It seems to me that in recent years people have been unable to decide whether before (“before” mostly means “when we were children”) we were better or worse.

Apparently we were better because the air was cleaner, the food “more organic” (I often hear “Yeah, well, we ate cracklings and bacon, but at least they were homemade.”), The kids were more cultured and better brought up, and so on.

On the other hand, it used to be much worse for us because, among other things, we had aggressive cartoons in which the actors soldered pans, chased rifles, waited with dynamite and mutilated each other in many other creative ways.

Today we supposedly have better cartoons. They are so much better and more meaningful that children, if they intend to grow up to be normal people, are not allowed to watch them even 10% of the time we probably watched them as soon as our parents got our first video recorders and enrolled in video stores.

Apparently there was something wrong with the fairy tales we grew up with, because today we have new, improved, softened, enlightened, corrected, politically correct, etc.

I’m not complaining. While reading some of the stories from the booklets “Fairy Tales in the Picture”, I found myself simultaneously inventing some more digestible details of the story. Also, books inspired by classic fairy tales have been among my favorite books to read this year.

I have been really looking forward to every book by Jessie Burton so far; because of “The Miniaturist” and “The Muse” she became one of those authors whose books I will faithfully buy while I am alive.

When I learned that this third title is a re-told fairy tale that the Brothers Grimm had long ago included in their collection, my happiness had no end.

The book “The Restless Girls” is the author’s attempt to correct many injustices that seem to sting us more and more in these classic fairy tales that are perverted, cruel, dishonest, mostly towards their female characters.

All the king ever wanted was for his girls to go to sleep, because he believed that only in their dreams could they be safe. (That, and they were easier to manage than when they were awake.)


The fairy tale known as “The Worn-out Dancing Shoes” or “Die zertanzten Schuhe”, in short, tells of twelve daughters, all more beautiful than each other, who slept in the same room whose the king would lock the door in the evening – for who knows what reason (it is not written in the original fairy tale). Every morning, though the princesses were locked up and could go nowhere, the king found their shoes completely worn out.

As it was by no means clear to the king how this was possible, he offered the next reward – anyone who reveals the secret of these worn-out shoes will be offered the hand of any of his daughters and the whole kingdom, of course, once he dies. If the unfortunate man fails to reveal the secret behind the destroyed shoes in three days, he faces the death penalty.

The young men lined up one after the other and lost their hopeful heads, but no one could reveal the secret hidden by the princesses.

One day an elderly wounded soldier who could no longer serve was passing through the kingdom when an older woman met him and asked him where he was going, and he jokingly replied, “I am going to find out where and how the king’s daughters go dancing so that I can become king. “

The woman replied, “Well, that’s no problem! When one of the princesses offers you wine, don’t drink it. ” In addition, give him a magic cloak that will make him invisible.

And so the soldier went to the king and, like everyone before him, was given three days to try to unravel the secret of the worn shoes.

To cut a long story short (it’s not a spoiler because I’m not revealing details about the book “The Restless Girls”, but I remind you, like myself, of the original version of the fairy tale), the soldier tricked the princesses and for three days he followed them on their expeditions to the ball in the underground castle.

Eventually, taking out the broken twigs of the magic trees and the golden goblet he stole at the ball in the underground castle, he denounced them to their father and revealed their well-kept secret. The king kept his promise and allowed him to choose any of his daughters as a reward, so he, a cavalier, taking into account his age, chose the eldest daughter for himself.

You can only imagine the avalanche of objections that the modern feminist soul could enumerate to this story. The king treats his daughters as slaves, physically restricts their freedom of movement, threatens them with forced marriage and robs them of their future.

In one of the interviews about this book, Jessie Burton mentioned that in the original version of the fairy tale, princesses do not have their freedom, their will, they have no power, and – worst of all – they do not have their different identities. We only know that there are twelve of them and that they are beautiful.

The first thing she said that The Restless Girls dealt with was the collective identity of the princesses. In her version of the book, each princess has a name and each has a very specific set of talents and interests.

In the original fairy tale, we don’t know why the king locks his daughters in a room at night, so in The Restless Girls Jessie Burton gives us a reason that doesn’t justify the king, but gives us readers a little more context, such as “because” to our “why” “.

In the original fairy tale, too, the princesses have no power over their own destiny and the story ends the way it ends. In the book “The Restless Girls”, the author prepared something completely different for the princesses.

It is time to stand on your twenty-two feet, my loves., whether your shoes have holes in them or not.


In this way, it is rumored on the Internet, Jessie Burton corrected some injustice done to the identities of the princesses, leveled some kind of scale that was not in balance in a classic fairy tale.

