Reimagining Immortality: The Artistic Power of Retellings of Classics and Mythology By Shruthi Ravichandran

In the age of BookTok and Bookstagram, retellings have emerged as a creative force in the literary world, offering a fresh perspective on timeless tales and capturing the imagination of readers. With an ever-growing following, these artistic interpretations resurrect age-old narratives, breathing life into them, and shaping them for the modern age.


By revealing timeless principles that cut across decades and yet speak to audiences today, retellings allow readers to immerse themselves in well-known stories in new and intriguing ways. Themes such as love, loss, identity, and power transcend time, and retellings offer a chance to rediscover these stories in contemporary contexts. For instance, Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Hag-seed present alternative viewpoints on classic narratives, demonstrating the timeless nature of the themes and their adaptability to modern audiences.


By challenging the established narratives through presenting alternative viewpoints and untold stories, they expand our understanding of the original works, encouraging critical thinking and a deeper engagement with the text. Female authors, in particular, have claimed agency in the reimagining of classic tales, amplifying the voices of women in mythology and offering fresh interpretations of their roles in the narrative. Works like The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee and Kaikeyi: A novel by Vaishnavi Patel exemplify this, by exploring the marginalised characters and examining the narratives through a contemporary lens. They are revealing the complexities of the female experience to provide an opportunity to reevaluate and reinterpret the stories that have shaped our cultural heritage.


The versatility of classic stories to be skilfully reimagined by authors across time, genre and cultural borders is evidence of their flexibility. There are many different ways to convey a story: from poetry and books to stage plays and movies. They thereby expose classic stories to those who might not have otherwise heard them, and reach new audiences. Jean Rhys’s retelling of Jane EyreWide Sargasso Sea, Vishal Bhardwaj’s adaptation of HamletHaider, are famous illustrations of how writers can rework classic stories to speak to current issues and connect with readers.

The power of adaptation lies in its ability to reimagine the classics in a way, that is both faithful to the original material and innovative approach. By doing so, authors are able to create new and enthralling interpretations of classics, making them accessible to a wider audience and ensuring their continued relevance in the literary world.


Through offering alternate perspectives and undiscovered stories, encouraging critical thinking and broadening our comprehension of the original works, retellings challenge traditional narratives. In doing so, they illuminate the voices and viewpoints that were previously suppressed or marginalised and provide more complex and inclusive readings of the classics. This is noticeable in the narratives that centre on historically marginalised groups like LGBTQ+ people, people of colour, and female characters.

"...retellings challenge traditional narratives."

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes, for example, pique readers’ interest in the Trojan War and inspire them to connect with the epic poem Iliad and other works from Greek mythology.


Retellings serve as guardians of cultural heritage, safeguarding cultural legacy by preserving the stories of mythology and folklore for both current and future generations to enjoy. Retellings enhance the variety of viewpoints that influence our sense of cultural identity by focusing on the voices that were frequently marginalised in the original tales.

By reimagining and retelling these tales, authors breathe new life into ancient myths and legends, ensuring that they continue to resonate with contemporary audiences. Retellings such as Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow (2 book series), The City of Brass (Daevabad Trilogy) of S.A. Chakraborty, both inspired by folktales and legend, demonstrate the potential of these stories to inspire new generations of readers and storytellers.

"By reimagining and retelling these tales, authors breathe new life into ancient myths and legends, ensuring that they continue to resonate with contemporary audiences."

Renditions of these hold artistic power because they can create a sense of shared heritage, foster significant conversations, and act as a bridge between the past and present. These inventive interpretations will continue to influence our comprehension of literature and encourage involvement with the timeless themes they cover, as long as readers and the storytellers explore the creative potential of retellings.

In conclusion, retellings possess a unique artistic power that allows us to reimagine and immortalise timeless narratives. By exploring the relevance of timeless themes, shaping perspectives, adapting classic narratives, fostering engagement, and preserving cultural heritage, retellings showcase the enduring power of literature in capturing the essence of human experience. Also, through the renditions, they ensure that the stories and myths that have shaped our understanding of the world continue to resonate with the contemporary audiences by providing a shared understanding and cultural touchstone that transcends generations and cultural boundaries.

"...retellings showcase the enduring power of literature in capturing the essence of human experience."

If you’re interested, there are some notable renditions of classics and mythology that will pique your interest:

Asura by Anand Neelakantan - retelling of the Indian epic, The Ramayana, through the viewpoint of the villain. Through Ravana’s eyes, experience how one tragic act can alter the subcontinent’s historical trajectory.

Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw-retelling of Arthurian romance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty - retellings of the classic One Thousand and One Nights but set in the futuristic magical Middle Eastern kingdom.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint - retelling of the Greek mythology, story of Cretan princess Ariadne.

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi- retelling of Black American narrative of racism in a dystopian world/ Sci-Fi.