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The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

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Angela Carter was a storytelling sorceress, the literary godmother of Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Audrey Niffenegger, J. K. Rowling, Kelly Link, and other contemporary masters of supernatural fiction. In her masterpiece, The Bloody Chamber—which includes the story that is the basis of Neil Jordan’s 1984 movie The Company of Wolves—she spins subversively dark and sensual versions of familiar fairy tales and legends like “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Bluebeard,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” giving them exhilarating new life in a style steeped in the romantic trappings of the gothic tradition.

128 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1979

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About the author

Angela Carter

195 books3,175 followers
Born Angela Olive Stalker in Eastbourne, in 1940, Carter was evacuated as a child to live in Yorkshire with her maternal grandmother. As a teenager she battled anorexia. She began work as a journalist on the Croydon Advertiser, following in the footsteps of her father. Carter attended the University of Bristol where she studied English literature.

She married twice, first in 1960 to Paul Carter. They divorced after twelve years. 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). She was there at the same time as Roland Barthes, who published his experiences in Empire of Signs (1970).

She then explored the United States, Asia, and Europe, helped by her fluency in French and German. She spent much of the late 1970s and 1980s as a writer in residence at universities, including the University of Sheffield, Brown University, the University of Adelaide, and the University of East Anglia. In 1977 Carter married Mark Pearce, with whom she had one son.

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. Two of her fictions have been adapted for the silver screen: The Company of Wolves (1984) and The Magic Toyshop (1987). 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. These neglected works, as well as her controversial television documentary, The Holy Family Album, are discussed in Charlotte Crofts' book, Anagrams of Desire (2003).

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. However, only a synopsis survives.

Her novel Nights at the Circus won the 1984 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for literature.

Angela Carter died aged 51 in 1992 at her home in London after developing lung cancer. Her obituary published in The Observer said, "She was the opposite of parochial. Nothing, for her, was outside the pale: she wanted to know about everything and everyone, and every place and every word. She relished life and language hugely, and reveled in the diverse."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,867 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.3k followers
May 15, 2019

Angela Carter reveals the dark heart of the fairy story in these memorably quirky versions. She is able to intensify the mythic core of each of these tales, not by stripping them down to their essentials (the obvious way) but by using eccentric, illuminative detail expressed in individualistic prose.

Although these versions could be described as feminist and anti-patriarchal, such labels are too limiting for the fierce independence of Carter's intelligence. She is a writer who never shrinks from acknowledging the transformative power of sexual passion--even if the object of that passion be unworthy or evil, even if the passion itself be dark and destructive.

It is her frankness, her clarity and her art--not the adherence to any philosophical position--that make these tales so liberating, so powerful, such flawless examples of craftsmanship and style.
Profile Image for Ferdy.
944 reviews1,098 followers
April 8, 2015

I had high expectations for this, Carter's fairy tale retellings are meant to be well known for being feminist, gothic, and original. For the most part, I didn't feel that was true. Having a few heroines with sexual agency didn't magically make them feminist or ground breaking, it takes a lot more than that to modernise a fairy tale. There were only a couple of them that I actually found somewhat enjoyable, the rest were rubbish.

Hated the writing, it was convoluted, complicated, and nonsensical. There were a number of times I got lost as to what the hell was going on and had to keep re-reading sentences over and over to get some clarity. Also, some sentences read more like paragraphs than sentences, they never bloody ended.

The stories:

Quite liked this, but mostly because of the ending where the heroine's mum kills Bluebeard and saves her daughter from death. Other than that it was a paint by numbers retelling of Bluebeard.

So predictable and cheesy. It was a run of the mill Beauty and the Beast retelling complete with flat characters, insta-love, and zero depth.

Another Beauty and the Beast retelling. This time Beauty ends up with the Beast because her dad gambles her off like property. At the end Beauty turns herself into a beast too so she can be with a guy who forced her to live with him just so he could see her naked. Ugh.

A shallow manslut gets his cat (Puss) to hook him up with the rich beautiful virgin he fell in insta-love with after seeing her just the once. Puss does so, and man gets to shag said virgin, who also happens to be married. Puss and the man kill the husband and get to settle down with their virginal women after years of shagging around. Yea, it was just a tropey mess and the female characters were rubbish.

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.

The worst story of the lot, a married Count wishes for a girl as white as snow, red as blood, and black as raven. 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. And the wife seems to be cool with her husband raping dead bodies. Ugh, hated it.

This was the most interesting of all the stories. Liked the gothic undertones and how atmospheric it was. 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. Where's the feminism in that?

Another story with a girl causing her grandma's death, this time so she can sex up a werewolf guy. Ugh, what's with all these female characters being killed by other female characters and dying in horrible ways?

Weird. Girl thinks she's a wolf, then kind of realises she's not, and then she thinks she's a wolf again. Yea, didn't like it.

There were only two stories (The Bloody Chamber and The Lady of the House of Love) in the collection that I somewhat enjoyed. The rest were disappointing, they were either predictable or tropey or plain weird (and not in a good way). Also, apart from The Bloody Chamber, I didn't find any of the retellings to be feminist in any way. I don't know why they've been praised for their feminism when there was actually very little feminism in them, if anything they were sexist what with most of the female characters actions being controlled/influenced by men in some way or another. Also, the writing was rubbish.
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews45.6k followers
January 30, 2023
"subversively dark and sensual versions of familiar fairy tales"? this is heaven.

this collection is so beautifully written and eerie and addictive. i loved the very act of reading these. i chase that feeling.

i don't know what else to say!

bottom line: i might raise this to 5.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,109 reviews44.3k followers
November 1, 2017
Halloween re-read!

Angela Carter is an absolute masterful writer. She takes the basic narrative of fairy tales and infuses them will blood, death and horror. She’s a genius at what she does.

She’s a great story-teller. She transports the stories to the confines of modern society and considers real issues such as the representation of women, the limitations of gender and the restrictions of stories themselves.

Her prose is captivating, near on enchanting. As soon as I began reading the first story in here, I was hooked on her style. She reminds me of Margaret Attwood. The two have a way of presenting such issues in a remarkably frank way, and better yet the stories themselves, the actual plot rather than the allegories, are immensely entertaining. This is the kind of literature I love: a suspense filled vessel of storytelling that is full of dark meanings. She’s a drastically under read writer when you consider her creative talent.

I couldn’t recommend her work more highly, especially today.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,106 reviews3,878 followers
December 3, 2021
An extraordinarily sensual, symbol-rich, collection of very adult tales of enchantment, focusing on female protagonists. Some are dirtier versions of the familiar, some are barely recognisable beyond title and names, and a couple were unknown to me. 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.

There is blood in the title, and there are many allusions to literal and metaphorical blood (mainly in relation to sacrificial virgins: puberty, menstruation, sex) and flowers - sometimes both, as a deflowered bride ponders "The lilies I always associate with him; that are white. And stain you."

Power and betrayal are also major themes, aided by the delusion of disguise (different skins, and shedding thereof) and hence loss of inhibitions and innocence. Love often equates to death of some kind.

It's a feast for all the senses, though it doesn't always leave a pleasant taste. However, Carter is a feminist at heart, and this is reflected in many of the tales having female narrators, along with the way she twists and subverts the reader's expectations.

The Bloody Chamber
The longest story is that of Bluebeard, which was a partial inspiration for Jane Eyre (see my review HERE), but here is set in modern(ish) times.

A much married man takes a new, young, innocent wife. 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").

Her father had died, "leaving a legacy of tears that never quite dried", and she is seduced by an opal ring that may be cursed: "I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption", and evidently he does too. The bedroom scene is disturbing, but not in a graphic way, as is his porn collection, which features disturbingly youthful subjects. 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. She is instructed to indulge herself as she likes in "this lovely prison of which I was both the inmate and the mistress", with a single exception: she must never enter the room where he occasionally goes "to savour the rare pleasure of imagining myself wifeless".

Of course, the temptation is enormous: . So far, so traditional. But there is a feisty heroine in this

The Courtship of Mr Lyon
Plenty of horror tropes in the opening: a man breaks down somewhere remote, seeks aid at a magnificent Palladian house, where he receives generous, enchanted hospitality from an unseen host: "he felt no fear although he knew by the pervasive atmosphere of a a suspension of reality that he had entered a place of privilege where all the laws of the world he knew need not necessarily apply."

As he leaves, he takes a single white rose for his daughter, at which the Beastly owner appears. His wrath is only appeased by the promise of the man's daughter coming to dinner.

What sort of father pimps his daughter, even if only for a meal? Beauty feels "spotless, sacrificial", realising "her visit to the Beast must be, on some magically reciprocal scale, the price of her father's [renewed] good fortune" and hence "she was possessed by a sense of obligation to an unusual degree".

It continues traditionally, I think, though this well-known story is somehow one I never read very often as a child or parent (and I don't like Disney).

The Tiger's Bride
A darker version of Beauty and the Beast, opening "My father lost me to the Beast at cards" as he "magnificently concluded the career he had made of catastrophe". This Beauty is more bitter than the Mr Lyon version.

Instead of magical staff, this version has automata, which make it far more sinister, and this Beast explicitly wants "The sight of a young lady's skin that no man has seen before". There is a strange parallel between Beauty and her animatronic maid: "had I not been allotted only the same kind of imitative life amongst men that the doll-maker had given her?" Ultimately, this leads Beauty to

Puss in Boots
This is overtly humorous, narrated by a proud, sharp, cynical Puss - and almost totally different from the usual story beyond the initial setup of an impoverished master and his unattainable object of affection. Puss also has a love object, and she is attainable, and at least as cunning as he is. This one features human sex and cat sex - but not together!

The Erl-King
I was unfamiliar with this exquisite story, but its richness and allusions to goblins, woodland and succulent berries reminded me of Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market (see my review HERE): "red berries as ripe and delicious as goblin or enchanted fruit" with "appalling succulence". There's not much plot, just beautiful, allegorical writing.

"The lucidity, the clarity of the light that afternoon was sufficient to itself; perfect transparency must be impenetrable, these vertical bars of brass-coloured distillation of light coming down from sulphur-yellow interstices in a sky hunkered with grey clouds that bulge with more rain... The withered blackberries dangled like their own dour spooks on the discoloured brambles... Autumn... a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being; the year, in turning, turns in on itself. Introspective weather, a sickroom hush."

"The woods enclose... The intimate perspectives of the wood changed endlessly around the interloper, the imaginary traveller walking towards an invented distance that perpetually receded before me."

"He strips me to my last nakedness... then dresses me again in an embrace so lucid and encompassing it might be made of water... his touch both consoles and devastates me."

"What big eyes you have" (LRRH, again) "Eyes of an incomparable luminosity, the numinous phosphorescence of the eyes of lycanthropes. The gelid green of your eyes fixes my reflective face. It is a preservative, like a green liquid amber... I am afraid I will be trapped in it... He winds me into the circle of his eye on a reel of birdsong... looking there makes me giddy, as if I might fall into it."

The Snow Child
Less than a page long: a brutal male fantasy, with paedophilic and even incestuous undercurrents (but not graphic).

The Lady of the House of Love
The Queen of the Vampires is "a girl who is both death and the maiden". She's hundreds of years old, wearing a wedding gown, endlessly dealing (tarot) cards, and lives in a dusty and decaying mansion, inhibited by ghosts - like Dickens' Miss Havisham. She yearns to be human.

As he approaches the house, he explicitly remembers childhood stories of such places (very meta), but goes in regardless. In this, the woman is the predator, and the virgin interloper a young man, and once again, flowers play a seductive part: the scent of roses creates "sensuous vertigo... faintly corrupting sweetness".

He realises "She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself." There is blood and a bedroom and a final transformation, echoing many of the stories .

The Werewolf
A short reversal of Little Red Riding Hood, with the girl in charge: .

The Company of Wolves
Forests are dangerous because of wolves, but some wolves become human when they die. This isn't necessarily a good thing. Lots of description of the beauty and danger of forests and fur.

This is a girl-power version of Little Red Riding Hood.

