May 5, 2020

The Fairy Tales of IU

Hello, everyone! Welcome to my new post series 🎉 Recently, I posted a list of Book Recommendations from Kpop MVs and this should have been a clear indication that this series was coming. So, even though my idea decided to form itself after I had posted that list, I still will count it as the first post of the series. Until I find a better name for it, I will call it the KpopXBooks series.

A brief explanation of the series: KpopXBooks will be a series of various lists. The first one was a list with books featured in music videos. However, as I was digging deeper in this research, I realized that there is a bigger connection between books and Kpop. Some lists (like today's) will focus on a single group or solo artist. Other lists, will focus on a single book that inspired the concepts of various music videos. Lastly, some posts will feature a single MV, as there are some that use multiple references.

This leads us to today's post! IU is an extremely popular Kpop soloist (and one of my favourite). She debuted in 2008 with the song "Lost Child". However, her success came with her follow-up album "Growing Up". Her stage name comes from the words "I and You", meaning that people can become one through music. 

I have always found IU's music videos dreamy and in some of them you can easily identify their concept. However, listening to her back catalogue, I found more songs that derived from fairy tales. So, today we will take a closer look at music videos, songs, and a live performance by IU the come from books and fairy tales. 


I must begin this list with 23. If you are talking about the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as a Kpop concept (which we will on a later post), this is the MV that first comes to mind. We have the white rabbit and the Cheshire cat. The MV is whimsical and if you look closely, you will find many similarities with the book. There is no denying that 23 draws inspiration from Lewis Caroll's book.

In fact, the whole album is heavily inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, as it is titled Chat-shire. I will show you the cover later, when I will talk about a b-side from it.

Monday Afternoon

Monday Afternoon is another IU MV inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. However, this is not as a well-known fact, as it is in the case of 23. In preparation for this list, I watched all of IU's MVs and I couldn't help but make the connection to this book. In it, a big IU finds a small IU and goes looking for her in a house with long corridors and different-sized rooms. Especially the scene you see in this still, gives off the vibe of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes is the famous Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that tells the story of a girl who was curse to dance. This story inspired numerous adaptations, one of them being the song The Red Shoes by IU. The music video for the song is cinematic and (to be honest) it reminded me of a movie adaptation of The Red Shoes I had watched a long time ago.  

Cruel Fairytale

Technically, there is no music video for this song. However, I have found a performance that begins with an Alice on stage. This song is a darker version of the fairy tale concept, where IU is crying for a lost love. In the lyrics, IU is using phrases that you usually find in fairy tales ("And forever after/I will live happily"), as well as lyrics that come from pre-existing fairytales ("When the clock rings 12/I will awake from my dreams").

Red Queen

From this point on, we will talk more about IU's b-sides. We begin with Red Queen, which also comes from her Chat-shire album. As you can see from the cover, this album was influenced by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Therefore, there is no denying that The Red Queen comes from this story. In the lyrics, there are also references to a girl with the red hair that used to laugh, but now she has become angry. There are many speculations as to who this girl is, but I will not dig into this here. 

That girl’s scarlet hair
Somewhere something more red
Made her eyes so thinly bloodshot
Is someone going to ask her the reason
Why is she getting angry
Why is she being wicked
That sad girl’s scarlet hair
Somewhere something
More more more more more red


Zezé is probably the most controversial song by IU. When it was released it caused a huge backlash for the singer. For this song IU drew inspiration from the Brazilian novel My Sweet Orange Tree by José Mauro de Vasconcelos. The protagonist of this book is 5 years old, and IU reimagined him. Both the lyrics and his depiction in the album cover (the lower left illustration on the cover above) were heavily criticized and it is still considered one of the hot topics. 

The Age of the Cathedrals

This is a bonus track from IU's EP Can you Hear Me? IU, in support of the musical Notre-Dame de Paris performed a song taken from it. The recording of The Age of the Cathedrals ended up as a bonus track in her EP.

Ugly Duckling

Another Hans Christian Andersen has found its way into an IU song. The beloved tale of the ugly duckling who turned into a beautiful swan  has been used as a trope in many movies and series. This song, which is featured in the debut EP of IU Lost and Found, is one sung by the duckling who misses his mother.

Bonus: Fairy Tale - Kim Dong Ryul ft. IU

This music video isn't inspired by a specific fairy tale, but I wanted to share it with you. You can see that the story uses some popular fairy tale tropes, like two kids wandering in the woods. It's a heart-warming video.



If you want to dig deeper into IU, then there are many amazing songs to begin. However, since we are interest in books and beautiful stories, I would recommend that you watch her 3 MVs that tell a beautiful story. 

1) You and I - where the lovers promise to meet when the conditions are right (video here)
2) Above the Time - where the lovers begin to find a way to reach out to each other (video here)
3) Blueming - that shows how the relationship is progressing (video here)

This was it! What is your favourite IU song? 
Stay tuned for more KpopXBook lists!


  1. Woah it's good to discover a fellow bookish kpop fan/blogger! I discovered IU in 2017 and I listened to all the songs you mentioned since then and loved them all! Love this post!
    Priyanka @ A Booklion's Hideaway

    1. That's so wonderful! I always liked the whimsical MVs of IU and I was happy that I found a way to feature them here :)

  2. This is so smart! I would never have come up with an idea like this. I love IU's Red Shoes, it's one of my favourite songs <3

    1. Thank you! I always try to find small, yet original ideas to spice up the content on my blog. I'm glad that you are enjoying it :)


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