(X) Retold From (Y)'s Point Of View
January 21, 2009 7:17 AM   Subscribe

What works of fiction retell another work of fiction from a different character's point of view? Offhand, I can think of Wicked, Wide Sargasso Sea, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. What other similar works are there?
posted by yankeefog to Writing & Language (61 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should mention I've read this thread, which has a number of excellent suggestions, but all fairy-tale-related; I'm interested in retellings from all genres.
posted by yankeefog at 7:18 AM on January 21, 2009

The Wind Done Gone
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:22 AM on January 21, 2009

The parallel novel entry on Wikipedia has some examples.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:25 AM on January 21, 2009

This may not fit your criteria exactly, but I thoroughly enjoyed Lamb by Christopher Moore. It tells the story of Jesus & Biff, his childhood pal, and is very entertaining.
posted by lilac girl at 7:27 AM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ender's Shadow parrallels Ender's Gamer, but both are written by Card.
posted by yeti at 7:27 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

*Ender's Game.

(although I do wonder what Ender's Gamerscore would be).
posted by yeti at 7:28 AM on January 21, 2009

You didn't specifically exclude this but I wonder if a series of novels by the same author count? The Alexandria Quartet for example. The individual books cover the same time period but from the perspectives of three different characters (the fourth novel is a sequel).
posted by vacapinta at 7:29 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ahab's Wife is one of my all-time favorites. It's a story of the life of, uh, Ahab's wife, who is only briefly mentioned in Moby Dick.
posted by amelioration at 7:30 AM on January 21, 2009

Grendel is mentioned in that other thread, but only in passing. So here it is with a whole comment to itself. I've never thought of it as a fairytale, which is why I thought it worth mentioning again.

(Poor Grendel's had an accident. So may you all.)
posted by felix grundy at 7:33 AM on January 21, 2009

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs -- told from the wolf's point of view. I loved this book as a kid.
posted by giraffe at 7:33 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Grendel, by John Gardner.
posted by newmoistness at 7:35 AM on January 21, 2009

The Lion King 1½
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:36 AM on January 21, 2009

Also, Foe is (to some extent) Robinson Crusoe retold from the point of view of a woman who is shipwrecked with Crusoe and Friday later on.
posted by felix grundy at 7:37 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Finn, by Jon Clinch goes along with the same time frame and events as Huck Finn, but it's told from the point of view of Huck's very nasty Pa. Creepy and entertaining.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 7:37 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Snow, Glass, Apples is a short story Neil Gaiman wrote about Snow White from the evil step-mother's perspective. You can find it in Smoke & Mirrors although I'm certain that if you google the title you can find the story online in its entirety as well.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:42 AM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Another novel missing from the linked question that may meet your qualifications: Donald Barthelme's Snow White, if "omniscient narrator" counts as the original "character" telling the story. Anyway, it's told from the Dwarfs' point of view.
posted by giraffe at 7:43 AM on January 21, 2009

Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder by Edward Chupack is the autobiography of Long John Silver, from Treasure Island.

Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin is the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as told from the perspective of a housemaid.
posted by Lokheed at 7:45 AM on January 21, 2009

The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley re-tells the fall of Troy from Cassandra's perspective
posted by tigrrrlily at 7:45 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, John Barth's "Menelaiad," in Lost in the Funhouse, is Menelaus' point of view on Helen and the sack of Troy, told and retold.
posted by felix grundy at 7:46 AM on January 21, 2009

Animal Man #5, 'The Coyote Gospel' kind of tells the story of Wile E. Coyote (of Roadrunner fame). It was nominated for an Eisner award for best single issue of 1989.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:53 AM on January 21, 2009

Marvels was a mini-series that retells many significant events in Marvel comics from the perspective of an everyman news photographer.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:05 AM on January 21, 2009

A movie, not a book but Orson Welles's Chimes at Midnight follows the character Falstaff through the events in five Shakespeare plays.
posted by octothorpe at 8:11 AM on January 21, 2009

Dracula's been reworked from every angle... there's more than one book from the point of view of Renfield.

There are multiple tellings of Cinderella from the point of view of a rat turned to a coachman! 1 2 3

As a boy, the different perspectives in The Bully of Barkham Street and A Dog on Barkham Street left an impression on me.

Le Guin had a short story (whose title I don't remember) telling Snow White from the point of view of a woodsman who stumbles across the briar surrounding the castle, and cuts through.

There's an essay at the end of Charlie Stross' The Jennifer Morgue giving an interview with Blofeld, giving his side of the story, in which Bond and MI6 are villains interfering with simple entrepreneurialism.
posted by Zed at 8:13 AM on January 21, 2009

Lo's Diary by Pia Pera. Reviews indicate this one might not be worth reading though.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:27 AM on January 21, 2009

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey is a retelling of Great Expectations from the pov of Abel Magwitch
posted by communicator at 8:34 AM on January 21, 2009

Afro-Caribbean author Aime Cesaire's play A Tempest retells the Shakespeare play from the perspective of Ariel and Caliban. It's a brilliant piece of post-colonial appropriation, where Ariel represents black leaders who chose to work within the system to achieve change and Caliban represents militant forms of resistance to white domination.
posted by felix betachat at 8:36 AM on January 21, 2009

Oh, and Anita Diamant's The Red Tent retells the Genesis patriarchal narratives from the perspective of the matriarchs.
posted by felix betachat at 8:38 AM on January 21, 2009

I remember being gaga about Mists of Avalon, which is King Arthur told by all the various women in his life.

