Angela Carter reveals the dark heart of the fairy story in these memorably quirky versions.
10 exceptional short stories paying homage to classic fairy tales and especially to Charles Perrault. From ''Bluebeard'' and ''The Beauty and the Beast'' to ''Puss -in- Boots'' and ''The Snow Child'' written in a unique, sensual, dark language. This is a story based on "Bluebeard", one of my favourite fairy tales because I'm weird and I like it:) Seriously, though, this is a beautiful showcase of Carter's immense talent. The Courtship of Mr Lyon : A story based on "Beauty and the Beast". The Tiger's Bride : The second story based on "Beauty and the Beast". Puss-in-Boots : A tale based on the story by Giovanni Francesco Straparola. "Puss in Boots" had never been among my favourite fairy tales but Carter manages to combine it with Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Figaro is turned into a genius, cynic and all-around spectacular feline. It is the most sexually charged tale of the collection with beautiful erotic descriptions and a constant battle between innocence and awareness. The Lady of the House of Love : "A girl who is both death and the maiden." Carter combines the tale of "The Sleeping Beauty", the legend of Elizabeth Bathory and the tale of Dracula to create a story set in the Carpathian region during the turn of the previous century that is nothing short of a masterpiece. A tale based on "Little Red Riding Hood", enriched with folklore from Walpurgisnacht and with an interesting heroine of dubious motives. The Company of Wolves "The wolfsong is the sound of the rending you will suffer, in itself a murdering." A second story based on "Little Red Riding Hood". Wolf-Alice This is the third story based on "Little Red Riding Hood" and the one fully demonstrating society's obsession to have us all the same, denying us the right to be what we want to be.
As soon as I began reading the first story in here, I was hooked on her style. Shes a drastically under read writer when you consider her creative talent.
The Company of Wolves, for example, provides a point-by-point rebuttal of the myths embedded in the more modern versions of Little Red Riding Hood. In Perraults version, the story serves to warn young girls about the threat men pose to their sexual innocence, but does not include the mothers warning to stay on the path, that appears in most later versions (such as that of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm in 1812). Jacob and Wilhelm Grimms version originally called Little Red-Cap:, far more familiar to American and English audiences than that of Perrault, casts Little Red Riding Hood as a younger girl (i.e., even more vulnerable) and begins with the famous warning: W:alk nicely and quietly and do not run off the path. Predictably, Little Red Riding Hood forgets her mothers warning, strays off the path, and gets deeper and deeper into the wood. Once in the woods, Little Red Riding Hoods troubles begin. In the original versions, Little Red Riding Hood saves herself and is never gulled by the wolf. Further, in the Grimms version and its modern variations, Red Riding Hoods comment at the end of the story demonstrates that she has learned her lesson: As long as I live, I will never by myself leave the path, to run into the wood, when my mother has forbidden me to do so.
The Lyon and Tiger stories are variants of each other, and it ends with three relating to wolves, two of which are versions of Little Red Riding Hood. She leaves her mother and goes "Into marriage, into exile", despite some sinister signs (dead or missing wives, yet "his waxen face was not lined by experience"), her mother's concerns, and her own equivocation (when asked if she loves him, she says "I'm sure I want to marry him"). He wants to flood the bedroom with light, "all the better to see you", echoing two versions of Little Red Riding Hood later in the book. He goes away, leaving her in charge of the household, including all the keys.
Quite liked this, but mostly because of the ending where the heroine's mum kills Bluebeard and saves her daughter from death. It was a run of the mill Beauty and the Beast retelling complete with flat characters, insta-love, and zero depth. This time Beauty ends up with the Beast because her dad gambles her off like property. Only liked the very end of this when the foolish-love-struck heroine plots to save herself and kill the Erl-king, everything else was weird and rubbish. His wish comes true, but his wife is jealous of the magic girl and tries to kill her (instead of helping her), girl gets killed by a rose, and husband rapes her dead body. But it read more like a paranormal vampire story than a fairy tale. I didn't like the girl in this happily causing her werewolf granny's death just so she could inherit her house. Another story with a girl causing her grandma's death, this time so she can sex up a werewolf guy. There were only two stories (The Bloody Chamber and The Lady of the House of Love) in the collection that I somewhat enjoyed.
Reading the whole collection the sense of Carter's craft is very strong - emphasised by having stories like The Courtship of Mr Lyon and The Tiger's Bride which are variants of the same folktale, or the repetition of the same elements - such as the magical power of virginity in The Lady of the House of Love and The Company of Wolves - although I did wonder what would happen subsequently once the hymen was no longer there. The Lady of the House of Love played out a vampire story almost to the point of Count Duckula comedy with it's plucky Blond Beast of a hero doomed to die a different death, while the last lines respectively of The Erl-King and The Tiger's Bride struck me with their brilliance, eerie and savage. The Erl-King all the more so as he is based apparently on Carter's long term lover and eventual final husband, Carter suggests that the transformative nature of a relationship can be such that you can see it as a kind of death, both horrifying, sinister and alluring, seized with open arms, I am struck by how deeply she works over time, on me at least, and got under the skin with some very simple little stories, without fireworks. As a set of stories it was a fairly mixed bag for me, an easy train read, but something that gives me a wider sense of Carter's ability as a creative writer.
In 1969 Angela Carter used the proceeds of her Somerset Maugham Award to leave her husband and relocate for two years to Tokyo, Japan, where she claims in Nothing Sacred (1982) that she "learnt what it is to be a woman and became radicalised." She wrote about her experiences there in articles for New Society and a collection of short stories, Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (1974), and evidence of her experiences in Japan can also be seen in The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972). As well as being a prolific writer of fiction, Carter contributed many articles to The Guardian, The Independent and New Statesman, collected in Shaking a Leg. She adapted a number of her short stories for radio and wrote two original radio dramas on Richard Dadd and Ronald Firbank. She was actively involved in both film adaptations, her screenplays are published in the collected dramatic writings, The Curious Room, together with her radio scripts, a libretto for an opera of Virginia Wolf's Orlando, an unproduced screenplay entitled The Christchurch Murders (based on the same true story as Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures) and other works. At the time of her death, Carter was embarking on a sequel to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre based on the later life of Jane's stepdaughter, Adèle Varens.