Top Underrated Fairy Tales

Feb 27, 2014 by

As much as I love Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and Rapunzel I have to admit, I’ve seen them retold 100 times. They’re relatable, have good morals and a lot of potential for retellings; but they’re not the only fairy tales with these qualities, there are several stories that most people have never heard of.

So I’m here to share my favorite fairy tales that are less known; giving a synopsis of the story (over the picture) and why I think it has potential for great retellings (below the picture).

Speaking of the pictures, clicking on them will take you to the artist (or where you can by the picture in one of them’s case because that artist doesn’t have a website) except for the last one because the artist is unknown (but I’m told the picture is in public domain).

The Snow Queen

This one will probably become more popular now that Disney’s done a version of it. It is a Danish tale originally written by Hans Christian Andersen; it starts with an evil mirror that reflects things as ugly, it shatters and it’s pieces are blown away.

Meanwhile in a city lives Gerda and Kai, two kids who are best of friends; but one day a piece of the mirror blows into Kai’s eye and heart, changing him, he sees every as ugly and his heart becomes cold. (Although in a version I read it was the Snow Queen who froze his heart, which makes a lot of sense to me.) While outside the city one winter he meets the Snow Queen, who kisses him twice, one to protect him from the cold and the second to make him forget Gerda (three times would apparently kill him) and takes him away to her palace.

Realizing he’s gone, everyone gives him up for dead except Gerda who sets out to find him; along the way she has to give up her shoes (trekking the entire rest of the journey barefoot), escape a witch and her garden of eternal summer and escape a band of thieves; and is helped by crows, a prince and princess (who seems to have a side story of their own), a robber girl, a reindeer and two woman, one of which says the secret to Gerda’s power is her purity and innocence.

The girl makes it to the Snow Queen’s palace and kisses Kai, melting his frozen heart with her love. The queen has to let them go and they return home changed people.


This is already a love story with a lot of adventure and a brave heroine. Expanding on the characters and adding action could turn it into an epic romance.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

A Norwegian folk tale; I’ve found only two old versions of this one, they’re very similar with a big changes.

A white bear asks a poor man for his daughter in exchange for riches, in one version he accepts while in the other she goes willingly. The bear takes her to live in his castle and promises her whatever she wants as long as she doesn’t ask any questions (in one version). Every night someone sneaks into her room but she can’t see him because of the dark.

One night she lights a candle to find a prince and accidently wakes him up by spilling wax on his shirt. He tells her that if she’d held it out for one year his curse would have been broken but now he must go to the castle east of the sun and west of the moon (where the witch who cursed him is) and marry the troll princess (or any of the trolls in the other version); then he and his castle disappear, leaving the girl alone.

She sets out to find the castle, getting help from the four winds to take her there. Then, depending on the version, either she gives items she got earlier to the troll princess to see the prince and he declares a contest to wash the wax out of his shirt, or the trolls declared the contest to determine who will marry the prince; either way the girl joins and wins because trolls can’t wash (yes, one version actually said that, in those words; which can’t mean good things about their hygiene…) Something or another happens to the trolls, killing them all and the prince marries the girl.

east of the sun-west of the moon by Amanda Clark

It has Beauty and the Beast like elements but with an adventure thrown in; and there are a lot elements that would lend well to some creative storytelling if expanded upon: why the man would give up his daughter or why she would give herself up, why the prince was cursed in the first place, what the trolls and their castle is like, to name a few.

One of the versions makes a point to say that the girl was not afraid more than once, which I find interesting.

The Wild Swans/The Six Swans

Told in Germany and Denmark and retold by both Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, there are a lot of versions but the basic story is that a wicked stepmother out of spite curses the king’s sons, turning them into swans by day and banished; in some versions the princess can’t be cursed because of her goodness while some don’t explain why she’s left alone.

To save her brothers the princess must sew them shirts out of nettles (or starwort in some versions) and remain silent or her brothers will either stay swans forever or in some versions, die.

A king finds her and falls in love with her and either marries her or lets her stay at the castle. After that she is accused of evil, in some versions the king’s mother kills the princess’s children and blames her for it and in some she has to get more nettles from the graveyard and is caught by the archbishop and accused of witchcraft; either way she can’t defend herself without speaking and dooming her brothers and is sentenced to be burned at the stake.

Her brothers come to her rescue and she throws the shirts over them, breaking their curse, although in some the youngest’s shirt was unfinished and he’s either stuck as a swan or has a wing for an arm. They prove the girl’s innocence, burn the bad guy instead and everyone (except said bad guy) is happy.

The Six Swans by Warwick Goble

 This one has a lot of potential; without adding anything it already has a heroine (and a very feminine one, which fits the time period), a strong sibling relationship, multiple villains, romance, and very dedicated characters (her staying silent while under accusation and the brothers showing up when they’d been banished).


A German fairy tale, there’s also a Brother’s Grimm version called Cherry and a French one called The White Cat, between that and that Puddocky alone has multiple versions, there are a lot variants to this tale.

A girl named Parsley or Cherry, depending on which story (I’ll go with Parsley) is obsessed with that one food but her mother is poor can’t afford it so she steals some from the witch’s garden who (after the mom is caught) either suggests that Parsley stay with her (same which from Rapunzel maybe?) or swears she’ll get her revenge. Either way when three prince brothers see Parsley’s beauty they fight over her (pretty violently too…) so the witch turns the girl into a frog and sends her away. The princes make up and go home.

Their father is old and doesn’t know which son he wants to reign after him so to test how clever they are he sends them on three tasks, first to find a really long piece of cloth that’s so fine it can be drawn through his ring, second is to find a dog so small it can fit in a walnut shell, and third is to find the fairest bride (what any of that has to do with ruling or being clever is beyond me).

Each time the three sons split ways and the youngest goes to Parsley who (somehow) gives him what he needs and each time he wins and the king has what the other two brought thrown in the river (yikes!) At the end he brings the frog back and she turns back into her beautiful human self, the youngest prince marries her and wins the king’s ridiculous contest.

Than there’s The White Cat where the king sends them on the tasks to distract them because he’s afraid they want his crown; and the girls is a cat who lives in her own castle and at the end has the prince cut off her head so she can turn back human.


 OK… the story’s weird, but I love every retelling of it I’ve read so it has to have potential. What made those retellings so good was that they give you a reason to really root for the youngest (and interestingly enough they cut the fight out of the beginning) and for the girl.

And there are a lot of possibilities, you could leave in what the items are and that she just hands them over to keep it more mysterious and magical or change them and make them go on a quest for them to add adventure. Plus there’s the king and whether or not to leave him completely horrible.

Well that concludes this year’s Tell a Fairy Tale Day post. What do you think of these 4? And what are your favorite underrated fairy tales?

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