Sarah V’s Retelling Review!

Welcome, everyone, to the first edition of my Retelling Reviews! For those of you who don’t know, I will be writing my dissertation on fairy tale retellings, and even though I’m a little more than a year away from starting my dissertation officially, I am already beginning to work on a methodology that will help me analyze books and other media based on fairy tales. Since this month’s fairy tale is “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” I thought I would kick things off by revisiting one of my favorites: East by Edith Pattou. This time, as I read, I annotated the book and took down data that I hope will be useful to my analysis later on. I’m sharing some of that with you here, so this review will look a bit different from my other book reviews! 

To start off, I stayed up way too late last night making a fun infographic detailing some of the elements of both the tale and the novel. Check it out!

Now, Let’s Break it Down!

Panel 1: East was written by Edith Pattou and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2003. The target audience is young adults and the genre is fantasy. It was 122 chapters and 476 pages

Panel 2: The tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” is Aarne-Thompson-Uther Type 425A and was collected in Norway by Asbjørnsen and Moe in 1845

Panel 3a – POV: The book is written in 1st Person and has 5 POV characters. 3 of these characters are men (Neddy, Father, and the White Bear) and 2 are women (Rose and the Troll Queen). 50 chapters are narrated by male characters and 72 are narrated by women, creating a proportion of 41% Men to 59% Women. However, broken down by page, we see that 155 pages are narrated by men and 321 are narrated by women, creating a proportion of 33% Men to 67% Women. It is interesting, and I believe important, to note that the story both begins and ends with the narration of a man, excepting the prologue, for which the identity of the narrator is unspecified.

Panel 3b – Elements of Folklore: The following elements of folk tradition and folklore are prominent throughout the book: material culture, vernacular vs. orthodox religion, verbal art, transmission of tradition, Rule of Three, and references to ATU Types 510B and 425A.

Panel 4a – Narrative Proportion: I measured narrative proportion by counting paragraphs in the tale found here. I divided this into the three major parts of the story (bear arrives, girl lives in castle and breaks taboo, girl goes on quest). For the novel, I measured narrative proportion by page, using the same three parts. The narrative proportion between the tale and the novel are almost identical, with only 7% of the novel being appended to account for the characters’ journey home. 

Panel 4b – Details: The three old women in the folktale were replaced with a mother/daughter pair, a drunk sailor, and a female Inuit shaman in the novel. The golden apple, golden spinning wheel, and golden carding comb in the tale were replace by a chess piece, a leiderstein (compass), and a story knife in the novel. The four winds from the tale did not appear in the book, but instead, an element from ATU 510B appeared (three dresses made of gold, silver, and moonlight). 


My hypothetical categorization of East is “Retelling” (a goal of this project is to more precisely define retellings, adaptations, reimaginings, and so forth). I have chosen this category because of the adherence to narrative proportion, the contemporary motivations of the characters, and the precision of detail both retained and substituted. 

While there are elements of the novel worth critiquing, such as the emphasis on male characters, overall I find this to be an exquisite example of a fairy tale retelling. It appeals to a 21st century audience while still retaining the setting and narrative features of the folktale. The inclusion of so many folkloric elements in the novel helps reinforce this. 

My analysis will only improve with more data, which I’ll acquire by reading more fairy tale retellings and looking for similar information, but for now I think this project is off to a great start and I’m looking forward to seeing what else I will uncover! 


First Friday Fairy Tales: February ‘19 Edition (Review)


Despite my best efforts, I was unable to finish reading and analyzing East by Edith Pattou for today’s special review. It will be up within the next few days, but I thought I’d take a moment to share some of my methodology and the analysis I’ll be applying to the book. This methodology will be refined as I do more and more analysis, but this is what I have for now.


I have two spreadsheets. One is for tracking the data of each text I analyze and assigning it a reference number. The second if for tracking the specific criteria I’m looking for in each text. 



Reference Number | Title(s) of Source Fairy Tales | Year Collected/Name of Collector | Culture(s) of Source Fairy Tale | ATU Type* | Title of Book | Author | Year of Publication | Country of Publication | Target Audience

*ATU Type: This is a reference to the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Folktale Type Index, which is a useful tool for assessing folktales comparatively. 



Reference # | Format | Page Count/Length | POV (#)* | POV by Gender* | Narrative Proportion, Tale vs. Book* | Characters Added | Characters Removed | Adherence to Detail | References to Other Tales/Tale Types | Hypothetical Categorization* | Notes

POV (#): This is a place to track the POV method used and, if relevant, how many POVs are used. Because narration is such a big part of fairy tales, I think this is an important detail to track. 

POV by Gender: The gender of the narrator is also an important element of a fairy tale. Sometimes it isn’t clear, but if there’s a way to identify whether the narrator is male, female, or nonbinary can reveal something important about the methodology or values behind the adaptation.

Narrative Proportion: I’m interested in how retellings balance certain aspects of the story. Do they skip over or condense parts in favor of others? I’ll fine-tune how I want to analyze this as I go, but for now I’m using a simple three-act formula and checking the ratios of the narrative in the original tale and in the adaptation.