But I can't really tell if it was that I was 12 and confused high page count with quality.

Apparently it was spun off into a nice long series. So someone else liked it.
posted by politikitty at 8:41 AM on January 21, 2009

I'm not sure how much retelling there is because I haven't read it yet, but Mr. Timothy is about Tiny Tim from Dickens' A Christmas Carol now all grown up and living in a whore house.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:51 AM on January 21, 2009

Robertson Davies's Deptford Trilogy tells the same story from the point of view of three different characters. Given the intertwining of the story and the intentional nature of the way he handles it, it may not be quite what you had in mind, but it certainly fits the question.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:54 AM on January 21, 2009

MeFi's own John Scalzi's The Last Colony and Zoe's Tale.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:01 AM on January 21, 2009

1985 by György Dalos was an interesting sequel/reimagining of Orwell's classic Nineteen Eighty-Four. It picks up the story using most of Orwell's key characters. Since I was fascinated with Nineteen Eighty-Four at the time, I wanted to see what Dalos would write from his perspective having lived under totalitarian rule himself. If memory serves, it wasn't half bad and didn't detract from my love of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
posted by kuppajava at 9:03 AM on January 21, 2009

another one that may not fit your criteria *exactly*, but most of anne rices Memnoch the Devil is basically a retelling (from the pov of the memnoch-the-devil) of "the main epochs in the evolution of the universe" as presented in the bible.
posted by gcat at 9:10 AM on January 21, 2009

The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, by the Nobel-laureate Portuguese novelist José Saramago which tells the story of Ricardo Reis (as told by Ricardo Reis). Ricardo Reis is a character created by the famous Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.
posted by shamble at 9:12 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

March, by Geraldine Brooks. It tells the story of the father from Little Women and his experiences in the Civil War. Incidentally, the author of the aforementioned Finn is teaching a Winter Study (a short January term) course at my college about just these kind of books, reading both the original and the parallel.
posted by MadamM at 9:30 AM on January 21, 2009

Caliban's Hour by Tad Williams - The Tempest as told by Caliban.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:31 AM on January 21, 2009

Lavinia, by Ursula K. LeGuin, tells the story of Aeneas and Lavinia after the end of the Aeneid.

In addition to Grendel, John Gardner wrote a weird-ass libretto of Frankenstein and -- I haven't read/heard/seen it -- a libretto of Rumpelstiltskin.
posted by cog_nate at 9:41 AM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Doctor Glas, a Swedish classic, was retold from the point of view of the murder victim in Bengt Ohlsson's Gregorius (which is available in English, even if no wikipedia page exists for either author or book).
posted by cincinnatus c at 9:50 AM on January 21, 2009

The Penelopiad is the story of the Trojan war told from the point of view of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus.

Shylock's daughterShylock's daughter is a young adult book retelling the events of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice from the point of view of Jessica.
posted by Laura_J at 10:00 AM on January 21, 2009

There's I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, which retells The Crucible.
posted by miriam at 10:05 AM on January 21, 2009

Seconding Ahab's Wife, one of my favorite books.
posted by librarina at 10:06 AM on January 21, 2009

Another Bible adaptiation: God Knows by Joseph Heller is the story of David's life from his own elderly perspective.
posted by carsonb at 10:17 AM on January 21, 2009

Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile is Gilbert White's The Natural History of Selborne from the tortoise's point of view.
posted by scruss at 10:46 AM on January 21, 2009

Not quite what you're looking for, but Fielding's Shamela retells Richardson's Pamela in parodic, bawdy form, exposing the "many notorious falsehoods and misrepresentations" of the latter: "Pamela" becomes "Shamela," and virtue becomes naughtiness.
posted by cobra libre at 12:20 PM on January 21, 2009

Friday, by Michel Tournier. Robinson Crusoe told from Friday's perspective.
posted by penchant at 12:27 PM on January 21, 2009

There's also John Barth's "Menelaiad" from Lost in the Funhouse, a set of bewilderingly nested narratives, as told by Menelaus of Greek myth. Similarly, Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds and Gilbert Sorrentino's Mulligan Stew appropriate other author's characters for their own purposes.