A feral child is raised by wolves, then taken in by nuns who try to civilise her and then pass her on to a mysterious "Duke", who has no reflection .

"She inhabits only the present tense, a fugue of the continuous, a world of sensual immediacy." It's only when she starts menstruating that she begins to acquire a sense of times and, to some extent, external sense of self.

* "My satin nightdress... supple as a garment of heavy water, and now teasingly caressed me, egregious, insinuating, nudging between my thighs."
* "The first grey streamers of the dawn" - not a good sign.
* "And we drove towards the widening dawn, that now streaked half the sky with a wintry bouquet of pink of roses, orange of tiger-lilies, as if my husband had ordered e a sky from a florist. The day broke around me like a cool dream."
* "Sea; sand; a sky that melts into the sea - a landscape of misty pastels with a look about it of being continuously on the point of melting. A landscape with all the delinquent harmonies of Debussy."
* "The faery solitude" of the "amphibious place, contravening the materiality of both earth and the waves, with the melancholy of a mermaiden who perches on her rock and waits, endlessly, for a lover who has drowned far away, long ago."
* "Your thin white face, with its promise of debauchery only a connoisseur could detect."
* "Her day of pastel-coloured idleness"
* "Her face was acquiring, instead of beauty, a lacquer of the invincible prettiness that characterises certain pampered, exquisite, expensive cats."
* "The furious cynicism peculiar to women whom circumstances force to witness folly."
* "the sullen river, sweating fog."
* "The treacherous south where you think there is no winter but forget you take it with you."
* A valet with "unflattering obsequiousness... and old-fashioned look: ironic, sly, a smidgen of disdain in it... his face seamed with the innocent cunning of an ancient baby."
* "French... the only language in which you can purr."
* "Love is desire sustained by unfulfilment."
* "The light of the fire sucked into the black vortex of his eye."
* "A plangent twang like that of the plucked heartstrings of a woman of metal. Her hair falls down like tears."
* "Random areas of staining, ominous marks like those left on the sheets by dead lovers."
* The solstice is "the hinge of the year when things do not fit together as well as they should."
* "His bedroom is painted terracotta, rusted with a wash of pain."

Recommended by Danielle (CUSFS).

Not to be confused with the pocket-sized collection, Bluebeard (see my review HERE), which retells several traditional tales, adds a twist and moral, but is less dark and deep than these ones.

Similar, but different

Hardened Hearts, an anthology of stories on the tragedies of love by seventeen different writers. They're dappled with stains of dark fantasy or light horror, and some have a distinct fairytale feel, like these. See my review HERE.

Fen by Daisy Johnson, a collection of dark and magical stories focusing on young women in the Fens of England. See my review HERE.

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
April 20, 2022
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is a collection of short fiction by English writer Angela Carter. It was first published in the United Kingdom in 1979 by Gollancz and won the Cheltenham Festival Literary Prize.

The stories share a theme of being closely based upon fairytales or folk tales. The anthology contains ten stories:

The Bloody Chamber: The narrator, a beautiful teenage girl, marries an older, wealthy French Marquis, whom she does not love. He gifts her a choker made of rubies, warning her against taking it off. When he takes her to his castle, she discovers his collection of pornographic images and takes pleasure in her embarrassment. They consummate that night, in her room filled with white lilies and mirrors. ...

The Courtship of Mr. Lyon: Beauty's father, after experiencing car trouble, takes advantage of a stranger's hospitality. However, his benefactor – the Beast – takes umbrage when he steals a miraculous white rose for his beloved daughter. Beauty becomes the guest of the leonine Beast, and the Beast aids her father in getting his fortune back. ...

The Tiger's Bride: A woman moves in with a mysterious, masked "Milord", the Beast, after her father loses her to him in a game of cards. Milord is eventually revealed to be a tiger. ...

Puss-in-Boots: Figaro, a cat, moves in with a rakish young man who lives a happily debauched life. They live a carefree existence, with the cat helping him to make money by cheating at cards, until the young man actually falls in love (to the cat's disgust) with a young woman kept in a tower by a miserly, older husband who treats her only as property. ...

The Erl-King: A maiden wanders into the woods and is seduced by the sinister Erl-King, a seeming personification of the forest itself. However, she eventually realises that he plans to imprison her by turning her into a bird, which he has done with other girls. Realising the Erl-King's plan, she kills him by strangling him with his own hair, thus keeping her freedom.

The Snow Child: A Count and Countess go riding in midwinter. The Count sees snow on the ground and wishes for a child "as white as snow". Similar wishes are made when the Count sees a hole in the snow containing a pool of blood, and a raven. As soon as he made his final wish a young woman of the exact description appears at the side of the road. ...

The Lady of the House of Love: A virginal English soldier, travelling through Romania by bicycle, finds himself in a deserted village. He comes across a mansion inhabited by a vampire who survives by enticing young men into her bedroom and feeding on them. She intends to feed on the young soldier but his purity and virginity have a curious effect on her. ...

The Werewolf: A girl goes to visit her grandmother, but encounters a werewolf on the way, whose paw she cuts off with a knife. When she reaches her grandmother's house, the paw has turned into a hand with the grandmother's ring on it, and the grandmother is both delirious and missing her hand. ...

The Company of Wolves: In the beginning of the piece, the wolf is described as an evil thing. One mini story in the beginning is about a witch who turned a whole wedding ceremony into wolves. She likes them coming to her cabin and howling their misery for it soothes her. In another mini story a young lady and a man are about to have sex on their wedding night. As they get ready the husband says he needs to stop and relieve himself in the forest. The wife waits and he never returns. Off in the distance a wolf can be heard howling. She then figures her husband will never return and marries a new man. With her new husband she bears children. Her first husband comes back and sees his wife. The first husband then becomes furious and bites the leg off the eldest child. Her second husband kills the wolf, who dies and looks exactly the same as he had when he disappeared; this makes her cry and her husband beats her. ...

and Wolf-Alice: A feral child, whom some nuns have attempted to "civilise" by trying to teach her standard social graces, is left in the house of a monstrous, vampiric Duke when she cannot conform. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز سوم ماه نوامبر سال2019میلادی

عنوان: تالار خونین و داستانهای دیگر؛ نویسنده: آنجلا کارتر؛ موضوع داستانهای کوتاه از نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده20م

ده داستان کوتاه است: در داستان نخست «تالار خونین»: راوی داستان، یک دختر نوجوان زیبا است، با یک مارکیز پیر و ثروتمند «فرانسوی» ازدواج میکند، ولی دختر او را دوست ندارد؛ و ...؛

روانشاد «آنجلا اولیو کارتر (روز هفتم ماه می سال1940میلادی – روز شانزدهم ماه فوریه سال1992میلادی)»؛ که با نام «آنجلا کارتر» می‌نوشتند، نویسنده ی رمانها، داستانهای کوتاه، سراینده شعر، و خبرنگار انگلیسی بودند، که بیشتر برای کارهای ایشان در زمینه‌ های «فمینیسم»، «رئالیسم جادویی» و «رندنامه» شناخته شده ‌بودند و هستند؛ خوانشگران، ایشان را بیشتر برای همین کتاب «تالار خونین»، که در سال1979میلادی چاپ شده است، بیشتر بیاد می‌آورند؛ در سال2008میلادی «روزنامه تایمز»، خانم «آنجلا اولیو کارتر» را، در رده ی دهم از پنجاه نویسنده ی برتر «بریتانیایی» پس از جنگ جهانی دوم، قرار دادند؛ در سال2012میلادی، کتاب «شبی در سیرک» ایشان، به عنوان بهترین برنده دوره های جایزه ی یادبود «جیمز تیت بلاک» برگزیده شد؛

رمانهای «آنجلا کارتر»: «رقص سایه ها (1966میلادی)»؛ «اسباب بازی فروشی جادویی (سال1967میلادی)»؛ «تصورات متعدد (سال1968میلادی)»؛ «قهرمانان و خائنان (سال1969میلادی)»؛ «عشق (سال1971میلادی)»؛ «ماشین امیال جهنمی دکتر هافمن (جنگ رویاها، سال1972میلادی)»؛«شور آینده نو (سال1977میلادی)»؛ «شبی در سیرک (سال1984میلادی)»؛ «بچه های عاقل (سال1991میلادی)»؛

سری داستانهای کوتاه «آنجلا کارتر»: «آتش بازی: نه قطعه کفر آمیز (سال1974میلادی)»؛ «تالار خونین (سال1979میلادی)»؛ «زنمرد (سال1983میلادی)»؛ «ونوس سیاه (سال1985میلادی)»؛ «اشباح آمریکایی و شگفتی های دنیای قدیم (سال1993میلادی)»؛ «سوزاندن قایقهای خود (سال1995میلادی)»؛

اشعار «آنجلا کارتر»: «پنج جارچی آرام (سال1966میلادی)»؛ «تکشاخ (سال1966میلادی)»؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 19/01/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ 30/01/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Kristi  Siegel.
192 reviews585 followers
March 14, 2010
Hey there Little Red Riding Hood,
You sure are looking good.
You’re everything a big bad wolf could want.
Listen to me…
I don’t think little big girls should
Go walking in these spooky old woods alone.
—Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, 1962

In The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter’s uses a decidedly feminist slant to re-tell familiar myths and stories. “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.” Interestingly, the earliest versions of the fairy tale were primarily oral and far more risqué. These versions included sexual elements such as the wolf (actually a “werewolf” in the oldest versions) telling Red Riding Hood to throw her clothes, one by one, into a fire (Leeming and Sader 391). Further—in these early versions—Red Riding Hood tricks the wolf by pretending that she needs to go outside to relieve herself. Once outside, Red Riding Hood quickly removes the rope attached to her, ties it to a tree, and escapes (Bushi). In these original versions, Red Riding Hood outwits the fox, and the sexual overtones are explicit.

By the time Charles Perrault wrote his version in 1697, the story had been sanitized into a lesson on young girls’ morality. In Perrault’s version, the story serves to warn young girls about the threat men pose to their sexual innocence, but does not include the mother’s warning to “stay on the path,” that appears in most later versions (such as that of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm in 1812). Instead, Perrault ends his tale with an overt moral warning: Young ladies—in particular, well-bred and attractive young ladies—should not be beguiled by men’s wolfish charm (3). 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 mother’s warning, strays off the path, and gets “deeper and deeper into the wood.” Once in the woods, Little Red Riding Hood’s troubles begin. Ultimately, a hunter, who just happens to be passing by, saves her.

Of most significance is the decided shift the fairy tale has undergone through time. In the original versions, Little Red Riding Hood saves herself and is never gulled by the wolf. In versions dating from the seventeenth century onward, the girl strays from the path, actually believes the wolf might really be granny, and is saved by a huntsman. Further, in the Grimms’ version and its modern variations, Red Riding Hood’s 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.” However, the fairy tale’s other messages to young women are more embedded and more destructive: We are easily distracted and disobedient; we are not safe alone in the woods (traveling off the beaten path); we are fairly stupid; we get ourselves in trouble; and we need to be rescued by a man.

In contrast, Angela Carter’s short story, “The Company of Wolves,” restores the tale’s original elements—such as the overt sexuality and a heroine who is resourceful rather than helpless—but adds a feminist perspective. Carter’s heroine is “strong-minded,” packs a carving knife in her basket of goodies, and is powerful because of her virginity:
“She stands and moves within the invisible pentacle of her own virginity. She is an unbroken egg; she is a sealed vessel; she has inside her a magic space…she is a closed system; she does not know how to shiver. She has her knife and she is afraid of nothing.”
Further, in Carter’s version, Red Riding Hood does not just protect herself, but controls the “game.” The seduction scene plays out like a modern slasher movie. As the girl—at the wolf’s bidding—removes each item of clothing and ostensibly becomes more and more vulnerable, we begin to see her as a victim. Just as we become lulled by the predictable script in motion, the girl, now completely naked, responds to the wolf’s threat, “All the better to eat you with,” by bursting into laughter: “[S:]he knew she was nobody’s meat.” Even given the background Carter provides in the story’s beginning, the scene startles. We knew the girl was strong, independent, and armed. However, the pattern of woman-alone-traveling-alone-helpless-alone-victim is so embedded in our consciousness that we are caught off-guard.

