10 Creepy Adult Fairy Tales That’ll Make You Want To Sleep With The Lights On
Once upon a time, you were a young child who loved hearing fairy tales at bedtime and watching Disney bring them to life on screen. Now that you're a grown-up, though, your tastes have grown up, too, and you want to read something a little different and maybe even a little darker — like creepy adult fairy tales that don't always end in happily ever after.
Fairy tales have a timeless appeal, and no matter how old we get, we never quite outgrow them. Maybe it's because they are so familiar to us, so reliable. We can trust their dependable narrative structure and feel comfortable confronting issues within the confines of their traditional tropes. In the world of fairy tales, we know the princess will always be saved — or, better yet save herself — and that true love can break any curse. We can believe that no matter how bad things start to look, there is always a way to find a happy ending.
For all of the reasons we love traditional fairy tales, we also adore their darker, twistier alternatives, the ones you wouldn't dare tell children before bed. Reading stories that subvert what we thought we knew about classic characters and their journeys is fun and fascinating and, more often than not, a little bit scary. But it's that scariness that forces us to look at our fears and confront our problems, and it's also the familiar structure of the fairy tale that makes us feel comfortable doing so.
Whether you are interested in a dark retelling or something totally new, here are 11 creepy adult fairy tales that will make you want to sleep with the lights on.
'The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories' by Angela Carter
In this classic story collection, Angela Carter takes your favorite fairy tales — "Little Red Riding Hood," "Bluebeard," "Beauty and the Beast," and more — and turns them into entirely new spine-tingling stories. Scintillating, sensual, and subversive, The Bloody Chamber is a truly scary collection, one you won't be able to stop thinking about even after you've closed its cover.
'The Merry Spinster' by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Based on the popular "Children's Stories Made Horrific" series, Daniel Mallory Ortberg's The Merry Spinster is a collection of dark and imaginative stories based on classic fairy tales and folklore. Powerful and provocative, this is a must-read for feminists and fairy tale fanatics alike.
'Kissing the Witch' by Emma Donoghue
In Kissing the Witch, Emma Donoghue uses the threads of familiar fairy tales like "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast" to create 13 new interconnected stories about love, power, transformation, and creating one's own destiny. Fresh, fierce, and feminist, these are retellings — though not all creepy — are ones you're going to want to read with your friends.
'Her Body and Other Parties' by Carmen Maria Machado
In this genre-bending collection, Carmen Maria Machado offers up a variety of gorgeous stories, including more than one creepy fairy tale. Dark, dazzling, and deeply affecting, Her Body and Other Parties is proof that fairy tales have just as much to offer adults as they do kids.
'Through the Woods' by Emily Carroll
Frightening doesn't even begin to cover the stories in Emily Carroll's Through the Woods. A dark and unsettling graphic anthology that includes the popular online webcomic "His Face All Red," this collection of creepy (not to mention stunning) fairy tales will make you want to sleep with the light on.
'What Should Be Wild' by Julia Fine
Julia Fine's debut is proof that there are still new fairy tales out there to be told. Featuring a family curse, magical woods, and a fierce heroine with a strange power, What Should Be Wild is a darkly enchanting story fans of classic fairy tales won't be able to help but fall for.
'My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales' edited by Kate Bernheimer
In this star-studded collection, celebrated authors including Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, Lydia Millet, and Michael Cunningham present 40 new fairy tales for your reading pleasure. Some funny, some scary, and all utterly mesmerizing, these stories take timeless classics like "The Snow Queen" and "Bluebeard" and transform them into something entirely new for 21st century readers.
'Boy, Snow, Bird' by Helen Oyeyemi
Boy never meant to become an evil stepmother, but after the birth of her dark-skinned daughter Bird exposes their family as light-skinned African-Americans passing for white, that is what she becomes to her husband's daughter, Snow. A chilling novel about race, beauty, family, and love, Boy, Snow, Bird uses the blueprint of the "Snow White" story to build an entire new kind of fairy tale.
'There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby' by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, translated by Keith Gessen and Anna Summers
In this bestselling book of scary fairy tales from celebrated Russian author Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, readers will find stories of mysterious vanishings and apparitions, startling twists of fate, strange supernatural inventions, and so much more. If you're looking for a collection that will truly give you the creeps, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby is for you.
'Little Beast' by Julie Demers, translated by Rhonda Mullins
A captivating original fairy tale, Little Beast tells the story of a little girl who is confined to her home after inexplicably sprouting a beard. When the townspeople learn of her ailment and come to take her away, she escapes into the winter night.