View Full Version : Retelling Fairy Tales

12-06-2008, 06:35 PM
Don't know where else to put this, but hopefully someone here will have a more definitive answer than I found on Google.

What are the legalities of retelling fairy tales?

I was always under the impression that you can use the generic fairy tale as a basis, so long as the story itself is completely in your own words. Am I wrong?

Also, when you submit the short story/novel for consideration, do you need to tell the editor that it was inspired by such-and-such tales by whichever author, or is that something which should go in the beginning of the story as an author's note?

Or does it go without saying if it's fairly obvious which fairy tale the story was derived from?

I'm just curious how other writers have handled this, since I'm certainly not the first person to retell a fairy tale and want to get it published.

12-06-2008, 07:48 PM
I've been looking into this also, and found the internet articles on the topic of Public Domain extremely helpful. I was however shocked to find that the fairy tale I wished to retell is actually still under copyright. Good luck with your plan though--your target is probably Public Domain.

12-06-2008, 09:49 PM
If it's public domain (the Brothers Grimm stories, for example), then it's okay. That's what Gregory McGuire did with Snow White, etc. and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Wicked).

Also, you have to be careful of which version you're retelling. If you're retelling Disney's version of Cinderella, then no, because Disney has copyright on that one.

12-06-2008, 10:10 PM
Thanks for the replies. :)

My story is based on the original version of a Hans Christian Andersen tale. Since I'm certain that's public domain (I checked), I was worried more about the protocol for submitting it for publication.

Do I need to attribute the original author and story somewhere in the submission? I've been putting that info in my cover letters. Is that my safest bet?

Thanks again for the help!

12-06-2008, 10:30 PM
I think the cover letter is a good place -- just state that it's a retelling of X.

Old Hack
12-07-2008, 12:44 AM
And don't forget to read Angela Carter's gorgeous (and rather dark) versions of the fairy tales for inspiration. I love them.