And, that is precisely Carter’s point.

Adapted from a prior publication

Profile Image for s.penkevich.
781 reviews5,390 followers
October 28, 2021
'the king, aghast, witnesses the revolt of his pawns.'

Pretty much essential reading for anyone interested in fairy tales or retellings. Angela Carter is a literary giant at crafting feminist fairytales that subvert the originals and this collection is a powerhouse of empowerment. Tackling familiar stories such as Bluebeard and multiple perspectives on Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast, Carter examines women's roles in the genre and reconfigures the stories to elevate their perspectives and challange the traditional stories. I can't recommend anything more highly.
Full review to come.
Profile Image for Robin.
475 reviews2,560 followers
October 2, 2021
Angela Carter has been accused of writing "adult fairy tales". Well, I have news for you. Fairy tales have always been adult, and underneath, about death and sex (but not necessarily in that order). She has simply resurrected what has always been there. That's why her work rings so true.

This collection comprises a retelling of many stories that will be familiar to you: Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, and others.

The language, highly stylized, is baroque, gorgeously rich and Gothic, and darkly sensuous. It belongs, doesn't get in the way, and facilitates a grown up re-entry into this newly illuminated fantastical world.

In this world, all woods are dangerous, all women are libidinous virgins, all men are beastly and virile. Then, the unexpected takes place. A divine play on sexual politics. A new exploration of the patriarchal power struggle.

Did I mention how drenched this is in the erotic? How a virginal young bride, teased by her much older husband on their wedding night, impatiently waits for him to "bed" her. How, later, he "peels her like an artichoke".

What about how, in a subsequent story, the beast's only request is to see his captive maiden naked? When she refuses, he shows himself, which has her reciprocating immediately... and results in his "licking the skin off her" (in a good way, a good way, I promise).

How about a cat who, upstairs, downstairs, can slip into any lady's chamber? Meow.

The title story is the strongest by far, for me, but the rest of the collection is very good. Where Carter lags is when the telling is more traditional. She soars most when she flies off the page, audacious, spurred by dark magic.

If you're like me, you'll dog ear pages, you'll run your tongue over your lips, you'll delight at Carter's brilliance. You'll realize this was there all along... and wonder, why do we consider these stories fodder for children at bedtime?

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews697 followers
January 3, 2020
A collection of stories based off of fairy tales, I found this the other day cleaning out by books and I realized I never read it. I think it may have been for a class I dropped and I guess I had already bought the books. It was a pretty short read about 126 pages, so I read it in between doing other work today when taking a break. I really enjoyed the writing style and I think the first story, the one the book is named after, was the best one by far. Some of the other ones were weaker, especially the ones that were shorter. I think this book is much better reading for it's turns of phrases and writing style than if you're looking for engagement with plot, especially since the stories are shorter. The book would've gotten a three if it was just about it's ability to engage me but I bumped it up to four because I love poetic vivid prose.

May 16, 2017
Τα πιο γνωστά μας παραμύθια,οι μύθοι που έχουν ταξιδέψει απο γενιά σε γενιά, οι θρύλοι και οι λαϊκές παραδόσεις ζωντανεύουν μέσα σε αυτό το βιβλίο με τη μορφή παρωδίας και σεξιστικής λαϊκής κουλτούρας.

Όλες οι ιστορίες των παιδικών μας χρόνων -σωστά ισχυρίζεται η συγγραφέας - εκφράζουν τις εκάστοτε κοινωνικές δομές και τις διαπροσωπικές σχέσεις με πρότυπο πάντα το κλισέ θύτης- θύμα.

Και είναι όλα καλά και όμορφα όταν τα παραμύθια ζωντανεύουν, οι μάγισσες καίγονται,οι βάτραχοι με τη δύναμη του φιλιού μεταμορφώνονται σε πρίγκιπες και οι καλοί πάντα στο τέλος ζουν ευτυχισμένα ενώ οι συνήθως πλούσιοι κακοί βουλιάζουν στην κόλαση της αιώνιας τιμωρίας και της ανυπαρξίας.

Εδώ βέβαια τα πράγματα περιπλέκονται σε σημείο να καταντούν ανόητα και άσκοπα.

Εκτός απο την «ματωμένη κάμαρα» που δίνει τον τίτλο σε αυτή τη συλλογή δέκα ιστοριών και που πραγματικά ήταν ατμοσφαιρική,σκοτεινή, με εξαιρετική γοτθική φύση και κλασική αξία σε αυτό το είδος, οι υπόλοιπες αφηγήσεις ακόμη ψάχνω να βρω τι ακριβώς εξυπηρετούσαν και στο βωμό ποιας λογοτεχνικής αξίας θυσιάζουν τον αναγνώστη!!

Παρελαύνουν μπροστά μας -με έξοχη βέβαια την ικανότητα χειρισμού της γλώσσας,άψογη ποιητική και λυρική περιγραφή-σε ενήλικη έκδοση και με πολύ έντονα τα στοιχεία της σεξουαλικότητας,διαφοροποιημένοι και ανισόρροποι με
εναλλαγή ρόλων:

Ο Λυκάνθρωπος που φεύγει την πρώτη νύχτα του γάμου του προφασιζόμενος σωματική ανάγκη και επιστρέφει πολλά χρόνια μετά να εκδικηθεί τη σύζυγο που δεν τον περίμενε να επιστρέψει απο την τουαλέτα 15 χρόνια αργότερα παρά είχε το θράσος να κάνει οικογένεια με άλλον άνδρα λιγότερο τριχωτό.

Η Κοκκινοσκουφίτσα που έχοντας μάγισσα γιαγιά και ατρόμητο χαρακτήρα μετά απο πολλές περιπλανήσεις και πονηριές ζευγαρώνει με τον «προικισμένο» λύκο και τους βρίσκει η αυγή μετά την πανσέληνο να ουρλιάζουν απο πόθο.

Η Χιονάτη πεθαίνει στη μέση του δρόμου απο άγνωστες αιτίες...και μεταλλαγμένο DNA αλλά ο υποτιθέμενος Δούκας πατέρας της αφού ικανοποιήσει το σεξουαλικό του κατάλοιπο στο πτώμα της Χιονάτης ( με εβένινα μαλλιά κάτασπρο δέρμα και ματωμένα χείλη)προσφέρει στη μητριά -που παρακολουθεί την ερωτική σκηνή- τον καρπό του έρωτα του, ένα λουλούδι ποτισμένο μάλλον με σπέρμα και λάσπη. Μετά απο αυτό,η μητριά φοράει τη γούνα της και επιστρέφουν στην τρυφηλή καθημερινότητα τους. (Έχει πετάξει πριν το λουλούδι μη και πεθάνει σαν τη Χιονάτη).

Ακολουθεί η ωραία και το τέρας και κάποιες άλλες μπερδεμένες ιστορίες με βαμπίρ και νεκροφάγους και με πάρα πολλές γάτες πονηρές και εκστασιασμένες. Παρέα μας και ο παπουτσωμένος γάτος.

Ουσία καμία. Νόημα ανισόρροπο και σε πολιτικό και προσωπικό επίπεδο.

Η Κάρτερ εκμεταλλεύτηκε στο έπακρο όλη την ελευθερία έκφρασης και φαντασίας που σου δίνει το παραμύθι και προσπάθησε ανεπιτυχώς να φτιάξει ένα μεταλλαγμένο είδος συσχετισμών ανάμεσα σε θύτη και θύμα διατηρώντας όλα τα βασικά στοιχεία του μύθου.

Κάπου μπερδεύτηκαν πολύ η λαϊκή παράδοση, η μαζική κουλτούρα και η λογοτεχνία ανακατωμένα με σεξουαλικότητα,ερωτικό υπόβαθρο και γοτθική ατμόσφαιρα που ξέφυγαν απο την διαχείριση,την διαπίστωση και την προσέγγιση σε ένα κάποιο μυθοπλαστικό μανδύα έστω....

Ενσυνείδητη γραφή και πολλή φαντασία αλλά το αποτέλεσμα επιεικώς απογοητευτικό.

Καλή ανάγνωση (τυχεροί).

Πολλούς παραμυθένιους ασπασμούς!
Profile Image for Lea.
117 reviews300 followers
November 7, 2017
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories are indeed heaven for psychoanalysts, as they contain a lot of mythical symbols of subconscious conflicts and are dealing with Eros and Thantos that are, according to Freud, two most powerful driving forces for humans, and in Carter's imaginative world of fairy tales characters are driven by pursue for (sometimes sadistic, more-often sexual) pleasure.

Angela Carter made clear, "My intention was not to do 'versions' or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, 'adult' fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories and to use it as the beginnings of new stories."

And she did it using imagery and beautifully poetic and lyrical language to describe inner liberation of social conventions, prejudges and stereotypes that disable us to build strong character, become ourselves and fulfill our potential as women (and men). Carter challenges our views on male and female sexuality, relationships, marriage and traditional roles. In a subtle way, she devours the hypocrisy of traditional male-dominated society view of women as objects, helpless beautiful princesses in submissive passive roles of wives of powerful men. The lead female characters often start as poor, innocent, helpless girls that are bound in some way to man, and in time they become engaged, active, experienced, and adventurous characters. They become not only beauties but also beasts, they too are strong and begin to claim their (sexual) desires. When it comes to sexual liberation it often takes killing an authoritative man (or sacrificing their own virginity) to become fully free (a metaphor for killing the patriarchal stereotypes that society imposters on women). Themes of innocence, virginity, sexuality, and death are ongoing motives in the stories. Society idea of female perfection, "good, loyal, and submissive" is a death sentence for female protagonists in the stories. Classic male-female roles are reversed, and we can argue about the idea of masculinity and femininity, as the characters show that to be a complete mature person, you have to be both "masculine" and "feminine" to live an authentic and fulfilled existence. The femininity is tied up with inexperience and purity, and masculinity with experience and corruption.

Sex and sexual desire are the catalysts for the heroine's transformation into a beast. We can discuss the beast component of every character as coming in the touch of deep subconscious driving forces that become more clear and visible to themselves and the world. They had to accept the animal nature in themselves and in each other so that they can be free of the human world with its moral rules and social constructions, and connect to their true self.

The sense of freedom is also crucial in these romantic relationships and the loving, caring and satisfying relationships are advocated, where motives are pure and partners connect to each other’s true bare self. ‘Yet even these relationships it acknowledges are a matter of choice; as Puss expresses by saying, "your wives, if you need them," and "your husbands, if you want them." ’

The subtle display of society’s issue of putting woman against each other is present in "The Snow Child" and "The Werewolf", noting that women are often portrayed as they can coexist only as rivals, in envy and competition for male attention (eye roll).

I would say that some of the stories deeply affected me and it was very atmospheric and haunting read, reminded me of Poe’s stories which I infinitely adore, but some stories were in my opinion much stronger than others and were for me personally lacing some substance. I think she painted a beautiful picture of some aspects of human nature, but maybe not in a wide and deep enough way for my taste. I did some training in psychoanalysis and Freud gave absolutely remarkable knowledge to psychiatry, but I think that pursuit of pleasure and sexual liberation can only be starting points in the journey of psychological and spiritual maturity, not an ending as this book suggests. Even though the stories touch on a pursuit of power (self-psychology), power over oneself and life is often just a consequence of establishing a romantic relationship or losing virginity and that is something I can't agree with. I would be far more interested in the pursuit of meaning and purpose as I think that is an ultimate empowerment for both women and men.

To finish off with hope in Angela Carter’s quote I really admire:

"I really do believe that a fiction absolutely self-conscious of itself as a different form of human experience than reality (that is, not a logbook of events) can help to transform reality itself."
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,633 reviews5,002 followers
October 15, 2019
Perfection! Carter retells classic fairy tales with an emphasis on gender, dreams, sexuality, and death. But wait didn't all of these fairy tales already emphasize those things? Sure, sure. But Carter makes certain those aspects are front and center in her retelling. The collection is definitely not for kids. The subtext has become the text and that means all of the things between the lines and behind closed doors are naked, on display. All the better to deconstruct you with, my dear, as the werewolf said to the adventuress, drooling.