I really understand the need to “clean up” some things for a certain audience, and it’s great that some classic stories get a newer version. It only bothers me, for some reason, that somehow between the lines there is a kind of belittling of the classic version of the fairy tale. If you local feminist doesn’t approve, it seems, it should all be discarded.

If I could, I would ask her why, in order to offer the princesses an equal position in the book in relation to male characters, she decided to completely erase from the fairy tale the twelve princes, also nameless, with whom the princesses went to the ball in the underground castle? Not only did she not give them names and professions and interests and talents, but she completely erased them from the story?

Besides, why was it forgotten that just one woman helped a soldier outwit a princess? Without her, the soldier would never have succeeded in his intention and one of the sisters would never have had to marry against his will and the eleven other sisters would not have had to give up their midnight adventures with the mysterious princes forever.

I even read a number of outrages over the fact that a man – our soldier in this case – was following (sounds creepier when I write “was stalking” right?) our poor princess. But nowhere did I read the outrage over the fact that the princesses had poisoned the young men’s drinks, knowing that they would be sentenced to certain death in three days. Yeah, where are we now?

Just because I had fun with questions like this doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book – I did; that doesn’t mean I blame her very much – I don’t blame her at all. The story is positive and inspiring and beautifully written and I really enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the magical landscapes that the princesses went through on their way to the mysterious underground castle. I liked that in her version of the fairy tale she somehow brought their mother back to them and that she added a few more character dimensions to their father.

Do I experience “The Restless Girls” necessarily as a better version of the original fairy tale? Well, I can’t say that, especially because I feel that Burton’s version misses the idea of equality a bit and that, in a way, Jessie Burton tells one story, but that by rewriting it and throwing out some elements, she sent a completely opposite message.

“We must keep walking, ” said Frida. “The adventure isn’t over yet.”


I think each of these versions can trigger its own storm of questions and debates and that these two storms can only partially overlap.

Still, despite everything, I think I know which version of the fairy tale will live longer and continue to be recognized as “the real one” although some future children will be able to show exactly which parts of it would, in the context of their reality, be completely absurd.

“The girls weren’t alone in this: the world is full of children picking up their parents’ crumbs.”


At least I hope that they will be able to.

42 thoughts on “THE RESTLESS GIRLS by Jessie Burton”

  1. This is really interesting. I think it’s far better to use fairy tales to spark debate than eradicate their origins. Have you read Phillip Pullman’s Grimm Tales? It gives a preamble to each one about its origins. Really interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am going to look for “The Restless Girls” and give it a read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! I look forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Worn-out Dancing Shoes is a story I’ve read and watched in cartoon form. My kids didn’t really think much into it. I think people tend to overthink and analyze these days although some of the fairy tales of the past were a bit cruel.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is interesting, the way things have changed. I remember a lot of fairy stories being sad, Thumbelina used to make me cry. We can look back and say things were different then but whether they were better depends on our outlook. Some fairy tales were downright cruel.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I would like Jessie Buton’s version of it, just because it seems to really bring out the plot more. I think if you say A, then you have to say B and in your review, everyone was up to something, so that is enjoyable to me. I do not think we have to create every story one way, that’s missing the point of creativity and it’s up to the buyer to decide if he/she/they want to read it. Don’t like, don’t read I think. Love this review!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an interesting story. At least the story is not, well, ghastly. I’ve heard most fairytales, at least their original versions, are far from being the bright and colorful stories that we know them to be. They are dark and violent, with some even bordering grotesque.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This seems an interesting book. Would you recommend it for a young teens?

    Speaking of childhood, I am happy that I got one of the most memorable one, even we have less.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I understand your idea behind the classic fairytales. However, I believe that one standing argument of classics is that it withstands the test of time and remains relevant among the days. If a story begins to contradict or restrict the current times, wouldn’t be time to retire the “classic”?

    a latte of blessings & sparkles, Jeanie{CoffeeGirl.Blog ☕️

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I believe the Restless Girls is a wonderful reminder of the power of imagination to restore hope – will grab mine the next time I’ll visit bookstore

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow what an interesting read. I do think its half and half times in the past were better and simplier but then times now can seem more innovative and even safer so its all perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I like fairytale stories, I love reading and watching them as well. Yes Jessie Burton’s books are always very interesting and engaging as well. I need to get this book for my family’s library which I would do anytime I visit the bookstore.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve seen tons of fairy tales (ones interpreted by Disney) and compared them to the originals and I think it’s mind blowing how Disney can may it lighter and kid friendly. The original Little Mermaid still give me creeps! The Restless Girls seems like something that I would enjoy though!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s