Volume X, Number 2, Fall 2014

"Novels Strike Back – Adaptation from Motion Pictures into Novels" by Emma Bálint

Emma Bálint is a PhD student at the Institute of English and American Studies, University of Szeged. Her research interests include American cinema, fairy tale studies and adaptation studies. Email:


Novelization, the translation of films (and other visual media) into novels, is a commercial tie-in product that, although includes such classics as the Star Wars and part of the James Bond saga, has never truly been recognized as a mainstream literary work of art and as a significant area of research (Baetens 2007, 226). While the adaptation of written texts into films has entered into academic discourse in the past few decades, theories and discussions of novelizations, despite the success and profitability of the genre, are still practically obscure in the academic context. The few exceptions, as, for example, Randall D. Larson’s Films into Books (1995), “the first [and only] in-depth comprehensive examination of” novelization in the English language and socio-cultural context (Larson xii), approach the subject primarily from a historical or institutional perspective, and in spite of their efforts, ultimately trivialize the process and once again diminish the novelization’s literary value. In this essay, however, I will take what Jan Baetens has termed the poetic approach “to define what distinguishes novelization from other kinds of adaptation in the field of cinema and literature” (2010, 52). I aim to demonstrate that the changes made to narratives in the process of their transformation from audio-visual (or from scripts created to be interpreted visually) into written texts render the novelization an essential subgenre of adaptation that is worth studying in the contexts of film studies and literary studies alike.

Although the function of this marginalized literary genre appears to be merely to “complement, illuminate, elucidate their movies” (Larson xii), a scrutiny of the differences between a film and its novelization from a narratological point of view can demonstrate the significance of the practice and establish novelization as a standalone literary genre. I aim to demonstrate this through the examination and comparison of two fairy tale films, namely Red Riding Hood (dir. Catherine Hardwicke, Warner Bros. Entertainment, 2011) and Snow White and the Huntsman (dir. Rupert Sanders, Roth Films, 2012). I will consider both their novelizations in printed book form, Red Riding Hood (2011) written by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) written by Lily Blake, and the fairy tales that served as their sources in their oldest written versions, that is, Charles Perrault’s 1697 rendering of “Little Red Riding Hood” (as recorded in Alan Dundes’ 1989 casebook, Little Red Riding Hood), and “Little Snow-White” written by the Brothers Grimm in 1812 (available on the University of Pittsburgh’s Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts website). Although both films, and subsequently their novelizations as well, have been influenced by other adaptations, each of these narratives can be traced back to these early versions, especially since their imageries are evocative of a world associated with fairy tales, set in a simplistic Middle Ages milieu. Fidelity, the most longstanding aspect of studying adaptations, however, with its comparative grading of faithfulness and hierarchical, bimedial approach is an oversimplified and obsolete approach for the study of novelizations. I propose that besides intertextuality (Hutcheon 8), some sort of cultural translation is also taking place in the shaping of these revised narratives.

In the light of Thomas M. Leitch’s criticism of contemporary adaptation studies for focusing on case studies instead of allowing them to simply illustrate the subject matters in question (2003, 150), I will pay ample attention to the theories on novelization before turning to the discussion of the case studies. In addition, instead of providing case studies that merely describe the two media involved (Murray 4), I will focus on their interaction, as well as their contextualization and connection to previous conceptualizations of the same narratives. In the process, I hope to find answers to these questions: what is the process of novelization; how do novelizations relate to the films they are based on; and how does the method of novelization differ from that of adaptation from text to film? My greater objective is to study a special case, the transformation of well-known fairy tales into films and subsequently into novels within a contemporary American context. Thus, I wish to shed light on the process and cultural value of novelization from a narratological perspective, a point of view that has not yet been given much attention even among the few existing analyses of novelizations.

Novelization: history, genealogy, and contemporary typology

Novelization, or, in marketing terms, the movie tie-in book, is a greatly constrained piece of literature, which entails the transformation of the ostensibly dynamic medium of the motion picture into the static, analogue representation of the novel, and is published around the release date of the big-budget film it is based on. It fulfills its role as a commercial product by advertising the film even in bookstores (Larson xi), and consequently, is often likened to genres of lowbrow literature, such as pulp fiction; although the possibility of providing background information and extending the story make it more comparable to extras of special features on DVDs. The fact that for some scholars “novelization encompasses any [film-related] text that is novelistic or in book format” (Van Parys 2011, ¶ 12) demonstrates the difficulty of establishing a firm definition for the genre. While “the flourishing ‘novelization’ industry today cannot be ignored” (Hutcheon 38), their critical and academic receptions have been “noticeably cool” (Allison ¶ 2), and “the genre continues to be either completely ignored or despised by literary scholars and film theoreticians, not only by those who never read this type of literature, but also by those who produce it and who often refuse to sign it with their own name” (Baetens 2007, 227). Although they are “literary works in their own right (in the sense that no knowledge of the film is required to enjoy them),” Jonathan Coe’s oft-quoted description of the novelization as “that bastard, misshapen offspring of the cinema and the written word” (Mahlknecht 139) is particularly telling.

However, the dynamic relationship between the aesthetic and the commercial, the cultural and the material domains make them an interesting and timelessly informative subject (Murray 10-11). Van Parys claims that since “cinema has replaced literature as the centre of the cultural system, literature has increasingly needed to define and position itself in relation to cinema” (2011, ¶ 15). The pictorial turn, however, is not merely a movement towards visuality, but “a postlinguistic, postsemiotic rediscovery of the picture as a complex interplay between visuality, apparatus, institutions, discourse, bodies, and figurality,” with ample emphasis on authorship, spectatorship and interpretation (Baetens 2005, 43). “As a literary genre, novelization is easy to define: it is the novelistic adaptation of an original film or, more specifically, of the screenplay of this film. As a cultural practice, however, novelization is hardly known, given its lack of prestige, therefore its near-absence in the scholarly field” (Baetens 2010, 51). From the readers’ perspectives, novelizations offer the possibility to reexperience and even expand on their knowledge of a film’s narrative and the characters within it (Larson 40); but from a cultural theoretical point of view, they do much more, by demonstrating “the shift from independent media to media environments” (Baetens 2007, 234). According to Jan Baetens, these films-into-novels embody a significant type of “systematic adaptation ([where] the focus is no longer the work but the relations obtaining between different works) within a mobile system in which power is now on the side of the image” (2005, 56). What is more, they form a major source of information for both scholars and consumers:

As historical documents they can be of use when considering a film’s developmental process. They also provide alternative readings of the film script and may, by extension, help to enrich a viewer’s retrospective relationship with the film itself. Thirdly, they offer an avenue for exploring the differing narrational forms and capabilities of the two media. (Allison ¶ 8)

In the first part of this essay, I will describe in detail the historical origins and contemporary forms of the genre, and explore the first two purposes identified by Allison, primarily within the American context. These will help in getting the reader acquainted with the unpopular phenomenon known as novelization, and pave the way for two case studies focusing on the narrative potentials of each medium.

