We wanted to take a moment to reflect on the feedback we’ve received on our first book, and to share some changes we have been putting into place over the past few months and will be making in the future.
What feedback has been received?
Fairy Tales Retold began with a father who believed that classic fairy tales needed to be changed and improved. Our first book attempted to do this through rewriting Snow White as a story about bravery rather than beauty, by challenging some of the gender norms in the original fairy tales, and by diversifying the original cast in the story – we have received lots of positive feedback about the changes, but also some criticism.
We need to acknowledge and apologise for where we have fallen short. Firstly, our rewriting of the story also didn’t do enough to acknowledge the deeply problematic way in which the dwarves and Dwarfism was represented in previous versions. We should have done far more on this, rather than diminishing the narrative of disability in the story. Secondly, we made several mistakes about the way we’ve communicated our book. We acknowledge a huge mistake on our part reaching out on Instagram to those who are personally affected by the negative association of Dwarfism in Snow White. This was ignorant and insensitive, and we apologise profusely for the hurt caused.
Additionally, our retelling didn’t challenge the evil stepmother caricature from the original and, again, we apologise for not recognising that this stereotype is outdated and at odds with the central story of female empowerment in our retelling.
What have we done so far?
We need to accept that our retelling of Snow White does not fix all of the issues in the story. While we believe our version challenges several key aspects of both the original story and Disney version, it doesn’t solve all the problems of the original and we should never have implied that it did. Therefore, we’ve reviewed and will continue to change our language around the book on our website and social media platforms. Our descriptions of the book on the website were far too hubristic and implied that our work addressed all of the issues in the original, which is not the case.
We also pushed our next project back while we continue to collect feedback and diversify the range of voices included in the structure of our core team as well as in our process of research, reflection, and redrafting.
Our mission is to retell traditional fairy tales, making changes to modernise and improve them. These stories are famous around the world, and we believe that the conventional versions are harmful and should be challenged. However, we accept both the limitations of our own version, and the view that for some, the principles of the original stories are incompatible with modern, progressive values.
What changes will we make going forwards?
For our first book, we sought feedback from a wide range of people before publication, but we need to do more to actively seek out, listen to and learn from even more diverse and underrepresented voices. Prior to publishing a second book, we have started and will continue to speak to a far wider range of voices to provide feedback and which we’ll implement before publication. On other projects, wherever possible, we will seek to collaborate, pay and work directly with those whose voices are underrepresented in the publishing industry.
While we are a currently a small, self-published, part-time project, we have a responsibility to use our privilege to amplify the important voices that are too often missing in children’s publishing.
There is so much more work we will do to educate ourselves. In the coming weeks, we will publish links on our website and social media to those people and groups who provide rich, valuable and meaningful insight on the issues raised above. We have linked a small example of these below:
We are on a journey of learning and welcome any further feedback or links to resources which will help us to do better.
Thank you for your time and we apologise to anyone we let down with our original retelling.
Fairy Tales Retold