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Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins  by Emma Donoghue



Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins  (UK title, Kissing the Witch) (New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 1997), my third book of fiction and first story collection, is a sequence of thirteen re-imagined fairytales, inspired by traditional European sources (Brothers Grimm, Perrault, Hans Anderson).  Published for adults in the UK and for young adults in the US, it was shortlisted for a James Tiptree Award and named an ALA Popular Paperback for Young Adults.

I adapted the book into a play of the same name that premiered in 2000.

‘The Tale of the Shoe’ is based on the Grimms’ folk tale of Cinderella.

‘The Tale of the Bird’ is based on Hans Andersen’s Thumbelina.

‘The Tale of the Rose’ is based on Madame le Prince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast.

‘The Tale of the Apple’ is based on the Grimms’ folk tale of Snow White.

‘The Tale of the Handkerchief’ is based on the Grimms’ folk tale of the Goose Girl.

‘The Tale of the Hair’ is based on the Grimms’ folk tale of Rapunzel.

‘The Tale of the Brother’ is based on Hans Andersen’s Snow Queen.

‘The Tale of the Spinster’ is based on the Grimms’ folk tale of Rumpelstilskin and similar stories of magical helpers.

‘The Tale of the Cottage’ is based on the Grimms’ folk tale of Hansel and Gretel.

‘The Tale of the Skin’ is based on the Grimms’ folk tale of Donkeyskin.

‘The Tale of the Needle’ is based on Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty.

‘The Tale of the Voice’ is based on Hans Andersen’s Little Mermaid.

‘The Tale of the Kiss’ is not based on any source text, but suggested by various folk motifs about oracles and magic helpers, discussed in Marina Warner’s From the Beast to the Blonde.


A personal note: Kissing the Witch is the easiest book I’ve ever written - a delight from start to finish – which I can only attribute to the fact that I took all its storylines from the ultimate plot-mistress, the Oral Tradition.  Since I’ve been obsessed with fairytales (their repetitions and variations) since early childhood, it was deeply satisfying to try my hand at my own versions here.  My method was mostly metaphorical: what if Thumbelina wasn’t actually small, she just felt small? It was the late Roisin Conroy of Attic Press, Ireland’s feminist publishing house, who suggested the project, even though I went on to publish it elsewhere.  Oddly enough, I wrote the collection for adults, but when it was published as a young adult book in the US – despite my strong reservations – it won me a whole new young audience.  One aspect of Kissing the Witch which I must admit was initially a simple ploy to link the stories and so make them more marketable – the device of having each be told by its protagonist to the protagonist of the previous story – has turned out to be the part that intrigues academics most.


To buy Kissing the Witch

In the US, paperback: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Kissing-Witch-Emma-Donoghue/


In the UK/Ireland/Australia, ebook:  http://www.panmacmillan.com/book/emmadonoghue/kissingthewitch?format=978144724814901


In Canada, paperback: http://harpercollins.ca/books/Kissing-Witch-Emma-Donoghue/?isbn=9780064407724



Kissing the Witch is written with luscious words you want to roll around on your tongue... Donoghue transmutes base vignettes into gold.' – New York Times Book Review

‘These bold rewritings of fairy tales from the perspectives of their female protagonists are salvaged from the political soap-box by Donoghue's sense of humour and delight in the rhythmic mythologies of the genre. ... An original and playful endeavour.' – Guardian

'A daring, woman-identified revisitation of fairytale land ... a book to be read for its language, for an altered perception, given as a gift between lovers.' – Irish Times

'Stunning tales... The shock of self-determination, the courage it demands, and the poignant hope of finding yourself created new in the love of another - these are truths profound, universal and certainly not gender-specific.' – Boston Globe



Een Kus Voor de Heks (Amsterdam/Antwerpen: Atlas, 1997)
Besar la Bruixa (Barcelona: Laertes, 2000)
Il Bacio della Strega (Padova: Meridiano Zero, 2007)


Hawk Chang, 'Teaching Fairytales Old and New: Revisiting Andersen Via Emma Donoghue,' in Changing English (19 Oct 203), https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1358684X.2023.2261381?src=

Tsung Chi (Hawk) Chang, ‘ “A Mute Clamor for Release”: Rewriting Andersen in Emma Donoghue’s “The Tale of the Bird”,’ in Traditions and Difference in Contemporary Irish Short Fiction (Springer, 2020), pp.43-50, https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-33-4316-0_4

Priyanka Banerjee & Rajni Singh, ‘Revisioning Madame Beaumont’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in Emma Donoghue’s ‘the Tale of the Rose’ and the 2017 Disney Version: A Queer Reading,’ Journal of Language, Literature, and Culture, 67 (2020), pp.190-97, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/20512856.2020.1851161?journalCode=yjli20

MarÍa Amor Barros-del Río, 'Revisiting Fairy-Tale Land through a Gender Lens in Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch,' in Contemporary Fairy-Tale Magic: Subverting Gender and Genre (Brill-Rodopi, 2020), pp. 21-31.

