What are your favorite fairy tales? Your favorite alternative versions?

I love a good re-telling. Cinder by Marissa Meyer blew me away, and I’m eagerly awaiting Scarlet. (A modern version of Cinderella, with cyborgs. You should check it out if you haven’t already.)

I also love Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms series, where a power called The Tradition tries to force people along a well-worn path. But the people in these stories are going to write their own endings…

*    *    *

Once there was a girl with red hair so bright that everyone called her Red. Red’s grandmother lived deep in the woods, and was very frail, so she rarely left her home. Instead Red would go visit her with baskets of food, and keep her company.

The walk was long, and the woods were dark, but Red was a brave girl, and growing into a strong and tall young woman. She walked without fear, even though there were beasts in the woods.

One day when Red was walking in the woods, she met an enormous gray wolf, with burning bright amber eyes, who bounded out of the bushes in front of her. The wolf changed into a man, not much older than Red, and smiled at her with gleaming white teeth.

“Good afternoon, young lady,” he said, with a neat bow. “I’m Mr. Wolf. What are you doing in these dark woods on such a lovely day?”

“My name is Red, and I’m visiting my grandmother.” Red replied.

“What a kind granddaughter you are!” He said. “And what beautiful hair. But aren’t you worried to be alone, hidden from the town by these towering trees?”

Red shrugged, “She lives on the cliffs up ahead. I’ve not far to go.”

“True,” the man considered. “I would offer to escort you the rest of the way, but I have business to attend to. I do apologize.”

“That’s okay,” Red said, a little annoyed that he didn’t believe her capable to walk alone.

“I must go,” he said, “But perhaps you might pick some of those wildflowers over there, to brighten your grandmother’s day?”

Red nodded. “Have a good day, Mr. Wolf,” she said as he walked back down the road she had come.

He waved at her, but as she bent to pick a flower, the man transformed into a wolf and slunk through the bushes in the opposite direction.

The wolf raced up the path all the way to the little cottage near the top of the cliffs, and knocked on the door. He pitched his voice high and soft, and called: “Grandmother, let me in!”

The door opened, and he sprang on Red’s grandmother, devouring her. Not satisfied with his meal, he changed back into a man, put on the grandmother’s nightgown and lace hat, closed the curtains to dim the little room, and got into bed.

Not long after, a knock came from the door.

“Come in,” the man called, his voice weak and quavering.

“Grandmother?” Red called, stepping into the cottage with her basket and flowers. “It’s very dark in here. Let me open the curtains.”

“Oh, no, my eyes are hurting me today,” the man quavered.

Red put the flowers and basket down, and stepped closer to the bed, squinting in the dimness. “You sound very strange, grandmother. Are you ill?”

“My throat pains me,” the man lied. “Come closer,my dear.”

Red moved toward the bed. “You look very odd, grandmother.”

“I don’t think I have long to live,” the man whispered, waving her closer.

As she complied, he became a wolf and pounced on Red. Before he could take a bite, his stomach burst into flames. In a moment, all that was left was the smell of scorched fur, a pile of ashes, and a young child with fiery red hair.

“Grandmother!” Red cried, rushing forward and scooping up the little girl. “That nasty werewolf attacked you!”

The little girl nodded, her eyes a brighter version of the old woman’s dull brown. “I feel much better now, Red. I think I’ll go out.”

Red set her down, and the girl walked outside, changing into a bird with flaming wings. As the newly reborn phoenix took to the skies, her granddaughter cleaned up the mess the wolf had made. And then she would walk through the evening woods, untroubled by the beasts that lived there, who were mostly wiser than the werewolf.

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About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

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