I loved how Carter looks at all sides of the fairy tales Beauty and the Beast and Little Red Riding Hood. Two faces of the same coin, three faces of Eve. For Beauty and the Beast: an enchanting tale drenched in light, love, and sweetness ("The Courtship of Mr. Lyon"); a dark and often venomous tale of the fallibility of humanity and how to embrace the changing of shape and nature when life's options are shown to be limited, even pointless ("The Tiger's Bride"). Beast transforms to Man in one; Woman transforms to Beast in another. You say tomato, I say tomahto, either either neither neither, let's call the whole thing off. For Little Red Riding Hood: "The Werewolf"has a vicious and avaricious young lady calling the shots - the werewolf has no chance; "The Company of Wolves" has another young woman embracing her bestial nature within (and the adaptation of this is also one of my favorite films); the hypnotic "Wolf-Alice" twists the story even further, with a feral young lady brought to a vampiric Duke's castle, to discover her true identity, to show the Duke he is not alone in his difference.

The tale of Bluebeard acquires a glorious feminist sheen in its retelling, in the piece that gives the collection its title. A smart new bride; a horrifying new husband; a mother who knows how to use a gun: together they make a compelling set of characters. This lengthy novella starts the collection and is its centerpiece as well. It drips with a morbid, gothic atmosphere and doesn't shy away from the foulness of its villain's deeds. Indeed, it makes sure that twisted, monstrous misogyny is not given even the slightest bit of attractiveness - quite unlike many gothics. And it has such a satisfying ending!

The remainder of the book includes retellings of The Snow Child, Sleeping Beauty, and in "The Erl-King", an eerie, dreamy battle between its heroine and the titular forest god. Sinister, melancholy, hallucinatory, and often creepily romantic. Swoon!

My favorite of the collection is its most straightforward: the cheerful adaptation of Puss in Boots. What a lark! This cheeky, cunning little story features an amoral cast, love at first sight, murder (I suppose), plenty of sex, and talking cats - it's like it was written just for me.

The Bloody Chamber was a rare reread in that I loved it even more the second time around. Carter's prose is gorgeous; her stories both mythic and rife with sexual politics; her themes are those themes that compel me the most in my reading. Revisiting this collection was a bloody delight.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
696 reviews3,263 followers
December 1, 2018
His touch both consoles and devastates me; I feel my heart pulse, then wither, naked as a stone on the roaring mattress while the lovely, moony night slides through the window to dapple the flanks of this innocent who makes cages to keep the sweet birds in. Eat me, drink me; thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden, I go back and back to him to have his fingers strip the tattered skin away and clothe me in his dress of water, this garment that drenches me, its slithering odour, its capacity for drowning.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,535 reviews1,791 followers
September 3, 2018
After the rigorous pounding that I got while reading The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr Hoffman, I certainly wasn't expecting this almost diffident collection of short stories.

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. It is easy to imagine Carter at her work bench, loosening her vice, critically admiring a piece of finished work before putting it to one side and deciding to do the whole thing again, just twisting it slightly or taking something apart and recombining the elements in a slightly different way.

But I did not have the sense of a writer pushing me towards the limits of my endurance, striking at me with a rationality that was barbed with calculation, sharp with her considered intellect. These stories were more relaxed for all their sexuality. The teapot perched on her workbench for sure had a little crocheted cosy to keep it snugly warm, the collection broadly speaking was safer than I expected from the aforementioned novel. As one often has cause to remark - it is funny the difference that the absence of giant pan-sexual tattooed rapist centaurs makes to a writer's work.

The sexual content seemed admittedly less radical to me than maybe it did at time of publication - I think, perhaps I am wrong, that we are generally far more aware that the sexually explicit content in popular stories was edited out to create our modern fairy tales, by the brothers Grimm among others, in the nineteenth century while they retained the the violence - at least the non-sexual violence. Carter to my mind is simply returning to the original potentialities of this kind of story. Perhaps they weren't necessarily told in quite as an explicit a manner as here, possibly just with a knowing leer, or a wink, but the potential for sexual readings was always there.

The title story, The Bloody Chamber, felt terribly long, as the actress said to the Bishop, and I read the overflowing champagne staining the bride-to-be's dress as a subtle symbol, until I read the following paragraph which made it absolutely clear that subtle was a word that Carter had removed from her dictionary at least for as long as she was working on this story, although having said that the narrator's reaction to the sense of her own ability to be sexually corrupt and decadent balanced nicely with her husband's fairly straightforward desire to murder his wives, and there is a pleasure in reading a story in which the happy ending is a menage a trois between two women and their skilful-fingered blind piano tuner. 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. So much so that I hesitate to recommend her.

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. To suggest that she may have been one of the strongest voices from the latter half of twentieth century British literature would be meaningful only if I was more widely read!

Anyway I had taken myself for a walk today round the park, I passed a prim old lady with a wiry dog, "no", she said "we won't go chasing squirrels today" as she pulled on the dog's leash. I was very taken by this and a little sad to have not been there on those days when she'd fold down her umbrella, put her knitted purple hat in her pocket and run with her wiry dog after squirrels, and dance with anger at the foot of trees. Perhaps that wasn't precisely what she meant. But it reminded me both of the Lady who loved Animals and the rasp like tongue of our old cat who'd lick porridge from my fingers until he learnt to help himself from my bowl and that rasping reminded me of The Tiger's Wife, the sense of love and passion as something abrasive, that will change you, maybe not into a stripy tiger, but will rasp and grind you, but with that as something to which one can surrender oneself - no doubt with trepidation and uncertainty, open to experience and the change that we experience as life. Perhaps this comes from Angela Carter flinging herself on to Japan and finding that she survived however changed and unchanged. That she has then got her rasping tongue under my flesh and works at it still, six months after reading leads me to re-evaluate this collection, a mixed bag no doubt but a terribly strong and versatile one.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,287 reviews731 followers
December 17, 2015
There's the indulgence of the mind, and there's the pleasure of the senses. One can fill oneself up on the former to the brim, hold firmly to one's breast its lack of ignorance, its sophisticated patterns of thought, its know-how translating into a delightful net of endless know-whens and know-whats and whatever know-wherefore's your precious neurons may desire. There's a unique satisfaction to be had in those sorts of theoretical acrobatics, that complex weave of states of mind that are fully aware and fairly smug about their enlightened existence. But my god, there's also something to be said for the sensual things in life. Revel all you want in the theory of evolution, but don't forget to take advantage of what this millenia long build up of exquisite physicality has gifted you with.

A simple thing to do, that last part, wouldn't you think? This book certainly had no trouble with spilling out in a languorously lurid display its myriad charms and carnal glory, many if not all of the stories focused on the well earned pleasures of females taking charge of their own. And yet, look at the society of today, a heterosexually dominated rape culture complete with the most hypocritical set of double standards to ever exist, where every boy is a Casanova and every girl is either an easy slut or a virginal saint. Never both. That's a physical impossibility, didn't you know, since the very word 'virginity' implies that a cock has the power to change the inherent dichotomy of whatever it fucks. Boys can be virgins too, but the lack of it never seemed to compromise their intrinsic value in the history of cultures worldwide. Quite the opposite, in fact. And on the other hand, you get the dowry. Unicorns. Virginal white caked in contextual definitions of simpering innocence and shining perfection, ideological imperatives that soak the fairy tales choked down at the cradle and continue forever on in trash à la Fifty Shades of Gray.

Spare me this puritanical rot seeping into society, enough to make a biological imperative a sin in some situations and a shameful state in all cases female. Deliver me from erotica that claims to pander to anything besides the patriarchy, and is subsumed by it all the more. Give me a heady mix of whirling words that seduce the senses without sacrificing the self on an altar of supreme obedience and abused devotion, offering pleasure with no sense of whatever guilt the world attempts to infuse it with. Keep your knights in shining armor who think the nub between their legs makes them a god over everything that lacks it. I'll take the man who sees the woman as an equal in all things in the bedroom and without, the woman who will kiss you if you treat her right and spill your throat out in a righteous flow if you treat her otherwise.

You have your body. You have your dignity. You know that others have these, and that you must respect them. You don't need anything else.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,478 reviews941 followers
October 24, 2016

Bloody fantastic pick for a Halloween read!

It's not like we celebrate Halloween in my part of the world, but I am content to make it a custom every year to read something outside of my usual haunts. October is as good a pretext as any when it comes to horror, the younger sibling of fantasy and science-fiction in speculative fiction, at least for me. Angela Carter can be relied upon to transform scary entertainment into an art form, to twist a familiar fairytale into something more substantial, more disturbing and more provocative.

And, ah! his castle. The faery solitude of the place; with its turrets of misty blue, its courtyard, its spiked gate, his castle that lay on the very bosom of the sea with seabirds mewing about its attics, the casements opening on to the green and purple, evanescent departures of the ocean, cut off by the tide from land for half a day ... that castle, at home neither on the land nor on the water, a mysterious, amphibious place, contravening the materiality of both earth and the waves, with the melancoly of a mermaiden who perches on her rock and waits, endlessly, for a lover who had drowned far away, long ago. That lovely, sad, sea-siren of a place!

Welcome to a Walpurgis Night in a tri-colour scheme : the white of snow, cold and innocent; the black of a raven wing, deadly and merciless; the red of passion, of blood spilled. Having recently finished a "Sandman" graphic novel, I see this dance under the moonlight in terms of the anthropomorphic supernatural beings that rule Gaiman's alternate universe : Dream and Desire spinning around Death and Destruction watched from the sidelines by Destiny and Despair, with Delight chuckling from under the table.

Are you ready to open the door to the bloody chamber?

Wearing an antique bridal gown, the beautiful queen of the vampires sits all alone in her dark, high house under the eyes of the portraits of her demented and atrocious ancestors, each one of whom, through her, projects a baleful posthumous existence; she counts out the Tarot cards, ceaselessly constructing the constellations of possibilities as if the random fall of the cards on the red plush tablecloth before her could precipitate her from her chill, shuttered room into a country of perpetual summer and obliterate the perennial sadness of a girl who is both death and the maiden.

Are you ready to explore the twisted paths of the magical forest of your subconscious, where nightmare creatures stand ready to pounce on the unwary traveller?

Of all the teeming perils of the night and the forest, ghosts, hobgoblins, ogres that grill babies upon gridirons, witches that fatten their captives in cages for cannibal tables, the wolf is worst for he cannot listen to reason.
You are always in danger in the forest, where no people are. Step between the portals of the great pines where the shaggy branches tangle about you, trapping the unwary traveller in nets as if the vegetation itself were in a plot with the wolves who live there, as though the wicked trees go fishing on behalf of their friends - step between the gateposts of the forest with the greatest trepidation and infinite precautions, for if you stray from the path for one instant, the wolves will eat you. They are grey as famine, they are unkind as plague.

You may think you already know the stories : here's Snow White, Beauty with her Beast, there Bluebeard, Vampirella and Red Riding Hood, Alice with her looking glass and Figaro / Puss-in-Boots serenading under a balcony. We have all started our literary journey with some of these timeless gems. But what if we take a look at them with our grown up eyes, carrying our no longer innocent baggage of desires and regrets and nightmares?

I am so glad I didn't have to read Carter's stories in school, that I am able to appreciate the poetry of her imagery and her daring sense of humor without the pressure to come up with an essay or with a term paper, deconstructing the myths and finding feminist themes in the text. Liberated of such expectations, the journey was first of all one of pure joy and constant wonder. This is why I will try to keep my analytical habits under leash and concentrate on style - on the author's fascination with gothic scenery and decadent morality, so much more interesting that prim sobriety and dry academic studies. Early on, in the title story, there are a couple of references - to Huysmans novel "Le bas" and to a vintage erotica album "The Adventures of Eulalie at the Harem of the Grand Turk" (1748) - a gatepost warning if you like that "Here be Monsters'. I knew from previous Carter novels that her dream worlds are both exuberant and corrupted : a true jungle that boils over with life, with passion and with danger:

Spilt, glistering milk of moonlight on the frost-crisped grass; on such a night, in moony, metamorphic weather, they say you might easily find him, if you had been foolish enough to venture out late, scuttling along by the churchyard wall with half a juicy torso slung across his back. [...] He is white as leprosy, with scrabbling fingernails, and nothing deters him. If you stuff a corpse with garlic, why, he only slavers at the treat: cadavre provencale. He will use the holy cross as a scratching post and crouch above the font to thirstily lap up the holy water.

