The Door in the Hedge, by Robin McKinley
I consider myself a pretty serious Robin McKinley fan. The Blue Sword is one of my all-time favorite favorite FAVORITE books ever. Desert island reading, even.
So it's really embarrassing for me to admit that there are a good number of McKinley books that I haven't actually read, The Door in the Hedge being one of them. (Deerskin is another, but that's because I'm scared of it. From what I've heard, my fears are justified. I noticed, also, that in the 'Books by Robin McKinley' list at the beginning of this edition of DitH, Deerskin is listed as a book 'For Adults'. I figured I should mention it—there are people out there who might be relieved.)
So... back to Door in the Hedge. Four fairy tales, two re-imagined and two original. (Unless The Golden Hind is an old story. The only Golden Hind I know of is Drake's ship, but please correct me if I'm wrong.)
Oddly enough, my favorite of the four was the retelling of 'The Frog Prince'. I've never really liked the story. I never thought about why—it just wasn't one of my favorites.
Robin McKinley's version, 'The Princess and the Frog', made me realize that I'd never liked the Grimm version because the princess was such a BEASTLY LITTLE SNOT. Also, I thought that the introduction of the frog—his fetching of the lost golden ball—was the worst. And I thought it was silly that the princess didn't realize that he was under a spell—I mean, come on. DUH.
In this version, the princess isn't awful at all—she's pretty cool. Rather than being a story about being rewarded for keeping your promises (something that you should do anyway without expecting to be rewarded, HELLO), it's a story about good vs. evil, using your brain, and family.
Robin McKinley being Robin McKinley, she takes a—sorry again to the fans of the Grimm version!—pretty crappy original, and gives it humor and depth:
"You cannot be a frog," she said stupidly. "You must be--under a spell." And she found she could spare a little pity from her own family's plight to give to this spell-bound creature who spoke like a human being.
"Of course," snapped the frog. "Frogs don't talk."
She was silent, sorry that her own pain had made her thoughtless, made her wound another's feelings.
"I'm sorry," said the frog for the second time, and in the same gentle tone. "You see, one never quite grows accustomed."
She answered after a moment: "Yes. I think I do understand, a little."
"Thank you," said the frog.
"Yes," she said again. "Good night."