The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde
What's wrong with this story:
A father tells the authorities his daughter can do impossible things AND the authorities believe him.
A soon-to-be bride promises to give her future baby away to a TROLL.
Said bride agrees to marry the man who's threatened to kill her if she can't keep doing the impossible.
What would a troll do with a baby anyhow, and why would he give her all that spun gold for a tiny ring?
Why doesn't the heroine do ANYTHING to get herself out of this predicament?!
This old fairy tale is such a ridiculous story that the author wanted to fix it. So she did. Six different ways. The characters never come out the same in these retellings. The troll in "A Fairy Tale in Bad Taste" has gruesome appetites. "Straw Into Gold" has our beauty and her father resorting to an elaborate con game to keep from starving to death in the days before Social Security or insurance.
And, when is a troll not a troll? When he's a sweet house guardian called a "Domovoi" who's sick unto death of the silly misery that human beings put themselves through. His job is to make the household a happy one, but some people are only happy when they think they're suffering. So be it!
"Papa Rumpelstiltskin" features a miller who is so proud of his daughter, Christina, that he is not above a little—or a lot—of embellishment. Fortunately Christina keeps her head after the king demands that she makes good on her father's boast that she can weave straw into gold. If only "Papa Rumplestiltskin" can keep his mouth shut! "Ms. Rumplestiltskin" takes place "before eyelash curlers and lip liner." Rumplestiltskin may be a downright homely girl with no friends and certainly no boyfriends, but all that doesn't keep her from wishing for a child to love.
"As Good as Gold" finds a King who would like a bride, but certainly not a social climber who traipses after his carriage, stupidly insisting she can spin straw into gold.
Each story is funny and memorable and has the added bonus of being the perfect length for retelling to friends.
Song for the Basilisk by Patricia A. McKillip
The fires were set deliberately. They roared through the palace, dooming the ruling family to a death of ashes and flame. When the imprisoned lord was brought to the chamber of his small son, he wept openly through his one remaining eye at the charred remains of the boy, whose tiny arms still cradled a loyal dog as blackened as his dead master.
When the lord's loyal men crept into the death chamber under the cover of darkness to retrieve the body, they almost passed by the small, sooty figure who huddled in the shadows of the great hearth. It was his coughing that alerted them, and they clasped him tight with a frantic joy. The boy could not talk. He could not say what he had seen.
Perhaps that was all to the good. The house of Tormalyne was gone now, extinguished along with the flame of that horrid night. The men did what they thought was best for him. They rode to the ends of the World to hide him among the bards of Luly. On a broken rock, by the wild sea, surely no one would find him.
But the Basilisk lord has a keen and wicked eye, and it is the fate of all bards to find their roads and their life's meaning. Rook, as he has grown to be called, has no desire to leave the storm-tangled rocks, but fate, and ultimately the Basilisk's hellishly beautiful daughter, will have their way.