1. JohnnyElsewhere
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    JohnnyElsewhere Member

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    Fairytale retellings

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JohnnyElsewhere, May 14, 2013.

    Hi, everyone!

    I've been reading a lot of fairytale stories lately and thought to myself that it would be a fun idea to put a twist on one of my favorites, Peter Pan.

    I remember seeing someone on Youtube getting a few of their retellings published, and I was wondering what your guys' thoughts on it were. I know for the likes of Peter Pan, the copyright issues are a bit complex, but I don't think I need to worry about it that much in this stage of my writing.

    What do you guys think on the subject?
     
  2. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a spate of television programming which has thrived on that very concept. Grimm? Once Upon A Time? Beauty and the Beast? Not to mention a plethora of made-for-tv reworks of Cinderella ad-nauseam. (I will never forget seeing Carol Burnett's rendition of "The Princess and the Pea". Too funny!) If it's done well, it's fun, it's great, it'll grab your reader. If not, it's a waste of time. Can you put a new twist on the old theme? Is it a "lesser" fairy tale not yet re-done by Disney or some other author or film studio? (One of the Grimms' more grim tales, perhaps?)

    The sticking point with your novel of choice is that J.M. Barrie assigned all rights to the work to a children's hospital. Thus, the copyright ownership is continuous and ongoing. Therefore, you would have to contact the hospital for permissions. U.S. copyrights are a whole new issue and there have been squabbles of a sort going on between the copyright holder and various author's published in the U.S. for years and dating back, probably to the mid-90s when Barrie's original copyrights would have expired. But, come to think of it, you probably already knew that, didn't you?

    The good news is that, with permissions and royalty payments to the hospital, you can publish a re-working of the story. But, bear in mind, the hospital is not likely to grant any permissions if the work casts the characters in a negative light.
     
  3. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    I recently finished Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of his short stories. He had a story of Snow White, but told through the eyes of the Evil Queen. I won't spoil it if you decide to read it, but it's amazing how a shift in POV could breath new life to an old tale.
     
  4. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    In the UK it is no longer under copyright and you can publish an adaptation to it. The parliament has given the Great Ormond Street Hospital, the hospital Barrie gave the copyright to in his will, perpetual extension to some rights to the work though limited but they didn't grant creative control over the material nor the right to refuse permission to use it.
    In the US the copyright has expired but the hospital still sues anyone who tries to use it in hope of a settlement (that's right, children hospitals can be assholes too). They claim the copyright should be extended to 2023 but they have never once won a claim in the last 10 years or so (though they have agreed on settlements).
    In the European Union it is out of copyright and you can do whatever you want with it in all countries except from Spain.
    Out of copyright it is also in Australia, Canada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
    There are some countries where the work is still under copyright like Spain and Colombia (2018), but those countries usually recognize the "rule of the shorter term", which means that if the copyright in the country of origin is shorter than the copyright in that country, then the copyright in the country of origin supercedes the one in the other country.

    In 2004 J.E.Somma published a book titled " After the Rain, A New Adventure for Peter Pan", which as the name indicates was a sequel to the original story. The hospital sued her but they settled with undisclosed terms (from what I hear she didn't pay them a dime).

    Bottom line is, do as you like, it is ok.
     
  5. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like the idea of retelling a fairlytale. Granted, most I've encountered have been crap, but there have been some good ones there as well. Currently I'm dabbling with a short story that's essentially a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood mixed with a bit of Dante's Inferno and the Residents album, Not Available, but with the exception of the opening line (the first sentence from Inferno), I've masked the story so much, most people wouldn't recognize the fairytale/Inferno/Not Available in it. I'm also drawing a lot from Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in one WIP (though both MCs are girls instead of boys), but, again, the details are modified to a degree, that you'd have to pay close attention to see the threads connecting the works.

    Of course retelling a fairlytale so that it's clearly recognizable is also ok (artistically speaking, copyright laws probably vary so much between stories/countries that I won't touch them here). I just like to see some kind of an original touch in it instead of taking Little Red, for instance, and just placing it into a futuristic world, but that the characters and the plot are essentially the same (e.g. replace the big bad wolf with some crazed, evil robot or whatever).
     
  6. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good to know, Xatron. Thanks for the update.
     
  7. JohnnyElsewhere
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    JohnnyElsewhere Member

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    Thank you for all the information, guys!

    My retelling has elements of the original story, a few twists to the names (although the personalities aren't, except for the main character for recognition purposes.), but is completely original. Perhaps even an alternate universe of some sort.

    It's a compelling story; well, in my head at least. I think a lot of people will like it. :D
     
  8. Ashes
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    Ashes New Member

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    I like the idea of fairytale adaptations, but think you might fare better with a different fairytale. Peter Pan is widely known and loved, and probably has many such attempts already.

    One of my favorite Authors, Kij Johnson, wrote a retelling of an old Japanese folk tale. If I read the original right, it was a very bland 3-4 paragraphs about a fox falling in love with and kidnapping a human man. In Johnson's version, it was a shamelessly poetic love story touching on everything from what it means to be human to gender roles in ancient Japan.

    If you choose to do this, though, then good luck! You've got a fighting chance yet.
     
  9. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    Taking a new spin on an old idea is always fun, both for readers and writers. That is, if it's done right (but that applies to anything). It'll be work to find the bare bones of a fairytale and then dress it in new flesh and clothes but if those bones remain evident, even subtly, it's a rewarding experience for the reader. They can dig through your prose to find hints of the original story and then anticipate how other elements will be treated later.

    Personally, though, I've never read any reworked fairytales, at least as far as I'm aware. The only thing even close to such a thing was Louise Gl├╝ck's poem, "Gretel in Darkness." I have seen mythology utilized in new and interesting ways in urban fantasy, though.

    I say go for it. Give it your all. What's the worst that could happen?
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The problem you've encountered is that Peter Pan is not a fairy tale. (Despite the fairy!) The story was created by and written by JM Barrie, and the character of Peter Pan did not exist before he wrote the book.

    "Fairy tales" are old folktales which have been around for centuries, probably started out as oral tales, and have no known author.

    Many authors have retold Snow White for example, but they did not create her. Snow White, like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc, is a fairy tale, and you can retell and rework it to your heart's content without violating copyright. You should probably try looking in collections of fairy and folk tales for your inspiration, if you ever want to do this kind of thing again.

    Sounds as if you might have lucked out with PP, however, if the copyright has expired. If so, good luck with your story!
     
  11. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes will take some topping!

    Edit, Just remembered - The Bloody Chamber by Alice Walker is a book of reworked short stories
     

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