Since I put up this irreverent quote, I would also like to refute claims that the stories have some revanchist feminist or anti-Christian agenda. What they are is wild and liberating, freeing us from rigid conventions and outdated moral codes, inviting us to accept and embrace the darker side of our nature:

How cruel it is, to keep wild birds in cages!

So what if a few barbed arrows are thrown at the villagers with pitchforks who want to drive the ogre out of his swamp? It's about time somebody fights back against crowd mentality and superstition. Carter does it with a touch of humor that has a place for the supernatural and the scientific in the same story:

To ride a bycicle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bycicle is the product of reason applied to motion.

I am not going to give a synopsis for each tale included in the collection. Instead, I am wondering why Carter has chosen these particular fables and not others? what is the link between them? Well, I believe they all deal with a turning point in life : the moment when we leave childhood behind and we decide who or what we are. The moment when Beauty meets the Beast. It could be a young piano player getting sweeped of her feet in a whirwind romance by a rich and hulking business tycoon. Or it coul be a young British officer doing a tour of the Carpathians on bycicle. A walk in the forest to your grandmother house. Or a wild creature (Mowgli, Tarzan, Alice) brought out of the wild to be taught how to be civilized. There's usually a white rose, or a bridal gown, or a world blanketed in pure snow. And then there's the monster, the tiger or the werewolf, the king of the forest or the secretive prince in his high castle. When the two meet, blood will soon follow - sexual awakening, sometimes tender, sometimes brutal, sometimes deadly.

He is the tender butcher who showed me how the price of flesh is love; Skin the rabbit, he says! Off come my clothes.

What attracts the innocents to the corrupt? I've read all the stories here, and I don't have a clear answer. Probably because the answer is buried in the deepest recess of our instincts, predating civilization by a few geological eras. Probably blood is the price we pay for knowledge when we loose our innocence:

He has the special quality of virginity, most and least ambiguous of states: ignorance, yet at the same time, power in potentia, and furthermore, unknowingness, which is not the same as ignorance.

How did she think, how did she feel, this perennial stranger with her furred thoughts and her primal sentience that existed in a flux of shifting impressions; there are no words to describe the way she negotiated the abyss between her dreams, those wakings strange as her sleepings.

Curiosity makes the world go round, pushes it out of stasis and drives away boredom. We fear what waits in the bloody chamber, yet we cannot keep ourselves from opening the door, even when warned beforehand of the danger.

... she could not control an instinctual shudder of fear when she saw him, for a lion is a lion and a man is a man and, though lions are more beautiful by far than we are, yet they belong to a different order of beauty and, besides, they have no respect for us: why should they? Yet wild things have a far more rational fear of us than is ours of them, and some kind of sadness in his agate eyes, that looked almost blind, as if sick of sight, moved her heart.

The Beast is waiting for Beauty to step into its lair, to be chained there (in marriage, in what the world expects of her, in carnal pleasure). You have been warned!

Erl-King will do you grievous harm.
Piercingly, now, there came again the call of the bird, as desolate as if it came from the throat of the last bird left alive. That call, with all the melancholy of the failing year in it, went directly to my heart.

Beauty is lost, but in its place arises a new creature, revelling in her shed blood and suddenly strong enough to tame the monster :

"See! sweet and sound she sleeps in granny's bed, between the paws of the tender wolf."


The only criticism I have for "The Bloody Chamber" is that there are no more than ten stories here, some of them only a couple of pages long. I wanted more! especially more of Carter's comedy touch, such as "Puss-in-Boots". "Errl-King" is my favorite, but by a very narrow margin.
Profile Image for Johanna.
79 reviews134 followers
March 2, 2019
Caperucita Roja, la Bella y la Bestia o el Gato con botas son cuentos asociados a la más tierna infancia, usados para dormir y consumidos en múltiples películas de animación. Dada la automática asociación con niñez, resulta interesante que alguien los reescriba cargándolos de erotismo y modificando el rol que la mujer ocupa en ellos. Nada de víctimas a la espera de ser rescatadas por un cazador o un príncipe. En estas páginas hay mujeres que desean, que hacen y se rebelan. Todo un acierto de Angela Carter, uno que se consume despacito por su estilo barroco y exuberante, lleno de belleza e ingenio. Además, la edición de Sexto Piso tiene una contraportada escrita por Joyce Carol Oates y unas ilustraciones geniales de Alejandra Acosta. El libro es un ejemplar precioso.
March 25, 2017

Read a book of short stories.

Well, I'm in a bit of a fairy-tale re-
imagining place lately....this one is getting bumped up on the pile.

Buddy read with two of my favorite ladies, Heather and Karly for July 1.

So when I totalled up all my stars for each story and divided them by the number of stories, this book fell onto 2.7 stars. I guess I will round this bitch up star-wise, but it's still only a 2.5 star read for me. What a disappointment. I'm never completely sure how to review collections of short stories. Because I like to review books as a whole and sometimes story collections are unified or have kind of a continuous theme to them, allowing me to review the book as a book and not as a book of stories. However this collection was strange. At times I felt as if different authors had penned several of them. They are so vastly different in theme, in tone, in continuity, voice, dynamics that I feel I need to review each as a separate entity. And since I do what I want, I will. Along with a fabulous quote from each and a gif to express my feelings in ways words simply cannot. So here goes.

The Bloody Chamber: 3.5 stars (original source: Bluebeard)
Every man must have one secret, even if only one, from his wife."

This story was very creepy, haunting, and macabre. It was a wonderful way to start off the collection. I admit, I am not at all familiar with the original French Bluebeard tale, but I didn't think that knowledge was necessary anyway. Carter's prose dripped off the page, and I really enjoyed her use of gothic imagery and eerie atmosphere. I found her style a little unusual and tough to take at times, but in hindsight I realize it really didn't bother me in this story as much as some others. My primary criticism is that the ending was very abrupt and shot out of nowhere. It was so jarring that I had to read the ending twice to make sure I didn't miss something. It is noted early on that our narrator is leaving her home and her mother in order to marry and live with her husband in his estate. It is intimated that she and her mother have a very strong but very unusual relationship, but her mother is never more than just a few mysterious sentences thrown together at a time. For most of the book she is written a a figment of a past time, a past life. I found myself wanting to learn more about her and that past life she comes from when BAM! She shows up out of nowhere guns blazing. Almost written in a way that made me feel like her entrance was totally expected. The hints I got from her character before didn't quite jive with the character we are brought face to face with later and the whole thing came off as odd and intrusive. It was too big an entrance with such a small amount of screen time, that I was confused, and longed for a little more meat to her character. It would have helped with understanding AND she seemed like someone I wanted to know more about.
Verdict: Creepy and atmospheric with a few flaws.
Also, I kept thinking of this:

Which wins it a few points.

The Courtship of Mr. Lyon: 2 stars (original source: Beauty and the Beast)
Do not think she had no will of her own; only, she was possessed by a sense of obligation to an unusual degree and, besides, she would gladly have gone to the ends of the earth for her father, whom she loved dearly.

I enjoyed that Carter reverted to the original French story in which the beast was in the form of a lion. But that may have been the only thing I liked about this story and the only thing that made it (somewhat) different from EVERY OTHER BEAUTY & THE BEAST RETELLING OUT THERE. Of which there are several, I might add. This story was fine. A bit boring. Nothing new. And the ending is exactly what everyone who knows Beauty & the Beast expects. And you know what? It kinda blows. I understand the message of the story. I'm not dumb. I know that it is supposed to be about sacrifice and making tough choices to save and protect those we love, that love is blind, that real love doesn't understand skin color, flaws, physical beauty, conventions. We are supposed to accept that a young girl (who is in essence a slave) falls in love with her captor who is a literal animaland that sacrifice causes everything to just work out in the end. The reward for falling in love with a beast is having that beast turn into a beautiful specimen of a man? Man Belle is a lucky woman. She totally wins. I wish Carter had pulled a Shrek move instead.

Verdict: Boring, but gets kudos for reminding me of one of my favorite childhood shows.

The Tiger's Bride: 2.5 stars (original source: Beauty and the Beast)
It was a world in itself but a dead one, a burned-out planet. I saw The Beast bought solitude, not luxury, with his money.

So this one gains points for being way more original than the last story, but loses points for being completely bizarre. At first, I liked the way this tale followed the original but was a darker, more obscure version. And then out of nowhere Carter throws some shock value in for no reason. I hate arbitrary use of sex in stories. It sends the wrong message and just cheapens both the retelling and the original. And the sexy parts were not even sexy. Ew. Not at all. They were icky and obtrusive and did not jive with the rest of the tale. The ending was the best part and was an expected twist. However it could not save it from

Verdict: Icky and bizarre sexual references dropped this from a 3.5 to a 2.5

Puss in Boots: 2 stars (original source: Puss in Boots)
So all cats have a politician's air; we smile and smile and so they think we're villains.

But this pussy got old real fast.

I have never been the biggest fan of the original Puss in Boots story, but I have to admit I found Puss's narrative voice entertaining here. It was probably the best part of this story for me as the rest fell to pieces rather quickly. I think where this one failed was in Carter's bizarre choices in styling (which unfortunately had a tendency to stain most of the stories in this volume). She constantly shifted perspectives between first and third person and also switched tenses constantly. God did that make for a frustrating read. It was confusing and weird and I kept having to backtrack because certain things made no sense and didn't have a nice flow to them like some of her other stories did. Its strange, what I liked the best up to this point in the collection was Carter's way with words. Her writing style was poetic and beautiful and she seemed to really choose her words carefully to maximize meaning with beauty. But this story was a complete mess. Errors were rampant and the style was choppy and brusque. The shifting of tenses and perspectives caused quite a bit of confusion, and at times I became lost. Also on this list is some icky cat sex (a lot of icky cat sex) which made the bizarro sexy times in the last story seem hot and heavy by comparison.
Verdict: I prefer this guy

The Erl-King: 4 stars (original source: Erl-King folklore)
The woods enclose. You step between the first trees and then you are no longer in the open air; the wood swallows you up. There is no way through the wood any more, this wood has reverted to its original privacy. Once you are inside it, you must stay there until it lets you out again for there is no clue to guide you through in perfect safety.

This one is such a sucker punch to my emotional feels. So beautifully written with gorgeous prose and imagery. It got me in that place that knows that sometimes love is not enough but longs for the fairytale ending. The tension she created between the Erl-King and our narrator is perfect and macabre and raw and real and I felt myself longing for more. This is a really dark and twisty love story. The kind of love story that borders on horror and the kind of love that is a breath away from obsession and chaos. Carter's stylistic flaws are still present in this story, but the imagery and world building and raw emotions of it completely make up for it. One of the best in this collection by far.
Verdict: Delightlfully and beautifully dreary and sinister. Kind of like:

The Snow Child: 1 star (original source: The Snow Child, maybe a little Snow White as well)
So the girl picks a rose; pricks her finger on the thorn; bleeds; screams; falls.

And that's enough said. This story was completely and totally bizarres. And not in a good way.
Verdict: Shit.

The Lady of the House of Love: 4 stars (original source: Vampirella, maybe a hint of Sleeping Beauty)
Her voice is filled with distant sonorities, like reverberations in a cave: now you are the place of annihilation, now you e at the place of annihilation. And she is a cave full of echoes, she is a system of repetitions, she is a closed circuit.