Hypothetical Categorization: I have a handful of categorizations I’ve developed based on certain adaptational criteria, all of which are still pretty flexible for the time being. However, I plan to identify in this chart which of them I think the text I’m analyzing best fits. 

How Is East Shaping Up?

So far, one of the most important things I’ve noticed about East in comparing it to “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” is that it has 5 first-person POVs, but more of them belong to men than women. This is based solely on number of chapters assigned to each character. If I use different methods to analyze, such as page count, this number might have a different meaning. 

Another very interesting thing I’ve noticed so far, though I still need to finish the book, is that the narrative proportion is extremely stable compared to the original tale. If you can read the chart, you’ll see that the percentage of textual space dedicated to each of the three parts of the story are very, very close. I used paragraph count for the tale and page count for the novel, though again, if I use different measures, these numbers might change or take on a different meaning. 

Overall, I’m currently very impressed at the method in adaptation so far, finding that the details included and the characters expanded all enhance the narrative rather than distract from it. The one thing I have reservations about is the number of chapters dedicated to the protagonist’s father and brother, the former of which does not appear in the original tale. However, I’ll reserve judgment for later. 

Why Am I Doing This? 

This review serves as a trial-run for the sort of analysis I’ll be conducting on dozens of fairy-tale retellings over the next few years. This analysis will form the basis of my dissertation for my Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Folklore. You’ll see simplified versions of these analyses on the blog from time to time, though I’ll probably keep further elements of the methodology to myself for professional reasons. This is a very, very rough draft of it that I’ll continue to refine, but I’m very excited to work on it and develop a large-scale project in the end. 

State of the Blog 2019

Hello everyone!

Thank you all so much for being such awesome followers, and a special thanks to those of you who filled out my feedback survey at the end of last year. It was very helpful and encouraging, and it helped me make some decisions about how the blog will look in 2019. So, without further ado, here’s a look at what to expect on the blog this year!


  • Recommendation Day: I really enjoyed Recommendation Day as a feature, and I’d love to keep it going this year. Everyone’s suggestions were truly fantastic, and it will be a great way to keep me reading for fun in the midst of reading for my Qualifying Exams (more on that later).
  • Monthly Wrap-Ups: I’ll still make posts about what I’ve read every month, though I might change the format to leave out the book covers, because I feel like that probably clogs up people’s dashes too much (and it’s time consuming).
  • Top Five Wednesdays: I’ll try to be more consistent about Top 5 Wednesdays because it’s pretty simple and a lot of people enjoy it!
  • Book Reviews: I’ll still be doing book reviews as usual! However, I’ll also be adding a special kind of review, but I’ll talk more about that later!
  • First Friday Fairy Tales: I love these, and I’m keeping them. lol
  • Iridia Content: You’ll still see Iridia content pop up from time to time, even though publication is currently put off indefinitely. I’ll try to be a bit more diligent about updating when I’m working on it and how the publishing journey is going.


  • TBR Lists: I ultimately found these too stressful because I already have plenty of due dates for school, so it doesn’t feel good to try to tell myself to read certain books in a month.
  • The Diverse Reading Challenge: I gave it a go, but in the end, I don’t think I can keep it running for a second year. I really appreciate those who did participate, but since it’s not something I need for myself anymore, I don’t want to add the pressure to read specific books at a specific time this year. That said, if you still want to talk about diverse books, please come chat with me about them! I’ll continue to boost them as I read them.
  • Quote Graphics: These were a new thing I tried out later in the year, and while they were kind of fun, my heart wasn’t really in them. Maybe I’ll still do one from time to time, but otherwise I’ll stick to graphics about Iridia.


  • Fairy Tale Retelling Reviews: In 2019, I’ll be reading for my Qualifying Exams in Comparative Literature and Folklore for my Dual Ph.D. I plan to take them early 2020, but I’ll start reading this coming year. One of my lists is fairy tale retellings, so I thought it would be fun to do a different sort of comparative review as I read them (there are like, 25+ on my list). These might coincide with FFFT, but most likely not. I figure I’ll be reading and reviewing these books anyway, so I thought I might put a little twist on them which will also be a helpful study guide for my exams! Depending on how spring semester goes, this might not start up until late spring, but we’ll see!
  • Cat Photos: I have posted an occasional picture of my cats, Milo and Millie, but tbh I take so many pictures I don’t know what to do with them, so I’ll put those on here more! 😉
  • Me Stuff: I got away from doing it this year because I was trying to gear the blog in a particular direction prior to the publication of UNROOTED (which is no longer happening). So, I figure I can go back to being a little bit more personable on the blog. I’ve kind of missed it.

Thank you all so much again for being so great. I hope to meet and interact with more of you this year, and as new ideas and new things come up, I’ll be sure to let you know. Happy New Year to everyone!