History and genealogy

Novelizations, similarly to films, should be studied together with their “national and linguistic contexts” (Baetens 2007, 231), for their uses, models, and even their writing quality vary in each cultural context and time period. By looking at the history of novelization, not only can we learn more about the development of the novelization as a genre, but also discover that “the early novelization also sheds light on the relations between literature and film in the early twentieth century” (Van Parys 2009, 307). What Dudley Andrew maintains in relation to filmic adaptations of literature stands for novelizations as well: they all developed in a certain way so that they would fulfill different functions throughout their history, at the same time conforming to or commenting on the style symptomatic of each time period (Braudy & Cohen 378).

Although it is disputed when and where the novelization originates from (Baetens 2010, 52), its history arguably started with the turning of George Wilkins’s and William Shakespeare’s 1608 play, Pericles, Prince of Tyre into a novel (Van Parys 2009, 309). It should be noted that Shakespeare “didn’t see it as his job to make up stories, but to tell stories better than they had been told” (A. C. H. Smith qtd. in Larson 40), which not only demonstrates the importance of intertextuality, but also posits Shakespeare’s plays as loose adaptations. Play novelizations, the predecessors of film novelizations, often included photographs, and were quite popular throughout the 19th century (Hendrix 46). They reached their heyday between 1900 and 1915 and lived a brief revival in the 1960s, but have always received the same scorn as other forms of novelization (Van Parys 2009, 309).

Film novelizations, similarly to filmic adaptations of literature, appeared as soon as motion pictures themselves, although with a completely different purpose (Allison ¶ 2; Mahlknecht 138; Van Parys 305), and have been a constant though varying addendum to films ever since (Baetens 2007, 228). The origins of film novelizations can be located in the concise catalog descriptions of the films of Lumiére and Edison (227), which were already used to identify and promote their films (Mahlknecht 144). These “protonovelizations,” however, without aspiring to literary goals, were “purely functional and not yet fictional texts” (Baetens 2010, 53), which explained the contents and visual attractions of films in an ekphrastic way, similarly to contemporary film reviews and synopses, appearing as intermedial translations rather than adaptations of their source texts (Leitch 2012, ¶ 29). Like its literary predecessor, the nineteenth-century melodrama, novelization also “emphasizes narrative at the expense of description, psychological analysis, and all material […] not directly relevant to the story” (Baetens 2010, 54). As the successful replacement of the cinema of attractions with narrative cinema also demonstrates, new cultural objects at the beginning of the twentieth century had “to obey the triple law of novelty, seriality, and adaptation” in order to be successful (Baetens 2005, 52), all of which have been features of novelizations ever since.

The first film novelizations appeared in newspapers and magazines, but in the 1920s and 1930s, novelizations started to gain some prestige and were moved from newsstands into bookstores (Baetens 2010, 53-54). Hollywood novelizations achieved their first great triumph with King Kong (1932) written by Merian C. Cooper, “and continued for decades as a fan service, mostly with the names of the stars emblazoned across their covers” (Hendrix 46); so much so that between the 1920s and 1950s, almost every film had some kind of written retelling to accompany and advertize it (Van Parys 2009, 307). Also starting with the 1920s, avant-garde writers (especially the Surrealists) and writers of novelizations have begun an ongoing struggle to develop a unique style for the genre, culminating in the early 1950s’ film-as-writing movement (which coincides with the birth of the auteur theory), when shooting scripts and book-long interviews with directors were published as standalone literary works of art, and cinematographic authors were urged to write creative and insightful novelizations of their own films known as ciné-romans, as well as novelizations in verse (Baetens 2007, 228-29). As Adrienne L. McLean points out, the years of Hollywood’s studio system were also the heyday of the movie story magazine (4), which, however popular with audiences and readers, still maintained a low cultural status (Baetens 2007, 228). These “matter-of-fact rendering[s] of ‘this happened, then that happened, then this happened’” (McLean, 14) provided “preview fictionizations of movies,” as opposed to the function of contemporary novelizations “to prolong or extend the time-bound experience of the film or television text” (6). The elimination of the Production Code Administration and the consequent change of the novelizations’ source materials (19), as well as the impracticability of giving away story narratives in advance, lead to the demise of the story magazines during the 1950s (Van Parys 209, 311), and their role was taken over in the 1960s and 1970s by junior or young adult novelizations, official movie magazines, genre-specific magazines, story books, and a new, film stills-based story form (311).

Most scholars agree that “the boom years of novelizations” (Allison ¶ 2) were the 1960s and 1970s, with the new possibility of cheaply mass-produced paperbacks allowing eager moviegoers to re-live and even expand on the stories they had liked onscreen, before the invention and availability of VHS cassettes and DVDs (Baetens 2007, 227; Hendrix 46; Larson 3-4; Van Parys 2009, 314). Novelizations have thus fulfilled “a necessary step in the evolution of movies from a top-down, one-way communication from the studio to the audience, into a two-way street in which the audience feels a sense of ownership over a fictional property” (Hendrix 46). During the 1950s, book-long novelizations became more common, and had developed a uniform, more regulated and organized paperback format, which ultimately lead to the institutionalization of the genre in the 1970s (Van Parys 2009, 314-15). In the words of André Gaudreault and Philippe Marion, novelization reached its “second birth” in the form of institutional recognition, which, paradoxically, stunted its growth by eliminating any heterogeneity and malleability from it (Baetens 2005, 58-60). In opposition with these predecessors of the contemporary Hollywood novelization, which also follow “the shooting script in a rather docile way” (Baetens 2007, 229-30), and in which the “narrative play or variation is often kept to a minimum, and the film story is rendered as a third-person narrative that aims to be as dry as possible” (Van Parys 2009, 313), the 1960s also saw the rise of continuative novelizations, in which the authors color the characters’ perceptions and add motives to their actions (Allison, ¶ 18-19). During this time, telenovelization or TV novelizations, often in the form of original novels loosely based on the characters or universe of a film, were extremely widespread, but were soon on the decline in the 1980s (314). Although a few writers specialized in this genre, they usually created them out of economic necessity, since they were more of a mechanical rather than a creative nature (Larson 26), and, thus were generally considered “entertainment” and “not literature” (Angelica Aimes qtd. in Larson 29).