María Amor Barros-del Río and Elena Alcalde Peñalver, "Ideological Transfer in the Translation Activity: Power and Gender in Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch," in Gender Approaches in the Translation Classroom, ed. Marcella De Marco and Piero Toto (Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2019), 145-165.

Carmen Nolte-Odhiambo, Unhoming the Child: Queer Paths and Precarious Futures in Kissing the Witch,’ in Pacific Coast Philology 53:2 (2018), 239-50

François Dassise Kheyane Tine, ‘Translation as Recreation: Interrogating Heteronormativity in Emma Donoghue’s “The Tale of the Rose”, in Bridges (Dec 2018).

M. A. Barros-del Rio, ‘Emma Donoghue’s and James Finn Garner’s Rebellious Cinderellas: Feminism and Satire for Empowerment in Contemporary Fairy Tales,’ in International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 7:5 (2018), 239-246.

Martina Zammit,The shoe might not always fit: gender and diversity in fairy-tales and contemporary retellings,’ BA dissertation, University of Malta, 2018 https://www.um.edu.mt/library/oar//handle/123456789/34953

Cemre Mimoza Bartu, ‘The Fairy Godmother is in Love with the Princess: Lesbian Desire in the Rewritten Fairy Tales of Emma Donoghue’, in DTCF Dergisi Journal, 57:1 (2017), 383-406

Derek Newman-Stille (Trent), "`Delusions about Happily Ever Afters': Emma Donoghue's `The Tale of the Shoe'", paper delivered at ACCSFF (York University Canada). 2017

Derek Newman-Stille (Trent), “Unseen Transitions: Queerness and Disability in Emma Donoghue’s “The Tale of the Hair”, paper delivered at American Folklore Society AGM (Minneapolis), October 2017.

Vanessa Joosen, “Emma Donoghue,” Folktales and Fairy Tales: Traditions and Texts from around the World, 2nd Edition [4 volumes], edited by Anne E. Duggan, Donald Haase, and Helen Callow (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2016), 273-4.

Lewis C. Seifert, “Gay and Lesbian Tales.” Folktales and Fairy Tales: Traditions and Texts from around the World, 2nd Edition [4 volumes], Edited by Anne E. Duggan, Donald Haase, and Helen Callow (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2016), 398-99.

Dearbhla McGrath, 'Marginal Identities: Representations of Sexuality in The Tale of the Rose from Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch,' in Ecrivaines Irlandaises / Irish Women Writers (Caen, 2016), pp.179-89

Ashley Riggs, ‘Multiple Metamorphoses, or “New Skins” for an Old Tale: Emma Donoghue’s Queer Cinderella in Translation,’ in Cinderella Across Cultures. New Directions and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, ed. by Martine Hennard Dutheil de la Rochère, Gillian Lathey and Monika Wozniak (Wayne State University Press, 2016).

Debbie Brouckmans, 'The Short Story Cycle in Ireland: From Jane Barlow to Donal Ryan', PhD thesis (U of Leuven) 2015, https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/34624902.pdf

Abigail L. Palko, '“No mother nor nothing to me”: Excavating the Maternal Figure in Kissing the Witch', Women's Studies, 44:7 (2015), 917-939

Lauren Naturale, 'Throwback Thursday: Rediscovering Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch', 18 June 2015, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/throwback-thursday-rediscovering-emma-donoghues-kissing-the-witch/

Lucia Morera (University of Zaragoza), ' "I am no monster under my skirts": Rewritings of the 'Other' in Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch (1997),' paper deliveired at Eire/Ireland and Dysfunction AEDEI Conference (University of Deusto, 2014).

Violeta Magaña Monterde, ‘Lesbian Relationships in Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins,’ (thesis, University of Zaragoza, 2014) https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/289978596.pdf

Ashley Riggs, 'Thrice upon a Time: Feminist Fairy-Tale Rewritings by Angela Carter and Emma Donoghue, and their French Translations,' PhD 2014, https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:41561

Maryna Romanets (University of Northern British Columbia), 'The monstrous-queer meets the monstrous-feminine: Revisionary intertextuality in Emma Donoghue and Oksana Zabuzhko,' paper delivered at Australasian Conference for Irish Studies (Sydney 2013)

Vanessa Joosen, Critical and Creative Perspectives on Fairy Tales (Wayne State University Press, 2013), discusses Kissing the Witch pp.14, 24, 86, 90, 98-99, 114-17, 221-23

Libe García Zarranz, ‘Intertextuality, Parody and Jouissance in Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch,’ in Voicing Dissent: New Voices in Irish Criticism (Irish Academic Press, 2012)

Raffaele Cutolo, "Voice and Identity in the Fairy Tale: Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch", in Pólemos, 2012; 6(2), De Gruyter, Berlin, pp. 207-223.

