Fairytales have always had a special place in my heart. I love reading and analysing them so much so that my university dissertation was based on the tale of Sleeping Beauty and a whole section of my bookshelves are dedicated to fairytale theory books from the likes of Jack Zipes, Bruno Bettelheim and Marina Warner. When I came across Twelve: Poems Inspired by The Brothers Grimm Fairytale by Andrea Blythe as an eARC on NetGalley I was immediately captivated and wanted to read it. Thank you to Interstellar Flight Press, Andrea Blythe and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Book: Twelve: Poems Inspired by The Brothers Grimm Fairytale by Andrea Blythe
Genre: Fairytales / Poetry
Publication Date: September 7th 2020
Publisher: Interstellar Flight Press
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Twelve is a poetic retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Bewitching and beguiling, this short series of linked poems takes the reader to the underground realm and back, following the stories of twelve princesses and their life after the magic shoes.
To me, fairytales are the original story. With elements of folklore and oral-storytelling passed on from generation to generation until they are finally written down and published for anyone to read, it’s no wonder that each of these amazing stories have different variations and attributes linking to a myriad of cultures across our planet. Modern-day retellings often seek to gender-bend or feminise these tales, questioning the traditional roles of the obedient princesses who require a loving stereotypical marriage as their happily ever after.
In Twelve, Andrea Blythe manages to pull off a modern retelling in spectacular fashion whilst retaining the elements of fairytales and storytelling which all of its fans love. Taking each sister one by one, Blythe dedicates each of the Twelve Princesses with their own unique voice and identity giving fresh substance and purpose to the once subservient, archaic damsels-in-distress in search of their prince.
As characters of their own, we see the ringleader whose decision it was to condemn their failed suitors to death; the sister whose stubbornness and obstinance defied punishment and carried on her dancing regardless of the King’s ruling; the wannabe-baker who despite being told to stay out of the kitchen ends up finding more than one passion in the pantry; the Belle-like book-lover who managed to camouflage herself amidst the stacks.
Twelve was not quite poetry in the form I was anticipating and represents more of a prose-style narrative, however the writing was lyrically beautiful just the same. Language and imagery contribute to a huge part of my enjoyment in a book and, for something shorter than what I’m used to reading, Blythe brought this in spades! The haunting imagery of the Third Sister’s tale is sure to resonate with any bibliophile who has ever been lost and caught up in their own little bookish world.
The Author’s Note at the end seeks to clarify Blythe’s inspiration for writing these wonderful poems. It gives credence to the fact that she is well-versed in the genre and this tale in particular. It was interesting to read her motivations for writing Twelve and take on board her own viewpoint in bringing these stories to life.
Her blood spit within her veins like dragon fire.
The library became her realm. She slept on the nests of old discarded pamphlets and nourished herself on the pages she consumed.
She might read you and find in your flesh the story that shapes you.
Any small fraction of magic could have settled itself under her skin.
Why Should I Read This?
For the bewitching storytelling.
For a fresh uplift on a classical fairytale.
For the diverse representations and identities of the Twelve Princesses.
Any reader with a passion for fairytales is sure to find something to enjoy in this short and sweet collection of poems based on tale of The Twelve Princesses from The Brothers Grimm.