More recent novelizations inherited their purpose from earlier forms, and function as “promotional material before the film release as well as prolongation of the movie experience to capitalize on its potential success” (Van Parys 2009, 312). The commercial novelization “has fallen into a deadlock state under influence of the contemporary Hollywood system, which exerts considerable control on the content of film novelizations” (315), but is thriving and has contributed greatly to the empowerment and involvement of viewers in the subcultural form of amateur fan-fictions, the latest addition to this genealogical overview (Baetens 2007, 230), which have, incidentally, also partly contributed to the downfall of novelizations (Allison ¶ 2). Although contemporary novelization may appear to be “a historical anomaly, a regressive movement” that transforms a story in a newer, digital medium into an older, analogue format (Baetens 2005, 53), the survey of its history shows its continual links to the development of cinema. Since films encourage the production of and “are incomplete without accompanying texts” (Van Parys 2009, 308), it has become a general practice to adapt original films into novelizations (315). As a result, even despite the stagnated state of commercial novelizations, there are plenty alternatives within the genre, not only on the internet, but on bookshelves as well.


In the following, my focus will be on the most significant subtypes of novelizations that can be found on the contemporary American bookmarket, which is, according to Thomas Van Parys, more diverse both in terms of genre and format than the also prominent French market (2009, 308). Hollywood novelizations and film tie-ins can be discerned on the basis of three specific aspects, which will only be sketched out in general here, with a focus on the subgenres of novelization discussed the following case studies. First, novelizations can be differentiated based on the type of audio-visual composition they use as their source. “From a literal viewpoint at least, novelization is in many cases not at all an intersemiotic process of translation or transmedialisation,” but one of intramedial adaptation, as, for practical and commercial reasons, novelizations are usually based on the verbal screenplays (Van Parys 2011, ¶ 3). In this process, the job of the novelizer is to “assimilate what are more traditionally cinematic devices into their writing” (Allison ¶ 17), as the “visual sentences” (Jahn F1.4-5.) of scripts are always originally intended to be interpreted visually, that is, in filmic terms. The second type of distinction is the literary style and quality of novelizations, which primarily depends on the target audience; and the third is their relation to the films along the lines of fidelity criticism, even if this latter is a rather subjective aspect.

Firstly, while it is true that films and television shows are the most common sources of novelizations, “the very word ‘novelization’ implies that it can be derived from anything” (Van Parys 2011, ¶ 5). In addition to films, other post-literary sources, such as comic books, video games or radio programs, can also be and are indeed regularly novelized, and the resulting books are called comic book novelizations, video game novelizations, or radio novelizations, respectively. Besides, there are also other book-based tie-in products, such as official magazines, behind the scenes-, as well as making of-books, coloring books, and so on (¶ 4), which are not directly related to the narratives of the films. Even in the case of motion picture novelizations, finer distinctions are not only possible but also desirable to be made. A novelization can be based on a film, a short film, an animated film, a series of films, an episode of a television show, a number of episodes, a whole season of a TV show, a filmic genre in general, a previously published novelization, or an orphaned novelization based on a discarded script. There can also be great variability in terms of the length of the novel, or other types of forms ranging from poems to short stories to novels. Film adaptations are usually only novelized if the source text for the film was not a novel already, although even in these cases, the film is often accompanied by the original book with a new, film-related cover design, or by a new novel that incorporates the changes made to the narrative in the film (¶ 6).

Secondly, in terms of the literary style of the novelization, we can distinguish between novelization in the strictest form of a novel on the one hand, and alternatives such as the photonovel, novelizations in verse (Baetens 2010, 55), “non-fiction film books and novels that skirt around the genre of novelization, in particular novelistic film essays, reflections, or autobiographical diaries or accounts of the viewing or making of a particular film” (Van Parys 2011, ¶ 14). The literary style of the novelization is greatly dependent not only on the producers’ desires but on (the age of) its target audience as well: for example, storybooks for children are essentially shorter and purer, commercial (junior) novelization use simplified and unsophisticated language, and only the literary or highbrow novelization yearns for literary value. In addition, the latter two, namely novelization as “a mere ‘thing’ with no cultural superego, so to speak, which does not differ from other types of merchandizing” and at once benefits and suffers from a mutual exploitation with the source film, and the rare high-art types, which are based on older classical movies or genres, written by authors for completely different reasons, utilize different literary styles due to the “sociocultural tensions within the field” (Baetens 2007, 231-32). Lowbrow and highbrow novelizations can thus be differentiated on the basis of “their degree of self-consciousness” (232), or in terms of thematical (e.g. the Hollywood novel) or formal (e.g. the cinéroman) orientation (Van Parys 2011, ¶ 16).

