Saturday, April 20, 2019

Top 3 Favorite Obscure Fairy Tales by Special Guest Heather Hayden (Fractured Ever After Blog Tour)

We're thrilled to welcome Heather Hayden to Lands Uncharted today as part of the Fractured Ever After Blog Tour! I've had the pleasure of collaborating with Heather to put together a joint giveaway celebrating the April releases of our fairy tale anthologies (find out more below!), and now I'm excited to share Heather's Top 3 Favorite Obscure Fairy Tales! Take it away, Heather!

Welcome to the fifth stop on the Fractured Ever After Blog Tour! I’m Heather Hayden, the author of “The Frog Prince,” a fractured retelling about the son of the frog prince from the original fairy tale. I’ll talk a little more about our anthology in a bit, but first, let’s chat about fairy tales!

Top 3 Favorite Obscure Fairy Tales

I’ve read a lot of blog posts listing favorite fairy tales (and retellings thereof), searching for new ones that might interest me or spark an idea (as fairy tale retellings are a favorite of mine to read and write).

However, although many readers post lists of their favorite fairy tales, not nearly as many post lists of their favorite obscure ones. The lists I find are often dominated by old favorites such as Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, but there are hundreds of fairy tales in existence today—some of which have only recently been rediscovered.

Today I will be discussing three of my favorite obscure fairy tales. Yes, it says “Top 3” in the title of this blog post, but that’s more to match the blog series which I am guest writing for than strictly the truth—it’s impossible for me to pick my absolute favorites with so many tales to choose from!

#3 – The Tinderbox

I still remember the first time I read this rags-to-riches fairy tale about a retired soldier in a tattered copy of a fairy tale collection. The illustrations accompanying it truly brought the story to vivid life, etching the monstrous dogs and the soldier’s cunning use of his magical tinderbox in my memory.

The Tinderbox follows the adventures of a soldier who procures a magical tinderbox that allows him to summon three dogs of varying sizes. They follow his orders loyally, including kidnapping a princess! Although I’m not fond of that part of the tale (poor princess!), I love the idea of a magical box that can call forth intelligent animals.

If you enjoy this tale as much as I do, you might want to check out Elise Edmonds’s retelling called “The Firestone,” a short story which features dragons and a strong female protagonist. It’s available in the anthology Of Legend and Lore.

#2 – Issun-bōshi (“One-Sun Boy” or “The Inch-High Samurai”)

I have devoured every fairy tale I can find since I was a child, from the brightly illustrated picture books that told various versions of Cinderella to the dense, old tomes packed full of well-known and lesser known tales. German, Chinese, Irish, Japanese, doesn’t matter the story’s origin or its contents, I am always curious to learn a new tale or a fresh variant of an old favorite.

Issun-bōshi is the story of a very small boy (only about an inch high!) who sets out to become a warrior, taking only a bowl with a chopstick as his boat and a needle sheathed in a bit of straw as his sword. I love that imagery! Along the way, as in many fairy tales, he meets a lovely girl and fights a terrifying monster (in this case, an oni—a kind of demon in Japanese folklore).

If you’ve read Issun-bōshi, I recommend checking out “The Mech Oni and the Three-Inch Tinkerer” by Leslie and David T. Allen. It’s a fun steampunk retelling available in the anthology Steampunk Fairy Tales.

#1 – The Nightingale

Many fairy tales have a moral lesson at their heart, and The Nightingale is no exception. It warns readers not to throw away what is real for that which is artificial.

The Nightingale tells the story of the Emperor of China and a nightingale. When the Emperor discovers the nightingale’s song is one of the most beautiful sounds in his empire, he demands she come to his court. For a time, the nightingale is his favorite—but then he is gifted a cleverly crafted and bejeweled mechanical bird. Fascinated with his new gift, he forgets the nightingale, who returns to her forest. Only when the Emperor lies dying years later, begging the silent (and broken) mechanical bird to sing, is the nightingale’s true worth realized—she returns, and her song so moves Death that he relinquishes his hold.

When I first read this story as a child, I felt sorry for the nightingale—trapped in court and then passed over in favor of something more outwardly beautiful. However, in some ways, it was a blessing in disguise—no longer the focus of the Emperor’s desire, she was able to return to her beloved home. And when he begs her at the end to stay once more, she refuses but promises to visit with stories of the people in his kingdom. So many female characters in fairy tales are passive; it is refreshing to read a story where she makes her own choices.

