Traditional Tales

Retelling lesser known fairy tales

There are many traditional tales that feature a brave or fearless heroine. However, many of these stories are not that well known, even though many of them are found in the same collections as Little Red Riding Hood (Little Red Cap), Rapunzel or Cinderella. Recently, there have been a number of fairy tale collections published, that feature retellings of some of these lesser known tales which celebrate heroic girls. Some examples of these collections are Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls edited by Lesley Sims, Fairy Tales for Fearless Girls by Anita Ganeri & Khoa Le and The Lost Fairy Tales:Fearless Girls from Around the World by Isabel Otter. The folktales included in these three collections originate from a range of different countries including Mexico, China, Canada, Iran, Russia, Spain, Niger, Greece and the UK.  

Iron Stove image
                 “The Iron Stove” by Brothers Grimm

The traditional tale “The Iron Stove” which was collected by the Brothers Grimm is retold as “The Daring Princess” in Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls. In this story a King’s son is locked in an iron stove in a forest by a witch and must be rescued by a heroine. The retelling describes the heroine (Bessie) freeing the prince using a knife from her tool belt.

The folktale “Molly Whuppie” which was collected by Joseph Jacobs, has been retold as “How Little Molly Whuppie Outwitted the Giant” in Fairy Tales for Fearless Girls and as “Clever Molly” in Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls. This story begins in a similar way to Hansel and Gretel, when three young girls are abandoned by their parents in the forest and find themselves entering a giant’s house in search of food. While the giant’s wife is very kind to them, the giant himself has other plans in mind for them. But he has not factored in that Molly is a clever child, who is well able to outsmart any giant.

The folktale “Black Bull of Norroway” which can be found in More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs has been retold as “The Black Bull” in The Lost Fairy Tales: Fearless girls around the world. In this story a prince has been bewitched and takes the form of a bull. The spell can only be broken by a young girl who is kind to him. Three daughters set out to seek their fortune and the youngest one travels with the bull through dense forests, over high mountains and across lands. And so their journey begins…

If you would like more information about some of these forgotten fairy tales, Lesley Sims, the editor of Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls is interviewed on Usborne’s website. This collection is also available to browse in the Curriculum Centre.














One thought on “Retelling lesser known fairy tales

  1. Thank you Laura. These retellings sound excellent. I will be working with traditional tales in a few weeks. I note the increased number of publications that are providing strong feminists role models.

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