I first read the story of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” in this book, The World’s Best Fairy Tales:
My grandparents gave me the book for Christmas the year I was seven, and it was one of the first times (maybe THE first) I stayed up later than I was supposed to, reading. At least, I remember my dad was newly remarried, and they had only one bedroom, so I was sleeping on the couch, and he popped out like four times to ask me when I was going to sleep. (This would be and still is a long-running theme of my life. People interrupt my reading to ask when I’m going to do something else. Hmph.)
I think that was my only real exposure to the story until Robin McKinley’s retelling, some years later:
It was easily my favorite story in that collection, and in fact, was the only reason I kept that collection for a long time.
I’m sure I encountered a few other versions here and there afterward, but I don’t remember reading another retelling of it at all. So, when I started The Princess Curse, I felt like I was delving into fairly untrod territory. But I also very deliberately didn’t go looking for any other retellings, because I didn’t want to know. Since then, a few retellings have been published–and even one set in Transylvania (though, ahem, my book takes place in the fictional Sylvania, which is next to Transylvania).
I figure that while I was working on the book, it was sort of my job to ignore those other retellings. You can’t write with other people’s work in mind. I have a feeling the other Romanian “Twelve Dancing Princesses” retelling has less in common with mine than we both have with Robin McKinley’s relatively straight-forward retelling.
But I also figure that, now my book is about to launch, it might be my job to learn more about those retellings so I can intelligently answer any questions someone might have about where those versions overlap (or don’t) with mine. Or maybe not. I don’t know.
I know that my version, unlike most of the others, does not have a princess as a protagonist. I didn’t want to write a book about a girl who was trapped into doing something horrible for the sake of a dance. (Remember, in the original, all the suitors who don’t solve the mystery of the shoes with holes in them are put to death.) I also had run into the “old soldier” and the “young gardener” versions of the story, and thought, “What if it’s neither? What if it’s someone that the old soldier and the young gardener know, but who doesn’t get credit for it?” Thus, Reveka, the daughter of the old soldier, and the antagonist of the young gardener, is the main character of The Princess Curse.
So anyway, I’ve decided that after a long diet of refraining from the consumption of “Twelve Dancing Princesses” stuff, I can start incorporating these stories back into my regimen. I’m starting with Entwined by Heather Dixon. Because the cover is just gorgeous:
And it sounds different enough from mine I probably will be able to enjoy it, and not curse all the time.
I’ll pick my next one off this Amazon guide on fairy tale retellings–unless someone can supply a recommendation!