The Hollywood novelizations “spewed out with all the grace of a hippopotamus with the flu” (Larson xi) have led the whole genre to be “dismissed as the lowest form of hackwork” (Hendrix 45). While “[t]he quality of the writing in many novelizations is certainly hard to defend” (Allison ¶ 4), it is primarily the profit-oriented external constraints imposed on them by Hollywood that bring about their deterioration. Whereas Van Parys locates the genre’s “raison d’ être” exactly in its paratext (2011, ¶ 11-12), Baetens opines that this approach decontextualizes the genre, and dismisses its cultural complexity and diversity (2007, 227). It is indubitable, however, that the easiest “way of diminishing prejudices against the genre of novelization […] lies in increasing the distance between the book and the film it adapts” (Mahlknecht 151), for example, by giving it a different title or a cover design not associable with the film (160). Since not only the content, but the writing style and the target audience as well are determined by the film producers, novelizations are denied “access to an idealized notion of literature” (150-151), and Hendrix’s answer to the question “Who is the author?” turns out to be sadly accurate: “Ultimately, it’s the boss, the man with the money” (48). In contrast, diligent novelizers try to make their adaptations more literary, for example, by narrating each chapter from a different character’s point of view (Hendrix 48), and the genre has a potential educational value as it often introduces young people to the joys of reading (Larson 44). In addition, since the writing of novelizations usually coincides with the shooting of the film (Baetens 2010, 71), changes made to the plot during production can rarely be mirrored in the novels, which “provide fascinating insights into the film’s production history” (Allison ¶ 7).

Thirdly, in terms of the connection between film and novelization, Randall D. Larson’s typology demonstrates a noticeable continuum between adaptations conforming to their source texts and other, more creative types of tie-in novels. In his pioneering book, he differentiates between three kinds of movie tie-ins: the “reissue of a previous novel that was adapted into a film,” supplemented by the visual markers of the film; the adaptation of a screenplay into prose; and original novels inspired by “a movie’s or TV series’ characters, concept, and setting” (3). Similarly, though in a more simplified way, Hendrix identifies classical movie novelizations as the ones based strictly on the film script, and tie-in novels as the ones that extend the original stories presented on the screens of cinemas, televisions, computers, and game consoles (46). According to Dudley Andrew, novels “claiming fidelity bear the original as a signified”, while novelizations of the latter category merely “stand in a relation of referring to the original” (Braudy & Cohen 372). Van Parys distinguishes between four more specific forms of continuation: “‘crossover’ novelization, which is a spin-off from two or more different series,” “the ‘interactive’ book, which leaves it to the reader what path the protagonist takes,” “the ‘meta-representational’ novelization, which concretises a certain object from the TV series,” and the “‘mise-en-abyme’ spin-off, […] essentially a play on media, [which] involves a mediatic representation – within the reality of the reader – of a fictional text or object,” even “credited to the fictitious author” (2011, ¶ 9), giving “the illusion that the diegesis extends into reality” (¶ 16) ultimately blurring, or even erasing, the borderline between fiction and reality. The “‘unofficial’ fan-produced discourse, such as zines and ‘slash’ fiction, in which fans reconfigure and recast commercial products in new and often nonnormative ways” (McLean 9), can further complicate the question of authorship, ownership and originality in relation to novelizations.

Novelizations “avoid marking the semiotic rupture that the change from film to book entails” (Baetens 2005, 49-50), mainly because there is no semiotic gap between the source and the output (Baetens 2007, 233). Despite the technical transformations involved, the novelization and the film are often interpretations of the same linguistic source in different media, ultimately transforming novelizations into “antiremedial” works (Baetens 2010, 65), or even “antiliterature” (Baetens 2005, 57). Such a binary approach to novelizations, however, offers a very limited viewpoint, and cannot account for the social and cultural transformations involved in the process (50), which is what the following case studies of two transmedially and intertextually adapted fairy tales from a narratological perspective are planned to make up for.

Case Studies

Fairy tales as we know them are the standardized literary versions of centuries-old oral wonder tales, legends, and “archetypal stories” (Sanders 2006, 82). According to Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of heteroglossia (Margaret Montalbano in Stam & Raengo 386) and Julia Kristeva’s definition of intertextuality, the meaning of an utterance depends on who is telling it, where, to whom, and to what other utterances and discourses they refer (Greenhill & Matrix 19). Accordingly, fairy tale narrators have also always changed the stories and referenced the contemporary socio-historical contexts so as to help the listeners “adapt to, know, and transform” their environments (Zipes 2006, 130-31), and to socialize, civilize (xi), and teach children the meaning of their lives and existence (Bettelheim “Introduction: The Struggle for Meaning,” ¶ 5). Their institutionalization at the end of the eighteenth century (Zipes 2006, 158), however, has put an immense amount of constraints on the genre (130), with writers cultivating the literary fairy tale “as a socially symbolic act within an institutionalized discourse of the Western civilizing process” to express “conservative tendencies with regard to gender, religion, and social class” (Zipes 2006, xi-xii). After a brief period of experimentation, which included the “féeries” of Georges Méliès (Cristian & Dragon 12) and Little Red Riding Hood (dir. Walt Disney, Walt Disney Studios, 1922) among others, Walt Disney invented the filmic counterpart of this conventional structure, first utilized in the renowned Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (dir. David Hand et al., Walt Disney Productions, 1937), which, according to Zipes, “cast a spell over the fairy tale genre—both literary and cinematic” (2006, 7).

Despite the newly uniform and sanitized structures, it is crucial to remember that fairy tales have always been “intertexts par excellence” (Greenhill & Matrix 2) that allowed their listeners and viewers to trace and explore intertextual relationships. According to Brian McFarlane, fairy tale adaptations today often take the original text to be a mere narrative resource from which they can depart (Braudy & Cohen 387), or rather, as organizational blueprints independent of any medium that can, and need to be, actualized (Chatman 403). To provide a more realistic experience (Metz in Braudy & Cohen 707), fairy tale films for adults are often set in possible historical places and employ multidimensional characters (Greenhill & Matrix 9). Furthermore, according to Bacchilega, fairy tale films posit a major conflict in terms of gender construction (41), for while “many of the protagonists of fairy tales find themselves on a threshold between childhood and adulthood, between innocence and experience in sexual terms” (Sanders 2006, 86), the filmic adaptations usually aspire only for the (male) hero to reach heterosexual maturity (Cristian & Dragon 36). While it is apparent that, in the twenty-first century, fairy tales are embedded in a “fairy-tale web,” where all texts are connected hypertextually (Bacchilega 27), or in Gérard Genette’s term, all texts are “palimpsestuous” (Sanders 2006, 12), not even Robert Stam’s notion of intertextual dialogism (Cristian & Dragon 31) can grasp the influence of the cultural and historical context, and the interpretations of each viewer in contributing to the creation of the films’ meanings. This is why adaptations, especially in the case of fairy tale films, should be judged not on the basis of fidelity, but rather on how they become appropriated for each audience and socio-temporal setting, and on their creative use of previous adaptations and interpretations of the same text.

