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CARTER, ANGELA – THE BLOODY CHAMBER & OTHER STORIES. (In Burning Your Boats). Vintage Press 1996. 

 

A collection of radical feminist reworkings of classic fairy tales and folk tales. The Bloody Chamber sees Carter at her sharpest, wittiest and darkest. Some of her stories are just downright scary. The title story is a reimagining of the Bluebeard tale, in which a wife-murdering serial killer forbids his latest bride and potential victim not to look in his private chamber. Of course, he knows as well as she does that her curiosity will encourage her to do so, and as she finds the bodies of his previous wives, her mother, responding to an earlier tearful phone call about the husband, turns up and shoots the brute dead. Here, the story is given the novel twist of the bride not having entirely cut herself off from her roots. Such tricks abound in Carter’s work. In The Werewolf, in the same collection, the story is plainly Little Red Riding Hood, but here, the Big Bad Wolf doesn’t devour the granny – she is the Big Bad wolf herself.  Carter’s most famous story follows this; the Company Of Wolves was filmed from Carter’s screenplay by Neil Jordan. The story again takes Little Red Riding Hood in a fresh direction. The wolf doesn’t eat the heroine; she laughs in his face and tames him, so that she can lie in dangerous comfort in the world of such aggressive inner anger and beastliness. Carter’s heroines change themselves as much as the men who might otherwise devour them in passion and anger.  Carter advocates a need for change in both the male and female sex. It is not a view that won her too much acceptance from more traditional feminists. Other women in the story are also able to beguile men to bring out their inner wolf nature when it suits them. In her finest story, Wolf-Alice, a girl raised by ordinary (non-Lycenthrope) wolves since infancy, is cast by the Catholic Church into the care of a deranged werewolf who feeds on bones of people dug up from the nearby churchyard. As he hunts, ignoring his charge, Alice learns about herself in the mirrors of his house, and develops a wisdom without having the ability to speak or read. Here is an allegory of the innocence we could have had without having taken the apple in the Garden of Eden. When the werewolf is wounded, Alice tends to his wounds and like the heroine of Company Of Wolves, becomes a new kind of being to live with him. From dark sardonic humour of Puss –In Boots to the fairly unchanged telling of Beauty And The Beast, Carter creates a world bristling in symbolism and danger. The books have an unsettling quality about them and the mark of a true poet in their superb construction. In The Snow Child, a Duke conjures up an erotic fantasy girl from the Snow, which his wife destroys with a rose thorn as he tries to ravish her. Here is the fickleness of the fleeting fantasy erotic dream figure men dream of before being drawn back to the reality of their established relationships. There are no easy answers in Carter’s metaphors, which never fail to entertain, telling the old tales in very bold new ways. http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/acarter.htm

 

Copyright. Arthur Chappell                                  

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