If you too are fascinated by this fairy tale, I recommend reading “The Songbird’s Citadel” by J.M. Hackman. It is an awesome sci-fi retelling available in the anthology Encircled.

Thank you so much for sharing these, Heather, I love learning about new fairy tales! Speaking of new fairy tales, here's a little more about Fractured Ever After:

Releasing on April 27th, 2019, Fractured Ever After is an illustrated anthology featuring eight fractured retellings by the talented authors of the Just-Us League.

Here’s the blurb:

Old classics are fractured into exciting new tales in this international collection of magic, mystery, and adventure.

Some heroes go searching for their happily ever after: a dragon cocoon hunter explores the dangerous woods for his sleeping beauty; a prince forces a perfect romance on an unsuspecting maiden; and when a girl leaves town, she must quickly decide to trust—or be wary of—a new stranger.

Destiny is thrust upon others: a disconnected emperor struggles to retain his title; a frog prince leaves his pond in search of answers; and after Rapunzel is rescued, a new quest is awarded to her savior.

Whether it is destiny or choice, all actions have consequences: sibling rivalry pushes one little piggy to extremes and a princess must choose to follow her heart or step up as future queen.

Prepare for an adventure as these eight fantastic fairy tales transport you to places beyond your imagination.

Excited for its release? Preorder it now.

Here's a little more about our special guest, Heather Hayden!

Fueled by chocolate and moonlight, Heather Hayden seeks to bring magic into the world through her stories.

A freelance editor by day, she pours heart and soul into her novels every night, spinning tales of science fiction and fantasy that sing of friendship and hope.

Heather’s publications include Augment, a YA science fiction novel, and several short stories in the JL Anthology series. She is currently working on Upgrade, the sequel to Augment, as well as a gaslamp fantasy series titled Rusted Magic. Her latest short story, “The Frog Prince,” follows Gil, the son of the original frog prince, as he seeks answers. It can be found in the upcoming illustrated anthology, Fractured Ever After.

You can follow Heather’s writing adventures on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or through her newsletter.

Now, do you remember mention of a giveaway?? 

The Just-Us League and the Ever Afters have teamed up to host an amazing giveaway. From now until April 30th, you can enter for a chance to win one of four awesome prizes.

Grand Prize (US only): Two Paperbacks (Fractured Ever After and Encircled), book cozy + shoe ornament, 3D-printed bookmark (pick one design), set of four signed illustration prints.

First Prize (US only): Two Paperbacks (Fractured Ever After and Encircled), charm bracelet, 3D-printed bookmark (pick one design), set of four signed illustration prints.

Second Prize (International): Two Ebooks (Fractured Ever After and Encircled), 3D-printed bookmark (pick one design), set of four signed illustration prints. 

Third Prize (International): Two Ebooks (Fractured Ever After and Encircled), choice of 3D-printed bookmark (pick one design) OR set of four signed illustration prints.

Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't miss the other stops on the Fractured Ever After Blog Tour to learn more about the amazing authors in the anthology! Here's the full schedule:

April 6th – Jebraun Clifford – Kristy Perkins [interview]

April 10th – J. E. Klimov – Matthew Dewar [interview]

April 13th – Allie May – Alexander Thomas [interview]

April 17th – M.T. Wilson – LB Garrison [interview]

April 20th – Lands Uncharted – Top 3 Favorite Obscure Fairy Tales (you are here!)

April 24th – A4A – Allie May [interview]

April 27th – Heather Hayden – Shannon Yukumi [interview]

Thanks again for visiting today, Heather, and congratulations to you and the entire Just-Us League on your upcoming new release!


  1. Great "Top Three" list -- as a lover of fairy tales too, I'll have to check out Issun-bōshi. And thanks for mentioning "The Songbird's Citadel"--glad you enjoyed it! ☺

  2. The Nightingale is beautiful, isn't it? I'd never heard of The Inch High Samurai, but it sounds a bit like Tom Thumb. I have mixed feelings about Tinderbox - his treatment of the Princess is not at all heroic. But the dogs are certainly memorable

  3. Those are interesting tales. Thanks for sharing and congrats on the new release! And Jill's version of "The Nightingale" is fantastic.


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