Live-action fairy tale films, including Red Riding Hood (dir. Catherine Hardwicke, Warner Bros. Entertainment, 2011) and Snow White and the Huntsman (dir. Rupert Sanders, Roth Films, 2012), demonstrate that Disney’s spell can be broken. In the following analyses of the classical fairy tales’ adaptations into films and commercial junior novelizations, I will rely on notions of narratology regarding time management, focalization, and visual and audial composition. Since an exclusively narratological approach cannot incorporate contextual and intertextual factors (Aragay 24), I will also take into consideration developmental and intertextual aspects, in order to demonstrate the different potentials of the media involved in terms of narration and storytelling, and to estimate the extent to which cultural translation is part of the process of these multiple transmedial adaptations.

Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood, “one of the most beloved and popular fairy tales ever reported,” is listed under the Aarne-Thompson tale type 333, The Glutton, and consists of two main segments: “Wolf’s Feast” and “Rescue” (Dundes ix). This “deceptively simple” story (Bettelheim “Cinderella,” ¶ 11) has, in fact, brought together elements of morality plays, tragedy, initiation rituals, warning tales and animal fables (Zipes 2006, 24). It was first recorded by Charles Perrault in 1697, and rewritten in an even more purified form by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, while versions of the story are known to have circulated even in Chinese folklore and antique mythology (x). What is astounding is that all of these retellings “show a remarkable unity in plot and structure that represent a socio-ethnic initiation ritual practiced by women” (Zipes 1993, 2). Since the Grimms, the narrative has been adapted into various medial platforms, including the recent filmic adaptation, Red Riding Hood (dir. Catherine Hardwicke, Warner Bros. Entertainment, 2011) and its novelization of the same title written by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright (for an overview of their stories and plots, see Appendix A). The mystery of this thriller drama is based on the identity of the werewolf, which suggests a return to the Middle Ages “legend” mentioned on the cover of the novel, while the dramatic conflicts are caused by two love triangles centering around Valerie (Red Riding Hood) and around her mother, Suzette. The narrative, the title of which already suggests that it was not created for little children, is furthermore characterized by the flexibility of morals and the blurring between heroes and villains (Dargis ¶ 4), which are common denominators of contemporary fairy tale films.

Perrault’s version can function as the most solid starting point to the examination of the story and history of Little Red Riding Hood, as it, having been based on legends originating from French folklore of the Middle Ages (Zipes 1993, 20), forms a watershed between oral and literary versions. Perrault changed the folk fairy tale into a tragic cautionary tale, whereby he wanted to civilize the tale and the children hearing it (28). To this end, many key motifs, “such as the paths of pins and needles, the blood of granny, the defecation in bed” (6), and a werewolf for a villain (Zipes 1983, 19), have been erased, while others, most importantly the name of the girl and the intervening of the hunter, were added, and implemented in later adaptations as well. The red cape bears particular significance, for it associates the girl with sexual maturation, the bourgeois class, (Zipes 2006, 249), as well as witchery (Zipes 1993, 90). It was probably due to Perrault’s low opinion of women that he turned the girl with the red riding hood into a naïve, spoiled, and foolish damsel-in-distress, who demonstrates no character development (25-26). These changes reflect the end of the Reformation which had enforced witch- and werewolf-hunts as well as the development of a new concept of childhood (Zipes 1983, 29). The ending of the story has been particularly malleable, with the oldest versions presenting a peasant girl who shrewdly outwitted the wolf, and saved herself without the help of a father figure (Zipes 1993, 23), and newer adaptations ranging from such extremes as the girl shooting the wolf with a gun, to marrying him (17). Furthermore, the story after Perrault can often be interpreted as a reactivation of the Oedipal conflict and a mixture of fascination with and fear of sex (Bettelheim “Little Red Riding Hood,” ¶ 29-33), as in the case of Red Riding Hood. The illustrations accompanying the literary tale also conveyed notions of sexuality and violence that depicted Little Red Riding Hood’s encounters with the Wolf in an erotic or seductive manner within a patriarchal structure, with the girl asking to be raped (Zipes 1983, 92). Filmic fairy tale adaptations often involve genre mixing (Bacchilega 28), which return them to the darker roots of folklore and allow for “the resurrection of the sexual, violent, and supernatural elements of folktale that existed in oral tradition but were censored for children’s literature” (Greenhill & Matrix 9). Although according to Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix, women directors tend to provide actively feminist readings in their cinematic fairy tales (4), Perrault’s message of victim blaming remains prevalent (Zipes 2006, 39), and Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood merely features an “appearance of girl power” (Dargis ¶ 7). Then again, it also manages to challenge the notion that in mainstream cinema only the male protagonists’ actions can set the narratives in motion, (Hayward 256), for while Peter kills Cesaire in the novel, Valerie does it in the film.

Both novels discussed in this paper are commercial junior novelizations created within the American, more particularly within the Hollywood, context, characterized by film-related peritextual elements, a simplified literary style, conciseness, large typefaces, and spacious and decorative chapter pages (Mahlknecht 146). The cover of the novel Red Riding Hood, in particular, makes its connection to the film obvious by its close resemblance to the film’s poster, the listing of the film script’s and the novel’s writers side by side and the emphasis on the movie’s billing block on the back cover. In addition, the bright red sticker boasting “Now a major motion picture from the director of Twilight” identifies the target audience of the novel and the film in young adolescents attracted to supernatural love stories. Interestingly enough, the script of Red Riding Hood available on the website of The Internet Movie Script Database, a mere “pre-transcript” (Jahn F1.4-5.), contains many more references to older versions of Little Red Riding Hood tales than either the film or the book. Based on Gérard Genette’s classification of transtextual modes, Red Riding Hood, similarly to Snow White and the Huntsman, still falls under the category of “intertextuality,” for it offers several quotations from and allusions to the literary fairy tale, while remaining a novel variation on its hypotext (Leitch 2012, ¶ 24). The brief preface to the novelization written by the director, Catherine Hardwicke, describes the early stages of the film’s development, in which she claims that she asked an old friend to write the novel, for she felt that “the characters and their backstories were too complex to fit into the film” (Hardwicke in Blakley-Cartwright, no page number). Besides the printed novelization, an enhanced eBook edition and Red Riding Hood: from Script to Screen by Hardwicke have also accompanied the film, which discuss the production of the film in more detail. The “backstories” mentioned by Hardwicke were described in the novelization’s lengthy first chapter, extending to a quarter of the book’s length. This choice is in accordance with Dudley Andrew’s theory that, as opposed to films, literary fictions develop from signification and inner motivation towards external facts and visuality (Braudy & Cohen 376). The special bond between the book and the novel have been further strengthened by the inclusion of the deleted scenes present on the DVD into the novel’s narrative, and by the online publication of the last chapter of the book only after the movie’s premiere. This tactic, while keeping up the suspense in the narrative, revealed the fundamentally commercial function of the novel once and for all.