That's what this story is: Beautiful. Haunting. Macabre. It is the story that I think fits the best with Carter's odd style. It is also very reminiscent of The Erl-King, my favorite up until this point. And I loved this one for all the reasons I loved that one. Her descriptions of the eerily serene lady, her enchanting house, and her ill-fated lovers were so well rendered and exquisite I really got lost in her words and her world. The ending was refreshing and unexpected, and just a little sad.
Verdict: Not perfect, but total lasting power.
Plus I kept thinking of this:

The Werewolf: 5 stars (original source: Little Red Riding Hood)
It is a northern country; they have cold weather, they have cold hearts.

This story was perfect. And rang in at 2.5 pages. It packed a punch and was very unique. I loved every second of it. It had the perfect about of folktale, the perfect amount of eerie, and the perfect punch of an ending. I loved this take on the Little Red Riding Hood tale, and loved even more, her take on wolves and werewolves. At this point I have realized that Carter's juice is that fine line that exists between love and hate, beauty and obsession, desire and fear. The stories that work are the ones that make me a little uncomfortable and that don't fit nicely with everyone's idea of a fairytale. This story was absolutely glorious. A total gem.
Verdict: Bam! A hit.

The Company of Wolves: 1.5 stars (original source: Little Red Riding Hood)
At night, the eyes of wolves shine like candle flames, yellowish, reddish, but that is because the pupils of their eyes flatten on darkness and catch the light from your lantern to flash it back to you--red for danger; if a wolf's eyes reflect only moonlight, then they gleam a cold and unnatural green, a mineral, a piercing colour. If a benighted traveller spies those luminous, terrible sequins stitched suddenly on the black thickets, then he knows he must run, if fear has not struck him stock-still

As completely original as the last wolf tale was, this was quite the opposite. And Carter seems to have gone back to bizzaro-world with all her stylistic weirdness at full mast. And I got to the point where I was just done. Done with re-reading passages that made no sense. Done with obscure motivations that are arbitrary and cumbersome. Done with plotlessness that have been done and done and done some more. This tale had more of a direct and traditional approach to Little Red with a bit of a horror twist. Which I don't need to remind you has been done before.
Verdict: predictable, boring, and pretentious with some kickass descriptions of wolves. Just wish there was more Liam Neeson.

Wolf-Alice: 2 stars (original source: Little Red Riding Hood and Through the Looking Glass)
The damned Duke haunts the graveyard; he believes himself to be both less and more than a man, as if his obscene difference were a sign of grace. During the day, he sleeps. His mirror faithfully reflects his bed but never the meagre shape within the disordered covers.

I loved the idea of this story, but the execution fell flat. The story of a feral girl raised by wolves and then found, raised, and reared by an enigmatic Duke could have been quite awesome. And it wasn't. Once again, Carter's weird style interjected itself and made me feel unattached and alienated. And at this point, the fucks I had to give amounted to zero.
Verdict: potential that never amounted to anything.

So, this is like 2.5-3 stars. The stories that were bad were really bad, but there were a few little gems hidden in here. I even think I was a little too generous sometimes with my star ratings for the ones I didn't care for as much. While I appreciate the obscurity and the atmosphere that she was trying to create here, I just wish that there was a little more meat and a little less fat.
Profile Image for Sarah.
394 reviews134 followers
February 8, 2017
This book just didn't do it for me and I can say with 100% certainty that I did not like it because of Angela Carter's writing style. I love fairytale retellings but the writing made this book hard to enjoy. The stories themselves weren't actually that bad and I can see why people would like this book but I couldn't like them or get fully into them because of the writing.

The writing was insufferable. Carter writes insanely long sentences with tonnes of punctuation and it is the stuff of nightmares for me. Some of the stories had more lenghty sentences than others and I just really hated it. Every time I thought about continuing to read this, I dreaded it and I contemplated just marking it as a DNF because it was so bad. I did skip about 3 stories because I just couldn't get into them. My favourite story was The Bloody Chamber.

I would not recommend this book and I probably won't be reading another book by Angela Carter.
Profile Image for Prerna.
220 reviews1,258 followers
October 21, 2022
There are some eyes can eat you.

And there are some stories that can devour you whole. Angela Carter is a master at the craft of writing such stories. We all love fairytales, because despite the regional differences there is something universal about them, it's as though they hark back to a distant past when humanity was united by silence and terror. And perhaps that's also why we like fairy tales when they're darker, when for instance, the red riding hood fucks the wolf-man who killed her grandmother. And Angela Carter seems to have known this, that we are a world made up of dreams and darkness.

And now--ach! I feel your sharp teeth in the subaqueous depths of your kisses. The equinoctial gales seize the bare elms and make them whizz and whirl like dervishes; you sink your teeth into my throat and make me scream.

These stories are so pure in their depiction of debauchery and decadence, they're almost erotic, painfully sensual. Like when you want someone to sink their fangs into the throbbing pulse point beneath your skin, gushing with blood. (I'm apparently in my goth-vampire era. Again!)

Reading these stories is like dancing to the beats of some ancient, primeval drum. Perhaps to the first ever circadian rhythm.

I only wish they'd been even more darker and twisted. I don't care for happy endings anymore.

Profile Image for M.A. Nichols.
Author 26 books220 followers
November 16, 2017
There are times when I read a book and wonder if I'm reading the same thing as the rest of the people who reviewed and loved it. This was definitely not was I was expecting, and definitely not worth reading.

First, the stories weren't particularly groundbreaking, unless you count adding a bunch of sex into fairy tales groundbreaking. For the most part, the stories stuck to the original source material, really only deviating to add sex or death or both. Not that either were particularly graphic, but just enough to be uncomfortable to those who don't like sexual content in their literature and not enough for those who do. I love dark stories and I love dark takes on fairy tales, but in these stories it felt gratuitous. Granted, I will admit I didn't read the whole book, but I got through half of it and found nothing unique. Unless you count Bluebeard being into BDSM and kink as being unique.

On top of that, the whole point of retelling fairy tales is to put a new spin or give the stories new depth (otherwise, what's the point...just keep the originals), but these don't do either. Love at first sight abounds with no character dimension to back it up. The stories really felt like she just copied them out of the original source material and added a few more graphic details.

And by the way, I have to mention the fact that so many of the reviews of this book rave about the feminist undertones of the stories, and I want to know how in the world anyone sees that in these stories. The female characters aren't any more "empowered" than the originals. They still fall in love with stupid men, allow themselves to be doormats, and are shallow, vain, and only seem to care about clothes and money. The only thing feminist about it is that it definitely paints men in a bad light. Every single one was either weak and pathetic or psychotic.

Second, the writing is convoluted and nonsensical in some parts and trying too hard in others. One moment, the author uses a dozen different metaphors to describe a single piece of jewelry or an expression on their face, and the next she's skipping any descriptions of what's happening. Characters are sitting at a table in one sentence and the next they're in a completely different time and space with no explanation of how or why they got there.

Frankly, it's a pointless collection of stories. They have enough of the original material to make them uninteresting and unoriginal and enough of the author's writing style to make them difficult to slog through at times. Don't bother.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
855 reviews2,129 followers
February 13, 2022
Into the Unguessable Country of Marriage

In my review of Angela Carter’s first collection of short stories, “Fireworks”, I focussed on a number of concerns that seemed to form the basis of her writing strategy. They were scattered over the length of the individual stories.

In this collection, these concerns are less overtly stated. In most cases, she let the writing do the job. The writing is much more complete and functional in the service of her chosen genre. However, in retrospect, one paragraph (the first) in the story “The Bloody Chamber” stands out as evidence of her intent:

"I remember how, that night, I lay awake in the wagon-lit in a tender, delicious ecstasy of excitement, my burning cheek pressed against the impeccable linen of the pillow and the pounding of my heart mimicking that of the great pistons ceaselessly thrusting the train that bore me through the night, away from Paris, away from girlhood, away from the white, enclosed quietude of my mother's apartment, into the unguessable country of marriage...I felt a pang of loss as if, when he put the gold band on my finger, I had, in some way, ceased to be her child in becoming his wife.

The Virgin and the Marquis

Several things can be inferred from this paragraph:

The narrator is a young girl, a teenager, probably immediately (post-)pubescent, a virgin.

She is engaged to be married – to a man we later find out is a Marquis (like de Sade), who lives in an enormous castle and is “so rich; so well-born."

She is leaving the comfort of life with her mother, perhaps for the first time of any duration.

She has caught a train, alone, on the way to meet her fiancé, prior to their wedding (or their wedding night). She is midway between childhood and marriage.

The Silent Music of My Unknowingness

In a way, for all its derivation from the French folk tale "Bluebeard", the narrative is like that of Little Red Riding Hood, where the narrator has to leave the safety of her home and pass through the wood to her grandmother’s house. The question is whether she will safely make it through the wood, and whether she will be safe when she arrives (and thereafter).

The journey through the wood is analogous to the challenges of post-pubescent life, when a girl’s innocence and virginity are at the risk of unscrupulous males, whether boys or adults. Both innocence and virginity are things a male wants to take away from a girl:

"Then I realised, with a shock of surprise, how it must have been my innocence that captivated him - the silent music, he said, of my unknowingness...”

Removed from parental or maternal guidance and protection, a naïve, unworldly young girl is defenceless. The virgin can quickly become a victim.

The Sheer Carnal Avarice of It

Marriage is a social institution, where a young girl, a virgin can be legitimately traded to a male for his sexual pleasure, not to mention the other burdens his wife must assume. Men have made marriage a transaction, something that complements and rewards their social and economic status. They must exercise good judgement in their choice of partner, notwithstanding the underlying impulse of lust:

"I saw him watching me in the gilded mirrors with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh, or even of a housewife in the market, inspecting cuts on the slab. I'd never seen, or else had never acknowledged, that regard of his before, the sheer carnal avarice of it...I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away...The next day we were married.”

This suggests that a girl/woman is forced to become an unknowing accomplice to a moral crime, that of corruption, even though the institution is socially recognised and promoted and enforced by the Church.

A Glutton for Her Punishment

Paradoxically, the girl/woman is not entitled to any decency from her husband. She must endure his contempt for women. She must take him as the agent of corruption that he has become, with all the experiences that have made him the man he is (and the man or beast that he will be to her):

"...we should have a formal disrobing of the bride, a ritual from the brothel. Sheltered as my life had been, how could I have failed, even in the world of prim bohemia in which I lived, to have heard hints of his world?”

Sexually, the husband is a glutton:

"He stripped me, gourmand that he was, as if he were stripping the leaves of an artichoke...”

At the heart of the artichoke, he finds and plunders the narrator’s “split fig”.

The Iniquity of Marriage

Her husband surrounds her with white lilies, as if that is enough to buy off her innocence and compel her loyalty and subjection:

"The lilies I always associate with him; that are white. And stain you.”

This is no suitable transaction for a girl/woman. The institution is not virtuous, but stained:

"I longed for him. And he disgusted me... Did all that castle hold enough riches to recompense me for the company of the libertine with whom I must share it?"

This marriage is no fairy tale, certainly not one that was destined for a happy ending. Too late, the narrator realises that she should have taken more notice of the warnings implicit in fairy tales:

"I thought all these were old wives' tales, chattering of fools, spooks to scare bad children into good behaviour.”

Having allowed her narrator to come to her senses, Angela Carter also permits her to have a happy ending of sorts (which I won’t reveal). Suffice it to say that her mother comes to her rescue. This is one daughter who is not permanently abandoned to an iniquitous state of marriage.

[An Homage]

"In my freshman and sophomore school years, when I was 14 and 15 years old, my group of friends intersected with Brett and his friends for a short period of time. I had been friendly with a classmate of Brett’s for a short time during my freshman year, and it was through that connection that I attended a number of parties that Brett also attended. We did not know each other well, but I knew him and he knew me. In the summer of 1982, like most summers, I spent almost every day at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland swimming and practicing diving.
One evening that summer, after a day of swimming at the club, I attended a small gathering at a house in the Chevy Chase/Bethesda area. There were four boys I remember being there: Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, P.J. Smyth, and one other boy whose name I cannot recall. I remember my friend Leland Ingham attending. I do not remember all of the details of how that gathering came together, but like many that summer, it was almost surely a spur of the moment gathering. I truly wish I could provide detailed answers to all of the questions that have been and will be asked about how I got to the party, where it took place, and so forth. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.