October Reading Wrap-Up


#1 – The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World

Date Started: October 1st, 2018

Date Finished: October 5th, 2018

Reason: Read for my Contemporary Perspectives on Myth Class

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 4/5 Stars

#2 – The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher


Date Started: October 5th, 2018

Date Finished: October 6th, 2018

Reason: Diverse Reading Challenge

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 4/5 Stars

#3 – Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death by Judith Butler


Date Started: October 9th, 2018

Date Finished: October 9th, 2018

Reason: Diverse Reading Challenge; Read for my Contemporary Perspectives on Myth Class

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 4/5 Stars

#4 – Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco


Date Started: October 15th, 2018

Date Finished: October 17th, 2018

Reason: Winner of Recommendation Day!

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review: Click Here

#5 – An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green


Date Started: October 20th, 2018

Date Finished: October 21st, 2018

Reason: Diverse Reading Challenge

Genre: Adult Fiction

Rating: 5/5 Stars

#6 – Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore


Date Started: October 15th, 2018

Date Finished: October 31st, 2018

Reason: I’ve been dying to read this for months! I also met Anna-Marie at Sirens this year.

Genre: YA Magical Realism

Rating: TBD

Review: Coming Soon

#7 – Putting Folklore to Use by Michael Owen Jones


Date Started: October 8th, 2018

Date Finished: October 24th, 2018

Reason: Read for my Applied Folklore class

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 3/5

#8 – White as Snow by Tanith Lee


Date Started: August 9th, 2018

Date Finished: October 24th, 2018

Reason: Teaching this Semester

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Rating: 5/5

#9 – The Ancient Mythology of Modern Science: A Mythologist Looks (Seriously) at Popular Science Writing by Gregory Schrempp


Date Started: October 16th, 2018

Date Finished: October 30th, 2018

Reason: Read for my Contemporary Perspectives on Myth Class (it was written by my professor)

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 3/5

September Reading Wrap-Up!


#1 – Applied Anthropology: Tools and Perspectives for Contemporary Practice by Alexander M. Ervin


Date Started: August 21st, 2018

Date Finished: September 25th, 2018

Reason: Reading for my Applied Folklore Class

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 4/5 Stars

#2 – Primal Myths: Creation Myths from Around the World by Barbara Sproul


Date Started: August 26th, 2018

Date Finished: September 11th, 2018

Reason: Reading for my Contemporary Perspectives on Myth class

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 3/5 Stars

#3 – Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee


Date Started: September 7th, 2018

Date Finished: September 16th, 2018

Reason: I’m teaching this book this semester

Genre: Adult Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

#4 – Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore


Date Started: September 15th, 2018

Date Finished: September 23rd, 2018

Reason: Reading for the Diverse Reading Challenge, Hispanic Heritage Month. I interviewed Anna-Marie earlier this year, and I’m going to be meeting her at Sirens next month!

Genre: YA Magical Realism

Rating: 4/5 Stars

#5 – The Origins of the World’s Mythologies by E.J. Michael Witzel


Date Started: September 15th, 2018

Date Finished: September 17th, 2018

Reason: I’m reading this book for my Contemporary Perspectives on Myth Class. I only read the parts assigned–it’s a nearly 700-page book, so thank goodness for that.

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 2/5 Stars

#6 – The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers


Date Started: September 23rd, 2018

Date Finished: September 30th, 2018

Reason: This was the winner of Recommendation Day!

Genre: Adult Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5 Stars

“Beauty and the Bricolage”: Adaptation and Conversation Through Contextual Fairy Tale History | Sarah Viehmann on Patreon

Today, available to $7 patrons, you can read my paper, Beauty and the Bricolage: Adaptation and Conversation Through Contextual Fairy Tale History, which I wrote for graduate school on the process of retelling fairy tales, using ACOTAR as a case study. Enjoy!

“Beauty and the Bricolage”: Adaptation and Conversation Through Contextual Fairy Tale History | Sarah Viehmann on Patreon



With all the hell that was this school year I’d kind of forgotten that I was getting a second Masters Degree with it. Holy macaroni! Now I can finally really enjoy summer break and be proud of myself for all I’ve accomplished these last two years. 





i love when ur writing an essay and u all of a sudden get a burst of inspiration or find the perfect source to back up ur point and it’s like the clouds have parted and everything’s clear and ur not gonna have to drop out

never mind everything sucks essay writing is horrible i have no clue what im doing im gonna drop out and become a street performer


never mind.

I think my first paper is done??? The working title is “The Evolving Fairy Tale: Webcomics as 21st-Century
Märchen.” I had a lot of fun writing it, even if I think my position is a little newfangled/controversial, but frankly I’m okay with that. It very much blends my comparative literature and folklore approaches in a way that I think is really interesting. Anyway, I might throw in a couple of more quotes before I turn it in tomorrow, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it turned out! 

omg. I have one presentation due tomorrow, and then I’m DONE WITH CLASSES, and then I have nearly a whole week to finish my papers with next to no commitments that require me to leave the house!!!

Also, I’ll finally have time to fix my laptop on Saturday so I won’t feel tripped up by having to juggle different machines.