In films, written texts, as well as in the process of adaptation between the two, the narrative occupies a key role as “the logic around which a story gets organized” (Cristian & Dragon 21). Accordingly, it is narratology, the field of study that “examines the ways that narrative structures our perception of both cultural artifacts and the world around us” (Felluga “General Introduction to Narratology,” ¶ 1) that can provide the broadest background to their comparative study. Many theories of narration rely on the notion of time. Vladimir Propp maintains that the basis of any narrative is temporal sequencing (Stam et. al. 81), more particularly, double time structuring, which makes it possible for any narrative to be translated into any other medium: the story-time or histoire entails the time sequences within the narrative, and the discourse-time is the length of time required for their presentation, which need not follow a chronological order (Genette 33). Even though this is not so relevant in the case of the brief junior novelizations, the notion of discourse-time points to an essential difference between films and novels. On a formal level, narratives can be divided into fabula and syuzhet, translated as story and plot, the former of which is a chronologically ordered imaginary construct, and the latter is its presentation. These are linked through narrative logic, time and space (Bordwell 49-51), of which causality is the most important organizing principle (157). The plot or discourse serves to elaborate on the story, and includes stylistic features in literature and manipulations of the filmic screen in film (Felluga, “Terms Used by Narratology and Film Theory” ¶ 6). The verbal, descriptive voice-overs resembling written texts can add a sense of literary assertion to the filmic narrative, while unadulterated block descriptions, and their filmic equivalents, cinematography can stop the story-time while continuing the discourse-time (Chatman 405-408), thus making the viewer aware of the temporality of the narrative (Verstraten 14).

In the case of Red Riding Hood, both the novel and the film follow a mainly chronological narrative order, with an illustrative case of anachrony, as the father retrospectively explains how he had been hiding his monstrous Wolf identity (Genette 48). The past, including the story of Suzette’s affair as well, thus functions as a subfabula (Verstraten 32). Red Riding Hood operates by what Roland Barthes calls the hermeneutic code, (Felluga “Modules on Barthes: On the Five Codes,” ¶ 2), and what Genette terms “completing analepsis” (Jahn N3.3.15.), which moves the story forward by withholding information that is filled in by the narrator towards the end. Red Riding Hood thus also fits the requirements of what David Bordwell calls investigative narrative mode (150). In sum, time analysis of this narrative can be defined on the basis of three principles (Jahn N5.2.): completive anachrony (order), mostly isochronous presentation (duration), and singular retelling (frequency).

There can be no narrative without a narrator (Verstraten 12), as it is the narrator who endows the narrative with mood and point-of-view (Genette 162), always in a specific expressive style. While literary narrators only communicate in words, cinematic narrators use both images and sounds (Verstraten 47). Thus in films, the narrator “speaks,” while the focalizer “sees” (Cristian & Dragon 22). François Jost calls the latter “ocularization,” and emphasizes the characters’ knowledge (Stam & Raengo 74), while according to Seymour Chatman’s concept of “interest point of view,” the camera does not simply identify with the character, but adopts his or her emotional perspective (412-13). Zero focalization is the most common type, which posits an all-perceiving external narrator, whose knowledge exceeds those of the characters, and is usually also capable of paraphrasing the characters’ thoughts (François Jost in Stam & Raengo 73). According to Chatman, cameras must always have a point of view, unlike solely verbal narratives, which may be all-perceiving and indifferent (412), both of which can be viewed as elements of psychonarration (Jahn N8.11). Conversely, while the film Red Riding Hood is only narrated by Valerie at the beginning and the end, so as to frame the story, its novelistic counterpart is the one that is narrated from either Valerie’s or Peter’s perspective, always as third-person narration. Although a few times Valerie is looked at from a strange, blurred perspective in the film marked by out-of-focus and masking effects that suggest the monstrous Wolf’s presence—primary internal ocularization (François Jost in Stam & Raengo, 76)—, the film usually uses a neutral camera eye viewpoint. The focalizer limits what we can see, and even if there are no point-of-view shots, it is obvious that we perceive the world through Valerie’s eyes and thoughts as a means to increase dramatic tension (N3.2.2.), and also because stories of initiation usually require first-person narration (N3.3.4.). The narratives of Red Riding Hood and Snow White and the Huntsman use heterodiegetic limited omniscient third-person narration (Felluga, “Terms Used by Narratology and Film Theory” ¶ 32), developing from overt homodiegetic narrations into an objective, covert perspective (Jahn N1.9.).

Cinema is expository: it implicitly reveals, not describes, and illustrates its message through cinematography (Verstraten 53-56), the process of which François Jost calls auricularization (Stam & Raengo 78). “It has often been said that big Hollywood productions sacrifice consistent plotlines in favour of spectacle” (Verstraten 3), which applies to the case of Red Riding Hood, best exemplified in the vague dream sequences forming the conclusion of the film. Catherine Hardwicke’s stunning visual innuendoes demonstrate that a film’s expressive power lies in the depiction of certain moods and atmospheres. These landscapes, suggestive of freedom and independence (Dargis ¶ 7), stop the story-time and hinder the narrative, as they pose what Peter Verstraten calls “temps morts” (18). Such aerial long shots, among others, prove that “no film is unproblematically narrative in its entirety” (24). These cinematographic narratives, however, are difficult to translate into verbal form, for as opposed to the films’ overspecification of visible details, novels rather specify significant things through thought (Leitch 2003, 160). Novels thus focus on the mental beings of characters, and this is why novelizations can translate and emphasize cultural notions by shifting the focus to the representation of the eternal cultural notions of love, freedom, and justice, conveyed through the choices and thoughts of the main characters.

