she lives without a future. She inhabits only the present tense, a fugue of the continuous, a world of sensual immediacy as without hope as it is without despair.
Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales by Various Authors
Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, Holly Black, Margaret Stohl, Rick Yancey, and more incredible YA and adult fiction writes collaborated on Rags & Bones, re-tellings of fairytales that added characters from classic tales like Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen, E.M. Forrester's The Machine Stops, and Kate Chopin's The Awakening into the mix. It's utterly unique and compelling, and yes, there are new illustrations, too.
People change spouses more often than they clean out closets. And every time they say, "This is the one. This is the person I'm going to spend eternity with." Then forty or fifty years go by and you're just sick of each other, utterly sick, and it's on to the next "true love." My question is what good is eternity if you are eternally falling in and out of love?
Cress by Marissa Meyer
In Marissa Meyer's third installment of The Lunar Chronicles, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, the Evil Stepmother, the Big Bad Wolf, and Cinderella all collide in a fantastical science fiction future. Cinderella is now a cyborg mechanic; Rapunzel a hacker trapped on a satellite. Meyer weaves these familiar characters into a wholly new sci-fi landscape for an epic tale that's part-Star Wars, part-fairytale and completely awesome.
"And if it turns out I make a terrible princess?
He shrugged against her. "The people of Luna don't need a princess. They need a revolutionary."
..."A revolutionary, she repeated. She liked that a lot better than princess.
Grim by Various Authors
This collection of stories inspired by classic fairy tales puts the "grim" in Brothers Grimm. Seventeen authors collaborated on Grim, including Ellen Hopkins, Julie Kagawa, Malinda Lo, and Rachel Hawkins, and not one of them shied away from some of the more sinister elements of the tales. Hawkin's opens the book with a story of Bluebeard set in a trailer park. And "Beauty/Beast" by Tessa Gratton takes a shocking turn lovers of the traditional story won't see coming.
No matter what choices we make in life, suffering is always a part of what follows.
Image: Walt Disney Pictures; Giphy