"When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer that evening. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk. Early in the evening, I went up a narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the bathroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me. Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music already playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room. I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.

"During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice while Brett was on top of me. The last time he did this, we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me. I was able to get up and run out of the room. Directly across from the bedroom was a small bathroom. I ran inside the bathroom and locked the door. I heard Brett and Mark leave the bedroom laughing and loudly walk down the narrow stairs, pin-balling off the walls on the way down. I waited and when I did not hear them come back up the stairs, I left the bathroom, ran down the stairs, through the living room, and left the house. I remember being on the street and feeling an enormous sense of relief that I had escaped from the house and that Brett and Mark were not coming after me."


“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter...The uproarious laughter between the two. They’re having fun at my expense...They were laughing with each other.”

Profile Image for Kelly.
878 reviews3,976 followers
July 1, 2009
"The Marquis stood transfixed, utterly dazed, at a loss. It must have been as if he had been watching his beloved Tristan for the twelfth, thirteenth time and Tristan stirred, then leapt from his bier in the last act, announce in a januty aria interposed from Verdi that bygones were bygones, crying over spilt milk did nobody any good and, as for himself, he proposed to live happily ever after. The puppet master, open mouthed, wide eyed, impotent at the last, saw his dolls break free of their strings, abandon the rituals that he had ordained for them since he began and start to live for themselves; the king, aghast, witnesses the revolt of his pawns."

If there is a "mission statement" in this collection of stories by Angela Carter, this is its most clearly crafted iteration.

These stories are told as a particularly erudite fairy might, whispering into your head and dancing through your waking and unconscious dreams, pulling out impressions that half given, now entirely created. These stories make one smile to realize once again how porn is for emotional children, and these stories are for adults, who can are prepared to realize the full possibilities of their sexuality, both in the literal sexual sense, and in the figurative sense of gender-related identity, both male and female, though the pieces ostensibly speak to female identity. And then brought back to earth with the impish, shocking voice of a Puck, who reminds us that these tales are very firmly a part of our deliciously dirty, vulgarly presented reality.

These stories will be familiar to adults, but only in the most basic sense. The title story is a retelling of Bluebeard, "The Courtship of Mr Lyon," a modern Beauty and the Beast, "The Lady in the House of Love," a creepily morbid Sleeping Beauty, several recreations of Little Red Riding Hood, etc. They are meant to be familiar, they are meant to lull one into a smug sense of knowing, and then slowly, subtly take each piece of that feeling of comfort away. My particular favorites are the title story, "The Bloody Chamber," and the end of the cycle, "Wolf-Alice". The Bloody Chamber's indignant statement on a woman's place in fairy tales is very well taken. It makes the point that Bluebeard picked a woman he obviously knew was curious, made the point of making the "don't press the red button" argument, and set her up to fail, in order that he could watch Eve Falling and Falling again for some kind of personal, perverse security in his own masculine identity. She is punished for the nature that she was born with, for simply being in the world. The above stated quote comes towards the end of the tale, as the sacrificial Eve and her companions take control of their inexorable fate. "Wolf Alice," is a beautifully, wonderfully sad statement on what it means to be a woman. It describes a little girl raised by wolves, who grows up with absolutely no knowledge of female identity, much less "human" identity. (She believes her "menses," are a spell cast by the full moon as it shines down upon her, for example, and why not?) It shows just how socialized the supposed identity of "woman," is, and just what women may be capable of doing if they have no idea what it is they are supposed to be, as well as reminding us again and again how little seperates us from the carnivorous beasts of the forest.

Each story has its own message to give, or ambiguous impression to leave (not all of them are meant for words), beyond the obvious feminist power statements. I would highly recommend this trip to a world that, for all we know, is a much closer part of ours thatn we know.
Profile Image for L.S. Popovich.
Author 2 books315 followers
March 11, 2020
My first reading of Angela Carter. I can see why she is popular and well-regarded. This book is about as good as retellings of fairy tales could be. Through rabid exorcisms of imagery mesmerizing moments are born from her disturbing imagination. The dense sentences cluster like a nest of snakes, sniping you from the shadows. Her Baroque stylings are distinctly old-fashioned, but her standpoint and her quirkiness are bold and fresh.

I am easily taken in by the promise of exile in a magic kingdom. I was on guard at first, since I could sense sinister intent in her method. It was a little like the feeling you might have had sitting around a campfire as a child, when some storytelling prodigy joins the circle with the commitment to scar you for life.

Multiple stories deal with captivity, and probably stem from Carter's dissatisfaction with the outmoded portrayals of women in traditional fairy tales. This is understandable, since they were all conceived in the long age of patriarchal oppression. The Revisionist nature of her composition lends relevance to old stories. She essentially claims them for her own. Aside from her intentions, the craft on display is of the highest caliber. Many descriptions are as poetic as Bradbury's, but have more bite.

She does not shy away from statutory rape, from sheer carnage. She depicts the confines of poor marriage in a truly frightening manner. Characters seethe with their hideous pasts and dark secrets, concealing the eldritch monsters dwelling in their hearts. Movement and innovation are par for the course for Carter. These are certainly no longer stories for children. They are sophisticated but playful, and the prose is infused with magic. They are suggestive, and mingle the morbid and the beautiful extremely well. Long paragraphs of Gothic and colorful musings, luscious landscapes and boudoirs all contribute to an antiquated rhythm suggestive of Poe.

"The potentiality for corruption," struck me as a theme. While pessimistic, the stilted perspective is a means by which all things gain shades of sinister meaning. She sustains an effective chilling atmosphere throughout, as the heroes and heroines experience the slick slide into terror, with breathtaking intensity, derailing the Huysmanesque still-life compositions.

Carter lacks innocence, seems to have lost the childish wonder inherent in the original source material. In exchange she brings a wickedness which underlies her charming descriptions. The double meanings of her twisted tales are pretty graphic, and I wonder if we shouldn't pass them on to our children anyway. The world is a dark place. They will encounter a few monsters in due course. And the monsters were in the original tales in the first place. They just weren't so heartrendingly deranged.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book462 followers
June 9, 2022
This collection is a group of fairy tales, rewritten, reimagined, and given the sensual, sexual connotations that are only implied in the originals. They are not lewd, they are tactile. These are stories as familiar as our childhood beds, but these are not fairy tales for children.

The Bloody Chamber is a retelling of Perrault’s Bluebeard fairy tale. I had recently read a collection of stories by Margaret Atwood in which this story was retold, so it was interesting to contrast what the two authors did with the same tell. Angela Carter has a marvelous skill for describing the eerie and setting the mood, and she is all suggestion and atmosphere.

“Soon”, he said in his resonant voice that was like the tolling of a bell, and I felt, all at once, a sharp premonition of dread that lasted only as long as the match flared and I could see his white, broad face as if it were hovering, disembodied, above the sheets, illuminated from below like a grotesque carnival head.

We know our lady is in peril from the outset, but we little expect how the rest of her story will unfold. Carter is inventive.

I particularly enjoyed the next two tales, The Courtship of Mr. Lyon and The Tiger’s Bride. Both are retellings of Beauty and the Beast, with The Tiger’s Bride being a reverse tale in which the girl changes into a beast at the end, rather than the other way around. It is not the only reversal in the tale, and the contrasts were beautifully conceived and executed. Both have the rose of virginity, the sexual desire of the heroine exploited, the them of inner darkness, the insecurity of the beast, and the poor girl who is traded by her father to regain his lost fortune. What is amazing is how differently she constructs the plot elements, so that the tales, while essentially the same, are so vastly different. This isn't Disney's Belle.

My father, of course, believed in miracles; what gambler does not?

I drew the curtains to conceal the sight of my father’s farewell, my spite was sharp as broken glass.

A few less captivating, but well-written, tales follow: Puss in Boots; The Snow Child (which I found a bit disturbing); The Lady of the House of Love (a vampire tale); The Erl King (a tale of seduction and enlightenment); and Wolf-Alice.

Then another pair of tales that turn Little Red Riding Hood on its head. The Werewolf which has a sinister twist of betrayal, with the Grandmother paying the price, and The Company of Wolves which has Red submitting to sex with the wolf, which wins the day.

These stories served as bedtime fare for me, but they are far from being soothing or sleep-inducing. If you are not careful, they will, rather, induce nightmares.

Profile Image for Mariana.
390 reviews1,674 followers
August 2, 2021
La prosa de Carter es hermosa y te envuelve de una manera increíble. Quisiera un cuadro que capturara su descripción sobre el Rey de los Trasgos, uno sobre la vampiresa de La dama de la casa del amor y otro más sobre El hombre lobo. El tema de la sexualidad es recurrente en todas estas historias: mujeres que la descubren y disfrutan de ejercerla, pero también episodios torcidos, macabros, que nos recuerdan que el sistema patriarcal limita y lastima. Me gustó mucho, seguro que lo vuelvo a leer.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,027 followers
February 26, 2023
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is the second collection of short stories by the English writer Angela Carter. It was first published in 1979, five years after her first collection “Fireworks”. Angela Carter had already published seven novels, and two collections of poetry but only with this collection did she really begin to be noticed by the critics.

Angela Carter’s style is ornate and unnatural; her eye cruel and voluptuous. These stories feel by their style, as if they were written in the 19th century. She once said she always knew that she was drawn to “Gothic tales, cruel tales, tales of terror, fabulous narratives that deal directly with the imagery of the unconscious”. These are the sort of tales she herself wrote; you will find little in common here, with stories from the 20th century onwards. Angela Carter was not concerned with what she called “those fragments of epiphanic experience”.

These lush, literary tales are more similar to the scandalous “sensational” or “horrid” novels of the 19th century. There, a young bride might be taken to a luxurious gothic chamber by a depraved older lustful lecher, with unspeakable consequences (except that this is the 21st century, and we do speak of them, and she describes them with gusto in great detail). Angela Carter’s tales are tales of sadomasochism; sensual and fantastical stories where:

“There is a striking resemblance between the act of love and the ministrations of a torturer.”

The blurbs invariably describe this collection as traditional fairy tales given a subversive feminist twist. They are not. Such a description is a travesty of these tales. These are all new stories, not retellings. Angela Carter had translated Charles Perrault’s collection of fairy tales from 1697 shortly before she wrote her own. She drew heavily on the source material, but said:

“My intention was not to do ‘versions’ or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories.”

The fairy tales which have been handed down to us are only a selection of the ones collected by Charles Perrault, or those a century later by the brothers Grimm. The familiar fairy stories we recognise are heavily sanitised. Nobody has their toes cut off to fit into a glass slipper, for instance. There is no torture or rape in our modern fairy tales—but it is all there in the originals. Here’s Angela Carter again:

“I was taking the latent content of those traditional stories and using that; and the latent content is violently sexual.”

Yes, females in traditional fairy tales are usually depicted as weak and helpless. Most fairy tales are patriarchal in nature, and the female characters are objectified. However, to glibly interpret these tales as “feminist”, merely buys into yet another narrative. They are not simplified retellings, with another set of values, as Walt Disney’s are. These stories from aeons ago are completely reimagined. They are deliberately radical, and they are all very different from each other.

The most famous is the title story The Bloody Chamber, which is long enough to be a novelette. It is full 30 times as long as the shortest (and arguably most disturbing) story The Snow Child, and at least twice as long as any other. It is a familiar style of narrative story, but the prose is very dense; voluptuous and beautiful, despite the depravity. The year before, Angela Carter had written a nonfiction book about the Marquis de Sade, and some themes from there are uppermost in her mind. She even calls a main character “the Marquis”, a clear reference if not a tribute.

I found the story to be unsuccessful however. After a very short time I began to mentally tick off the gothic tropes. Set in a spooky castle with a dungeon, tick; a damsel in distress, tick; an atmosphere of mystery and suspense, tick; an evil monster, tick; tempestuous weather, stormy sea, nightmares, burdened male protagonist, melodrama … and so on. By the end, I was waiting for a feminist twist on all this, but what transpired is frankly laughable.