Again, not exactly what you're looking for, but Stefan Heym's satire The King David Report is well worth reading. It is not narrated from the point of view of an existing fictional character, but from that of a fictional historian during the time of the biblical King Solomon who is tasked with reconciling the many conflicting accounts of King David's life into an official narrative that is politically satisfactory to Solomon's regime.
posted by cobra libre at 12:31 PM on January 21, 2009

Okay, got one. The short story "The House of Asterion," by Jorge Luis Borges, retells the myth of Theseus and Ariadne from the point of view of the minotaur.
posted by cobra libre at 12:38 PM on January 21, 2009

Apparently, there's quite an Austen Sequels industry, and I can well imagine it's a mixed bag. But I've only read one, and it's not a sequel, but perfectly matches your requirements: Joan Aiken's Jane Fairfax retells Austen's Emma from the POV of another character. (Beside the point, but I found it quite excellent.)
posted by dpcoffin at 12:38 PM on January 21, 2009

I'm not sure it's an exact match, but Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series does this occasionally. Her books across the series are from different perspectives, and many of the larger events overlap the various novel timelines. I can't recall any specific examples, unfortunately, but I remember getting a little disgusted by it when I was reading them back in high school, because I was tired of reading the same event yet again, from a different perspective.
posted by ashirys at 12:53 PM on January 21, 2009

tigrrlily- I LOVE The Firebrand! I learned so much Greek mythology from that book... hehe.
posted by thejrae at 1:04 PM on January 21, 2009

Oh yeah, and Marion Zimmer Bradley does a couple other books like The Firebrand, where she retells some classic story from another point of view (like Avalon).
posted by thejrae at 1:06 PM on January 21, 2009

I love this kind of stuff, but between this and the other thread most of what I'd normally suggest has already been covered, so I'll go with some slightly more geeky and esoteric works instead. Hopefully none of this is too tangential to the question.

The first series of Half-Life games covers the disaster at Black Mesa from the perspectives of the hero Gordon Freeman, one of the enemy soldiers Adrian Shepard, a security guard Barney Calhoun, and two other scientist who assisted with the experiment. All of them primarily see different parts of the facility with occasional glimpses of the other characters and a few memorable places and events in common.

If you care about The Matrix series, the game Enter the Matrix covers the events of the second movie through the perspectives of Ghost and Niobe. There is also the Animatrix and various comics, but almost none of that stuff intersects with the main story in a meaningful way.

The third game in the Hitman series of games, Hitman: Contracts, retreads levels and assassinations from the previous titles, only instead of being objectively presented they're experienced as delirious subjective flashbacks from the assassin's point of view.

The comic series Doc Frankenstein is about the further adventure of Frankenstein's monster and I've only seen pieces of it so can't say if it's any good on the whole, but it has a wonderfully amusing segment in issue #4 in which a fairy narrates an alternate history of the growth of Christianity where Yahweh is an arrogant physical god competing in battle with other ancient deities and Jesus is literally his son after an adulterous tryst with Mary.

If you like Star Wars enough to dip into the expanded universe, there is a series of three books written about intersecting characters and events. Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, Tales from Jabba's Palace, and Tales of the Bounty Hunters. The Cantina one intersect with the cantina scene in the first movie and follows the lives of the minor characters who were there at the time. Same with the Jabba Palace scene, and the bounty hunter book follows the hunters that Darth Vader assembles to chase the Millennium Falcon in the Empire Strikes Back.

If you like that kind of collaborative style where different authors write intersecting short stories, I'd also recommend the original anthologies of Thieves' World books as being a particularly well put together setting and series.

You might also check POV Sequel and The Rashomon articles on TV Tropes for anything that gets missed in this thread.
posted by CheshireCat at 1:23 PM on January 21, 2009

Oh and one more: there's always Auden's The Sea and the Mirror, his reimagining of The Tempest. I didn't include it at first since I was thinking of novels, but if you're counting plays from plays then why not poems? Antonio and Caliban in particular are changed from how they appear in the original.
posted by felix grundy at 2:32 PM on January 21, 2009

Anxious Pleasures takes on Kafka's Metamorphosis from several viewpoints.

You mentioned Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead yourself, but if you haven't seen the movie by chance, it's worth grabbing, as it adds some fun stuff that's not in the original.
posted by Su at 3:26 PM on January 21, 2009

Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike was another interesting retelling of Hamlet.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:33 PM on January 21, 2009

Response by poster: What a great list. Can you mark a whole thread as "Best Answer"?

Thanks, everybody!
posted by yankeefog at 6:31 AM on January 22, 2009

Mr Timothy has very little to do with A Christmas Carol, but is still definitely worth reading.

Gilligan's Wake, which lots of people seemed to hate but I quite like, doesn't so much retell Gilligan's Island as abuse it Pynchon-style. It gets a bit manic pixie dream girl at times, but lots of nice things do.

Ovid's Heroides are a set of angry letters from the women of Greek myth to the heroes who disrupted their lives.

Some more recommendations in this question.
posted by fidelity at 11:21 AM on January 22, 2009

A Thousand Acres is a retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear. It's both a book and movie.
posted by soelo at 11:47 AM on January 22, 2009

Doesn't The Hours re-tell the story of Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway"? Or does the novel just make an appearance in Cunningham's book.
posted by skyper at 6:02 AM on January 23, 2009

The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley re-tells the fall of Troy from Cassandra's perspective

Same with Cassandra by Christa Wolf. Her essays explaining her take on the story are great too.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 4:01 PM on January 26, 2009

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