One of the things writers do is to reimagine the old stories to make them more accessible to modern audiences. Jane Smiley won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with her novel A Thousand Acres, which was then made into a movie in 1997; it’s Shakespeare’s King Lear set on an Iowa farm. James Cameron added a touch of the Bard’s Romeo and Juliet to his Titanic to act as a focus for the tragedy of the lost liner. The Coen Brothers gave us a new way to view Homer’s Odyssey in O! Brother, Where Art Thou?
The stories of King Arthur and Robin Hood are periodically updated and retold. Even more modern heroes like Superman and Batman are given new focus both in print and on screen.
At its best, this practice keeps great stories fresh for a new generation and a new audience. At its worst, Hollywood remakes bad television shows into even worse motion pictures, or “reboots” perfectly good franchises just for the joy of screwing around with the well-known characters and trying to squeeze more bucks out of them.
I can’t recall that I’ve reworked an old favorite myself. I’ve built on well-known stories and expanded upon them, such as in my story “The Fatted Calf.” But perhaps I’ll try it one day just to see if I can find a new way to make a familiar story shine.
During my regular perusal of the Internet, I came across a visual depiction of the Myth of Sisyphus that, while being awfully funny in ways the original story was never meant to be, encapsulates the myth’s basic concept and got me to thinking about reimagining the great stories. That’s a nice new constellation of thoughts from one lolcat gif.