One ostensibly feminist interpretation of this is that the author has created a familial tie between the heroine and her mother, who in a traditional tale would would often have died before the story began. However the mother only has a small mention at the beginning, and then a brief telephone call (a nod to the 20th century). She is barely necessary to or involved in this tale, so her sudden appearance is simply ludicrous. It just comes across as a deus ex machina ending. Far from being feminist, or thinking outside the box of traditional fairy tales, here we have yet another weak heroine who does not think for herself, and has to be rescued. It is trite.

However, it has to be said that The Bloody Chamber can stand close analysis, in terms of all the cultural and intertextual references. There are echoes of the Greek myths; cannibalism, mutilation and devouring are allied with the sexual act. It is an elaborate structure, packed with signs, allusions and clues, with slowly building horror. Plus once read, it is possible to identify recurring motifs which permeate all the others. For instance there are many mirrors indicating self-awareness; keys with which to imprison; roses or white lilies, representing the female virgin who gives or receives them; or blood, indicating one of Angela Carter’s themes here that love and violence are inextricable.

Interestingly, Angela Carter viewed the Marquis de Sade as being the first writer to see women as more than mere breeding machines: more than just their biology. She therefore found him to be liberating rather than misogynistic, calling him a “moral pornographer”, who analysed the relationship between the sexes within his work. Because this contradicts patriarchal notions of sex and femininity, Angela Carter argued that Marquis “would not be the enemy of women”. But perhaps the main message picked up from the Marquis de Sade in this collection, is that passivity is not an intrinsically virtuous state—and specifically not in women.

This first tale comprises a third of the book, and is a gruesome version of the Bluebeard tale. It is the most conventional in terms of narrative style, but it is a difficult, blood-soaked read, with Bluebeard himself a parody of an evil aesthete and voluptuary. The “bloody chamber” itself has two quite literal meanings, before getting into any possible metaphorical ones. One is the torture chamber, with unimaginably barbaric devices; the other the female uterus. Angela Carter is concerned with both the physical and the mental here, and also the realm of aesthetics. The concept of beauty comes into every tale, and although her language is savage, it is never crude but always crafted. There are a few Anglo-Saxon words, but not used as expletives such as in Stephen King’s horror stories, nor to shock as such. They are simply used as part of the vocabulary of the tale, much as she will choose to use the differently focused word “impale” in preference to “rape”.

A third of the way through and you may decide that completing the first story: The Bloody Chamber is enough for you. The cruelty and depravity can be hard to take, but in fact when inured to this, what follows are nine unusually creative tales.

The first three are concerned with felines, and I found both The Courtship of Mr. Lyon and The Tiger’s Bride to be sensitive and poignant. Here, it is the melancholy which is stressed, rather than the gruesome. These first two are like mirror images of one another, and they both originate in the “Beauty and the Beast” story. We see in these metamorphic tales of transformation, that human beings are capable of change. These are the two I would choose as my favourites in the collection, with their detail and rich language. Angela Carter had an intensely visual imagination; her writing reads like poetry. She particularly admired the French poet Baudelaire, and themes of luxury and decadence run throughout, while signs and symbols shout out to be noticed as signifiers. There is little dialogue in her writing, and since many of her protagonists are beasts—or at least not human—this is less noticeable for a while.

The third feline story is Puss-in-Boots, whose source needs no explanation. This one is very different again, and made me laugh—something I never expected to do with this macabre selection. It is similar to “The Barber of Seville”, and Angela Carter herself described Puss in Boots as “the Cat as Con Man … a masterpiece of cynicism … a Figaro-esque valet—a servant so much the master already”. It is, she said, the first story she wrote which was supposed to be really funny, and is a ribald and farcical read, featuring the ever-cynical Puss in Boots as our narrator. He is witty and knowing; a master of innuendo. Bawdy and blunt, this feels like reading a bit of Chaucer in the middle of a collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories (another author she admired).

The next three stories: The Erl-King, The Snow Child, and The Lady of the House of Love, are also linked. Not this time by their protagonists, who are all very different kinds of beings, but thematically. In each, the lovers featured are lethal. The message is that traditional romantic patterns kill, and that sex leads to death.

The Erl-King is a well-known chiller of a traditional fairy tale, about an elf who lingers in the woods, stalking children who stay in the woods for too long, and killing them by a single touch. The first part of Angela Carter’s story is a masterpiece of painterly precision, featuring the most lyrical writing in the collection. Such a detailed description of the forest is simply breathtaking to read. This beautiful story-web is spun to catch the child, but the fatal ending is even darker than might be supposed. It is packed with symbolism.

But worse is to come with The Snow Child, possibly the most extraordinary and disturbing story I have ever read. It is only a page long, but has a dreamlike, nightmarish quality. It is based partly on an Irish tale “The Snow, the Crow, and the Blood”, but also on a version of “Snow White” which the brothers Grimm collected but never published.

The third tale: The Lady of the House of Love however, I did enjoy. Perhaps it is my favourite of this collection, nudging the felines out of the top spot. It is based loosely on “Sleeping Beauty”, and started life as a play called “Vampirella”. Angela Carter wrote it for BBC radio in 1976, before the rest of this collection, while she was an Arts Council fellow at Sheffield University. She had to cut quite a lot of the play for this story, but I found the melancholy story about a reluctant vampire to be emotionally very appealing. It is noticeable that mostly these stories come across as beautiful artifices, but devoid of emotion. You could completely ignore the story, and yet still admire the vivid colour, gorgeous luxury and sensuous descriptions; the dense prose full of allusions, delighting in the references and wit, but never truly engaging with the ideas.

The final three tales The Werewolf, The Company of Wolves and Wolf-Alice are all based on the werewolf theme, but again they are all very different. The Werewolf is an extremely nasty version of “Little Red Riding Hood”. I particularly disliked the brutality of this tale, with its calculating, mocking protagonist—but I have to admit that it does have the feel of an authentic fairy tale.

The Company of Wolves is much a longer tale, without the chillingly laconic tone of The Werewolf. It is written in a narrative style, and eventually was to become a famous film, under the same title. For this 1984 screenplay, Angela Carter included more stories and themes, with red herrings as well as a Red Riding Hood, to bulk out the film.

The final wolf story: Wolf-Alice, as its title suggests, incorporates aspects of Lewis Carroll’s two “Alice” books, as well as an obscure variant of “Little Red Riding Hood”. The story is about a feral child suckled by wolves, and told from her perspective. It returns to a gothic feel, but the tone is savage and much of the imagery abhorrent.

Overall, Angela Carter did not break as many barriers as might be supposed. These tales have variations of style, but they feel unremitting, always examining the darker side of heterosexuality, exploring sadomasochism, mutilation, obsession, and the idea of fatal passion. Despite the 19th century style, they have a story-telling feel about them, a little like Neil Gaiman. Indeed, he cites Angela Carter as one of his major influences. But these fantasies read like an imaginary Neil Gaiman on L.S.D. If you read them please be warned.

What lifts them into literature in my opinion is their rococo style. They are unique creations, displaying an incredibly inventive imagination, but I hesitate to rate them. Did I enjoy them? No, yet I can recognise their above average literary worth. Hence they stay at my default rating of three stars.

“It was the landscapes and imagery of fairy tales and legends that fired her imagination—bloodstains and ravens’ feathers on snow, moonlight on a dust-grimed mirror, graveyards on Walpurgisnacht”.

This anthology contains ten stories:

“The Bloody Chamber”,
“The Courtship of Mr Lyon”,
“The Tiger’s Bride”,
“The Erl-King”,
“The Snow Child”,
“The Lady of the House of Love”,
“The Werewolf”,
“The Company of Wolves”
September 23, 2015
Category: A book of short stories.

The Bloody Chamber
3.5 Stars

I am by no means familiar with the story of Bluebeard, so I have no idea how far Carter may have deviated from the traditional story with this short story retelling HOWEVER I found myself getting lost in her lush, descriptive prose within this one. Her language choices may, overall, become a downfall but for this story it was both fitting and quotable. I do wish I had gotten a bit more of a story here, I would love to have read more about the mother character, she sounds truly badass (and we all know my love of badass women!).

That night at the opera comes back to me even now … the white dress; the frail child within it; and the flashing crimson jewels round her throat, bright as arterial blood.

The Courtship of Mr. Lyon
2 Stars

I don’t really have all too much to say about this one; there was some lovely imagery but the story itself was a very standard retelling of The Beauty and The Beast with, perhaps, less of a build-up to the ending than I would have cared for. I never thought I would say that Disney’s version of any fairy tale was more sinister than a different retelling, but in this case it is true.

I remember being young and not understanding why the Beast transformed in the end, doesn’t love mean loving someone as they are?! Why does he suddenly become handsome... and wouldn’t Beauty (Belle) be reviled by this switch if she fell in love with him as the Beast?! The mind, it boggles. I suppose love is blind, or whatever...

The Tiger’s Bride
2.5 Stars

This is another retelling of The Beauty and the Beast and while I liked some elements of it more than the former it still left a vaguely unsatisfying taste in my mouth. I don’t mind when retellings get a little more sexual than their parent fairy tales, however the 'Let’s get nekkid' element of this felt forced and strange.

However, I liked the twist at the end and the sometimes oddly chosen but still understandable edge of strength to Beauty here. I also found her bitterness refreshing

my spine was sharp as broken glass.

... Belle always seemed far too sweet about her father’s treatment in the Disney version and I enjoyed a detour from that here.

2 Stars

I do NOT enjoy the voice of the narrator (Puss) here, at all. It was distracting and infuriating, in turns, and removed me entirely from the story. Meanwhile the story itself wasn’t all that interesting to begin with so this voice felt forced and overly annoying.

The Erl-King
3.5 Stars

I loved everything about this story right up until the very end (and a jarring and removing pronoun switch that left me flabbergasted). As a nature lover myself I am always drawn to descriptions of same. I found Carter’s language usage for the Erl-King’s forest wonderfully fitting. Personally, I do not really know the root of this story so I cannot speak to that BUT I did find myself lost in the prose here which felt symbiotic with the story she was telling.

The Snow Child
1 Star

So I read a retelling of The Snow Child earlier this year, and if you will listen to my advice, you should just go ahead and read that one (The Snow Child) because this short is just going for shock factor and it’s fucking AWFULL!!

The Lady of the House of Love
3 Stars

This was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty (apparently) where the main character is a house-locked vampire with a penchant for wild-life critters and self-loathing. It was very good but the tense jumping was quite apparent here and I found it removed me from the story several times, which was disappointing as the story itself was quite an interesting concept.

The Werewolf & The Company of Wolves
2 Stars, each

These are both retellings of Little Red Riding Hood and while they had different elements I found them regurgita of each other and found them both unsatisfying.

I have never really been a fan of this story to begin with so perhaps that has something to do with my lackluster feeling here, or perhaps I was just becoming far too irritated by tense jumps in Carter’s prose by this point to give much of a shit anymore. Meh.

2 Stars

When I first started reading this short I thought it was going to be an awesome fairy tale version of the real life phenomenon I did a psychology project on during my only post-secondary foray. There are several stories in humanity’s history of children raised by animals in the wild, probably the most notable being Amala and Kamala who were raised by wolves in the early 1900’s, and the changes that this version of nurturing brings about are outstanding. However, this short story (which I think is based on a fairy tale I’ve never heard of) is not outstanding.


Once Upon a Time... there were two lovely ladies, Jess & Heather, who decided to do a buddy-read of this book and I could not resist joining BECAUSE Fairy tale retellings....

Set to commence June 1 July 1, but I didn't actually start it until July 15th because I am the WORST.
Profile Image for Lotte.
536 reviews1,106 followers
July 12, 2016
3.5/5 stars! Dark, sensual and definitely adult fairytale retellings. Some stories were a bit to cryptic and symbolic for my liking, but there were also some real gems in this collection. My favourite short stories were 'The Bloody Chamber', 'The Erl-King' and 'The Werewolf'.
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