Tales of beasts, wolves and crafty maidens

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

I tried reading one of AC’s novels many years ago, but it was the wrong book for me at that time. When Claire at Paperback Reader who is a huge fan decided to host an Angela Carter month, it was time to try again. I’m glad I did. This time I chose one of her collections of reimagined fairy tales.

The Bloody Chamber has reworkings of several classic tales – Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, and Little Red Riding Hood to name a few. Carter takes the essence of each original and creates something that is the complete antithesis of the Disneyfied versions that dominate these days. They are extremely earthy and sensual, full of blood and guts; they’re very dark, yet there are moments of comedy and brightness; and they’re still highly moral – but Carter plays about with the roles – her women give as good as they get!

My favourite was the Erl King – based upon the character of a woodland spirit who tempts travellers through the forest, rather than a classic fairy tale …

… On the trunk of a scarlet rowan a squirrel clung, to watch him; a cock pheasant delicately stretched his shimmering neck from a brake of thorn to peer at him. There was a goat of uncanny whiteness, gleaming like a goat of snow, who turned her mild eyes towards me and bleated softly, so that he knew I had arrived.
He smiles. He lays down his pipe, his elder bird-call. He lays upon me his irrevocable hand.
His eyes are quite green, as if from too much looking at the wood.
There are some eyes can eat you.

Maybe it was the unfamiliarity of the Erl King that really creeped me out on this one – well that and what he does to birds…

I enjoyed all of the tales in this collection with the exception of Puss in Boots. This is the one tale told not from the innocent victim’s side, but from that of Mr Fixit and has a totally different feel to it. However it does break up the collection – before it come three beastly tales going from a predatory monster to a lyon, to a tiger, to Puss – all feline in feel. Then in the second half from the Erl King onwards, we are in the forest and with wolves and creatures of the night.

I am definitely inspired to read more of Angela Carter’s extraordinary fairy tales, and think it may be time to enjoy her novels too. Thank you to Claire for bringing her to me attention once again. (8.5/10)

Source: Own copy

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber, Vintage, paperback, 176 pages.

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