Fairy tales have inspired countless novels, television shows, and films. Disney has built an empire on them. But while we’ve seen many retellings in the science fiction and fantasy genres, readers might be less familiar with them in other formats—like comic books and manga. Despite its Japanese roots, manga has a global sensibility, and the medium doesn’t shy away from adapting fairy tales from other cultures.
To get a taste of what those adaptations may look like, here are nine fairy tale manga.
Try These Fairy-Tale Manga
The Hunters Guild: Red Hood
“Little Red Riding Hood” is one of my favorite fairy tales, so imagine my excitement when this manga launched in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump a couple years back. It’s a shorter series, so readers wary of long, never-ending manga titles can pick this one up confidently. As you might surmise from the title, Red Hood is set in a world where fairy tales have come to life.
Alas, humans have the raw deal here. They live in fear of witches, werewolves, and other monsters. The only people able to fight these threats are members of the Hunters Guild, but few can afford their outrageous fees. Enter Velou, a young boy who wishes to protect his small, backwater village from a werewolf. But when a hunter comes to their aid, she isn’t what he expects. Appearances can be deceiving though.
Snow White With the Red Hair
In this charming fantasy manga, a capable young woman makes a living for herself, working as an herbalist. But her most striking feature—her bright red hair—attracts the attention of a lecherous prince who wants to make her his concubine. Balking at the prospect, she cuts off her hair and flees to a neighboring kingdom. There, she meets a prince and saves him from a poisoned apple originally meant for her. So begins the story of Shirayuki, the intelligent herbalist, and Zen, the prince whose life she saves. And in case it wasn’t already obvious, Shirayuki translates to Snow White.
Grimms Manga Tales Anthology
Featuring work from multiple creators, this manga anthology takes different fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm and injects their own unique flavor. It’s a fun way to explore the medium, especially if you’re new to manga. Don’t like a particular art style? Each one is only a short story, not a full volume, so you don’t have to worry about investing too much time. On the other hand, if you like a story, you can seek out more work from that specific creator. There are no downsides here. What’s nice about this particular anthology is that it explores more popular fairy tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty but also offers new spins on less well-known stories like King Thrushbeard and Mother Hulda.
As the heir to a powerful house, Oz’s coming-of-age ceremony should have been a time of celebration. Instead, it turns to terror when his very existence is deemed a sin and Oz is thrown into a supernatural prison filled with monsters. There, he meets a girl named Alice, who also bears the moniker “Bloody Black Rabbit.” Together, they form a contract in order to escape the prison, a feat long considered impossible.
The creator of Ranma ½ and Inuyasha, Rumiko Takahashi based this manga on the Japanese legend of Yaobikuni. According to folklore, Yaobikuni is an 800-year-old nun who looked like a beautiful, young woman throughout her entire life. The reason for this is where it gets interesting. She accidentally ate the flesh of a mermaid, and since then, eating the flesh of a mermaid has been associated with gaining immortal life.
In Mermaid Saga, Yuta has lived for 500 years after, you guessed it, eating the flesh of a mermaid. Now, however, he’s grown tired of his immortal life and seeks a mermaid who can turn him back to a mortal again.
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
Inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, Magi follows the adventures of a boy named Aladdin. Together with his companions—a cart-driver named Alibaba and a djinn named Ugo—Aladdin explores various dungeons across the land in search of valuable items. But Aladdin isn’t just a thief with a magic flute and Alibaba isn’t just a cart driver. Together, they just might be the Magi and King who can conquer a certain tower of legend.
Alice in Borderland
Japan really loves Alice in Wonderland, doesn’t it? You might have heard of the Netflix series of the same name. This is the original manga that served as its source material. Ryohei Arisu is tired of everything: his distant family, his pitiful academic career, and his pathetic future prospects. Anywhere else would be better, in his opinion. Someone should have warned him that he should be careful what he wished for. When he and his friends witness unexpected fireworks, they’re transported to another world. Unfortunately, the only way to survive in this new world is to participate in increasingly brutal games and more importantly, win them.
While not based on any one fairy tale, Fairy Tail draws upon many familiar elements to create an action-packed fantasy adventure manga. Lucy Heartfilia is a celestial wizard who dreams of joining Fairy Tail, a guild of powerful sorcerers. Her quest gets off to a bad start when she crosses paths with some unsavory characters instead. Or maybe it was just fate, because her misfortune allows her to meet Natsu Dragneel, a fire wizard who happens to be a member of Fairy Tail.
The legend of Faust tells the story of a scholar who makes a deal with the devil. In exchange for his soul, he gains access to unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure. But what if the legend got a few things wrong? What if Faust was not a man, but rather a charismatic woman named Johanna? In this retelling of Goethe’s classic tale, Johanna is still alive and trying to put her demon back together again, piece by piece. Of course, there are people who’d rather she not succeed on her quest.