Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy tales

This is a wonderful collection from around the world’s many cultures. Centred on the female of the species, Angela has gathered together a great array of strong minded, cunning females. There may be the odd beauty but, on the whole, this book asks us to celebrate the haggish crones, the bad girls, to cheer on the aunts and sisters with their dirty tricks, low cunning and use of the black arts.

Fairy tales should be dark and these are, they should be grim and these are.  Maybe there is a dearth of fairies and handsome heroes rescuing damsels in distress (they were never my favourite!) but there are beasties galore that converse with humans and strange supernatural entities.

Served up in an amazing mix of tales, taken from the oral tradition as all good fairy/folk tales are, we can view how universal is  the fear of, and the desire to, keep women under control. Presented as oral narrative we also understand how women, in all cultures, through all time, have managed the subversive way of giving us our voice.

This volume delights the imagination, these tales have been collected from as diverse lands as, Scandinavia, the Caribbean, the Arctic to the middle east, Asia and not forgetting Europe and the Americas offering a rare  feast for enjoyment.

Divided into sections such as: Brave, Bold and Wilful, Good Girls and where it gets them, Mothers and Daughters, or Black Arts and Dirty Tricks, they show a few similarities with each other but more diversification than at first contemplated. As with all good fairy/folk tales one is left dry mouthed and desiring more.

I have kept my volume next to my bed, for a slow, enjoyable, daily dose of the fantastical. A pleasure to read for its contents but also a pleasure to read in itself. The smallish hardbound book sits easily in the hands and with an integral ribbon bookmark, places are elegantly kept.  Illustrated throughout with original woodcuts this is a read that is just perfect for the beginning and end of each day.

These tales are in the true tradition of folk tales, never meant for Disneyfication, only meant for children in that they serve as reminders of the perils of this world, and the alternative which runs alongside it. Or to be learnt as morality tales and awful warnings. Never designed for those who shrink from the sight of blood, these tales can be gruesome.  Nor are they for those who crave only sunshine and goodness, these are dark. These tales highlight all of humanity’s sorry side. Jealousy, evilness, trickery, passion, murder, torture and magic. A splendid read.