Brenna Everson, ‘Connections Between Women: Emma Donoghue’s Modern Adaptations of Seventeenth-Century French Fairy Tales,’ paper delivered at Hybrid Irelands conference (University of Notre Dame, 2012)

Jacqui Weeks, ‘Redefining Magic: Emma Donoghue and the Irish 'Fairy' Tale Tradition', paper delivered at Hybrid Irelands conference (University of Notre Dame, 2012)

Selen Aktari, Abject Representatons of Female Desire in Carter’s ‘Tiger Bride’ and Donoghue’s ‘Tale of the Rose’, paper delivered at The Gothic: Exploring Critical Issues Conference (Warsaw, 2011)

Jennifer Orme, ‘Mouth to Mouth: Queer Desires in Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch,’ in Marvels & Tales, 24:1 (2010), 116-30. A particularly fruitful analysis.

Selen Aktari, ‘Abject Representations of Female Desire in Postmodern British Female Gothic Fiction’, DPhil thesis (Middle East Technical University, 2010).

Dallas J Baker, ‘Monstrous Fairtales: Towards an Ecriture Queer’, in COLLOQUY (Monash University), 2010.

Karlyn Crowley, ‘Feminist Frauds on the Fairies? Didacticism and Liberation in Recent Retellings of “Cinderella”’,  Marvels & Tales (July 2010).

Ann Martin, ‘Generational Collaborations in Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins,’ in Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 35:1 (Spring 2010), 4-25.

Martine Hennard Dutheil de la Rochere, ‘Queering the Fairy Tale Canon: Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch,’ in Fairytale Reimagined: Essays on New Retellings, ed. Susan Redington Bobby and Kate Bernheimer (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009).

Libe García Zarranz, ‘Landscapes of Transgression in Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch,’ paper delivered at Women in Irish Culture and History Conference (University College Dublin, 2006).

Angela Slatter, ‘Black-Winged Angels: Theoretical Underpinnings’ (A Short Story Collection and Exegesis), 2006, http://eprints.qut.edu.au/16351/2/Angela_Slatter_Exegesis.pdf

Ann Martin, ‘Skinning the Wolf in Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch,’ paper delivered at ACCUTE Conference (York University, Toronto, 2006).

Elizabeth Marshall, ‘“Fairy tale girlhoods in Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch,’ paper delivered at Women’s Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley (2005).

Fiorenzo Fantaccini, ‘”Old Tales in New Skins”: le fiabre in genere di Emma Donoghue’, in Le Riscritture del Postmoderno: Percorsi Angloamericani, ed. by Ornella De Zordo and Fiorenzo Fantaccini (Bari: Palomar, 2002).

Jack Zipes, Sticks and Stones: The Troublesome Success of Children’s Literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter (New York and London: Routledge, 2001), 121-23. Focuses on ‘The Tale of the Spinster’.

Elizabeth Wanning Harries, Twice Upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 129-134.

Susan Sellers, ‘Bodies of Power: Beauty Myths in Tales by Marina Warner, Emma Donoghue, Sheri Tepper and Alice Thompson’, in Myth and Fairy Tale in Contemporary Women’s Fiction (New York: Palgrave, 2001).

Maria Micaela Coppola, ‘The Gender of Fairies: Emma Donoghue and Angela Carter as Fairy Tale Performers’, in Textus: English Studies in Italy, XIV:1 (2001).

Cori Marx, ‘A feminist rhetorical criticism of Emma Donoghue’s Tale of the Apple’, MA thesis (South Dakota State University, 1998).

'Writing Her Own Fairy Tale', Sunday Independent, 14 September 1997

'Feminist Fables,' Diva, June 1997

Jen Nessel, 'Kissing the Witch,' New York Times Book Review, 21 September 1997

Jane Humphries, 'Girlpower,' Books Ireland, Summer 1997

Beatrice Colin, 'Present and Correct,' Scotsman, 31 May 1997

Evelyn Conlon, 'Seeped in a Special Magic,' Sunday Tribune, 4 May 1997

Fintan O’Toole, 'Girl Meets Girl,' Irish Times, 30 April 1997