Snow White and the Huntsman

“’Snow White’ is one of the best-known fairy tales” (Bettelheim “Snow White,” ¶ 1), which, similarly to “Little Red Riding Hood,” has “emerged from the dark, violent folk landscape of early modern Europe” (Scott ¶ 2). An analysis of the tale by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar describes its main conflict as one “between the angel-woman and the monster-woman” originating “from a patriarchal culture that pits woman against woman for the favor of a male” (Zipes 2006, 134). One of the earliest folktales containing elements of Snow White is Giambattista Basile’s story of “The Young Slave” dating back to the 17th century (Bettelheim “Snow White,” ¶ 56), which is a perfect example of intertextuality in and of itself, for it possesses many different fairy tale motifs. The Brothers Grimm adapted the folk fairy tale into a literary tale in 1812, and altered it according to the morals and styles of the early nineteenth-century upper class. The story was further modified by the Disney Studio’s cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (dir. David Hand et al., Walt Disney Productions, 1937), which has become the most renowned form of the narrative. One of the most significant changes that Disney made is the replacement of the jealous mother by a less threatening stepmother, while the most meaningful motifs of the tale—vanity, transformation, orality and maturation—were kept. The newest adaptation of the tale, Snow White and the Huntsman, however, has even meddled with these basic elements (for an overview of the narrative, see Appendix B). According to Bruno Bettelheim, fairy tales, such as “Snow White” or “Little Red Riding Hood,” posit an ideal way for children to learn about sexual maturation through the initiation rites involved (“The Animal-Groom Cycle of Fairy Tales: The Struggle for Maturity,” ¶ 8). However, “few fairy tales help the hearer to distinguish between the main phases of childhood development as neatly as does ‘Snow White’” (Bettelheim “Snow White,” ¶ 8) via a very symbolic period of stagnation and passivity brought about by Snow White’s apparent death (Bettelheim “Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, and Consolation,” ¶ 23). The shorter time spent with the dwarves and in the glass coffin had less prominent of an effect on the Snow White of Snow White and the Huntsman than the period of latency spent in the dungeon of the castle alone. The ensuing “sexual awakening or the birth of a higher ego” (Bettelheim “The Sleeping Beauty,” ¶ 31) is brought about by the prince’s kiss in the Disney version, and by a jealous servant in the Grimms’ tale. In Snow White and the Huntsman, however even this crucial element has gone through a change, for it is the sensitive huntsman who can provide the girl with a true love’s kiss.

Snow White and the Huntsman is Rupert Sanders’s first feature film (Scott ¶ 3), rated PG-13 for “[b]lood, monsters and whispers of sexual implication” (¶ 12). Although, similarly to Red Riding Hood, it also attempts to portray a feminist reading of the story, partly expressed by Ravenna’s “legitimate grudge against a male-dominated world of sexual violence and patriarchal entitlement” (¶ 5), it is set in a male hegemony that “ruthlessly punishes women who actively pursue their self-interests” (Zipes 2006, 136). The Snow White and the Huntsman novel is even more clearly marked paratextually than the Red Riding Hood novel. The former’s movie poster-like front cover clearly portrays Kirsten Stewart who plays Snow White in the film, and completely omits the names of the authors, while the back cover once again emphasizes the movie’s credits and also hides a double-sided fold-out poster of the film. The text, on the other hand, puts an emphasis on narration over visual description, and is careful to avoid direct references to the film. In comparison, the DVD has the victimized villain, Queen Ravenna, in its center position, and the change in title shifts the focus to the protective huntsman as well, who, on the side of an indecisive and passive damsel-in-distress, is the one who brings life into the narrative. Paratextually, Red Riding Hood and this novel look very much alike, and even use the same typefaces. The writing process of this novel was not as closely linked to the making of the film, demonstrated by the fact that the book follows the temporal order and dialogues of the screenplay more closely than those of the film. There are a few orthographic mistakes in the printed version of the novel, as were in Red Riding Hood, which may be a tell-tale sign of their quick writing and commercial nature, and are as unavoidable as visual errors of continuity in films (Mahlknecht 159). Changes in the novel from the film’s narrative appear conscious, as, for example, the identity of Snow White is revealed to the Huntsman in the very beginning, unlike in the film or the screenplay, and Ravenna’s personal background is also explained already at the beginning, as was intended to be according to the script. The reason behind this may be that the author had to create a strictly commercial product, and assumed that maintaining mysteries is unnecessary for customers who have already seen the film.

Similarly to Red Riding Hood, the narrative of Snow White and the Huntsman follows an overall chronological order, with a few analepses in the form of remembrances. The novel replaces the well-known metaphor of temporality used at the beginning of fairy tales with a poem, which, interestingly enough, offers the reader the choice to identify and side with either Snow White or Ravenna, the Evil Queen. The novel also provides a chapter on the background of Snow White’s family, numbered with Roman numerals as if it was a preface, and not part of the narrative. The chapters are logically ordered, following the scenes of the film, and narrated by various characters via variable focalization (Genette 189). Although the novel uses active syntaxes, the narrative is lagging because there are very few adverbs and adjectives used. Snow White and the Huntsman is operated by the proairetic code, which relies on action to create suspense in the narrative (Felluga “Modules on Barthes: On the Five Codes,” ¶ 3).

The film begins with a first-person voice-over uttered by the Huntsman, who, in fact could not have even witnessed any of the early events of Snow White’s life, demonstrating that a “film can simultaneously express what is seen – through the image track – and what is thought – through voice-over” (François Jost in Stam & Raengo 73). While the beginning of the story follows the Grimm brothers’ version, to the extent that the huntsman quotes from the literary tale, the end is informed by other, newer adaptations of the tale, as, for example, “Disney’s predictable fairy tale film schemata,” which, as Jack Zipes describes it, depicts a damsel in distress stopped by an evil force in pursuing her dream, and “is rescued miraculously either by a prince or masculine helpers,” leading to the princess’s “rise in social status or reaffirmation of royalty” (Greenhill & Matrix xi). As fitting to fairy tales, both novelizations are retrospective narrations, written in the past tense (Jahn N5.1.4.). Points-of-view are again only noticeable from the expressions of the characters’ inner thoughts, and always written in third-person narration. Also like the previously discussed fairy tale, there are hardly any point of view shots in the film. The ending is somewhat different in the book and the film, as a result of the differences in point of view, for in the novel we see Snow White from the outside, as a queen learning to control her power, but in the novel we are faced with a teenager worrying about whether she loves the noble or the handsome man at her coronation. The happy ending not only demonstrates to the child that good will always prevail over evil, but the union of the prince and the princess symbolizes a kind of harmony that eliminates separation anxiety in the child (Bettelheim “Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, and Consolation,” ¶ 9-13). However, this is missing from both films.

While Snow White resembles her innocent counterpart from the Disney cartoon, Ravenna is given more complexity than ever, and is represented as a round and dynamic character even with conflicting properties (Jahn N7.7.). Due to the different presentation of the characters in the various media, Eric, in particular, appears as a completely different person in each rendering of the story: in the script he is a flirty young man, in the book he is a heartbroken but loyal friend, and in the film he is simply mysterious. The most information about him is given in the script. Bruno Bettelheim describes the huntsmen in Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood as “unconscious representation[s] of the father” (“Snow White,” ¶ 20), and it is interesting that both of them become potential lovers in these new adaptations. The original huntsman’s failure to carry out his Queen’s wish and to protect Snow White (¶ 24) is defied when his newest alterego manages to protect, and even revive, Snow White. Rupert’s Snow White is lead not by narcissism, as in the literary fairy tale, but by lust and by clinging to the past, when she accepts the apple from Ravenna masqueraded as William. The apple, in this case, stands not only for love and sex, but also for the “mature sexual desires” shared by stepmother and stepdaughter, possibly even towards one another (¶ 47). Shockingly, Ravenna appears to desire not only the souls but the bodies of the girls whose lives she takes in the film, suggesting the possibility of a sexual link between her and Snow White as well. Instead of making the Queen dance in red-hot shoes until she dies, Snow White simply breaks her heart. The Queen had previously wanted to incorporate Snow White’s beauty by eating her heart (¶ 28), but in this version, she wants her soul as well. In the novel, Snow White is much more aware of her looks, and as a teenager, tries to impress the Huntsman. The fact that in the novelization she constantly wonders about whether Eric has feelings for her, and whether or not he finds her sexually attractive, makes it obvious that censors are less restrictive in the cases of books, for the verbal description of sexual or violent scenes is considered less harmful than their projection on the screen (Mahlknecht 160). With the help of Algirdas Greimas’ semiotic square, the main characters (and the principles they represent) can create a complete square: Snow White in opposition to Ravenna, and Eric in opposition to Finn (Felluga “Modules on Greimas: On the Semiotic Square,” ¶ 1).

Fitting to a fairy tale, the film is very visual and stunning, even though there is not as much emphasis on cinematography as was in the case of Catherine Hardwicke’s film. For example, the first scene where Snow White’s (nameless) mother pricks her finger, and three drops of blood, the number most closely associated with sexuality, fall on the pure white snow, perfectly represents the intertwining of innocence with sexual desire that the scene in the Brothers Grimm’s story was supposed to convey (Bettelheim “Snow White,” ¶ 10). The sexual connotations of the number three are reaffirmed as, similarly to Red Riding Hood, the narrative focuses on a love triangles forming around Snow White, the Huntsman and William, and around Snow White, the Huntsman and Ravenna. As Thomas Leitch asserts, “each individual adaptation invokes many precursor texts besides the one whose title it usually borrows” (2003, 164), which is shown by the Disneyesque reproduction of the scenes when Snow White is alone, lost in the Dark Forest, and when she dances with Gus around the campfire, the Dopey of Snow White and the Huntsman. Close-ups serve not merely to stop story-time, but to build suspense (Chatman 408), as in the scene before Snow White’s army charges against Ravenna’s castle. The soundtrack of the film is mostly instrumental, as the film is set against austere and dangerous “mythic-medieval landscapes” (Scott ¶ 3), which is even maintained by the lack of extradiegetic bloopers on the DVD. In this respect, Red Riding Hood, much like Snow White and the Huntsman, demonstrate the apparent movement of the twenty-first century stimulated by “the desire to tie the stories back into a social, even socio-historical, context, constituting in some respects an attempt to rationalize their magic” (Sanders 2006, 84), and may very well be set in the same diegesis. Their novelizations, however, point towards a return to the genre of melodrama, focusing on the mental states and romantic involvements of the characters.


In order to answer the three questions raised in the introduction—what is the process of novelization; how do novelizations relate to the films they are based on; and how does the method of novelization differ from that of adaptation from text to film—, this paper has provided both theories and analyses of the genre. The first part included a historical and a typological overview in order to justify novelizations’ significance as historical documents concerning the development of narrative cinema and as sources of additional information about existing stories and characters, respectively, which have revealed a variety of possible writing processes and film-to-novel relationships. Unsurprisingly, the ideal scenario that produces truly literary novelizations occurs when the writer has time and freedom to explore and extend the narrative, and when the writer and the director maintain a co-operative relationship during the projects. The following analyses of the successive adaptation of the fairy tales into films and then novels titled Red Riding Hood and Snow White and the Huntsman have allowed for the extended examination of the narrative potentials of each medium, intertextuality and cultural translation at work with the aid of narratological concepts, such as time management, focalization, and visual and audial composition.

Besides transcribing the visible and audial aspects of the films, novelizers also shift focus to relevant cultural notions and phenomena, and while the novelization of film scripts may appear to be antiremedial tranformations, even anti-adaptations, they require the skilful revision of the paradoxically verbal screenplays written in cinematic terms. To study novelizations, fidelity criticism is absolutely detrimental, as the very purpose of novelizations is to provide additional information, and for the same reason, adaptation theories emphasizing intertextuality are only partly satisfactory. As a result, a more complex approach taking into consideration contemporary context and culture is necessary, which can not only shed light on intertextual and intermedial relations, but may also help critical theorists overcome the hierarchical and binary approaches burdening current theories of adaptation.


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