Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales

This book was published (by Virago Press) in 2005, and although I have heard of it, and of Angela Carter, this fall has been the first time I have read it. I read it cover to cover. I read it as you would a novel you could not get back to fast enough. It is chock full of unusual stories. What a delicious romp through the doings of the folk, doings that are not always set down in print.

As a storyteller, I am always poking around in collections of tales, looking for stories to add to my repertoire. In a collection of many stories, I might find one, maybe even two or three tales I’d like to tell, a handful more I’ve not heard of before. But in this case, the post-it notes bristled along the top edge of the book thick as a porcupine’s quills. Most are quite short, and the book is a big one, so there are many tales and many more than a few caught my eye, ear and heart. I love stories of strong women, and they were here in plenty, as well as wise women, rude women, stubborn, foolish, vague women, innocent, loving, brutal women – in short, Angela Carter, feminist though she was, was not afraid to show women in ALL their aspects. It was not a collection of just women’s stories either, but there was an abundance of women present, and the range of their responses to the world was as varied as life itself.

She did not try to be exhaustive in representing every culture in the world, but she did range over many cultures and many that I knew little of – Suriname for one. Many stories from Africa, especially the Sudan. Several Inuit tales. Armenia, Lithuania, Iraq, Burma, the list goes on and on.

She wrote a lovely introduction, and notes for the tales, “…not so much scholarly as idiosyncratic….” There is also a heartfelt and thoughtful afterward by Marina Warner, written after the death of Ms. Carter when just 52 years old. How sad that she is not going to be adding any more works to the world’s treasures. But she is new to me, and she has left behind a fair number of things for me to read, and a fair number of tales from this book I think I will be telling in the near future, like the one in which a childless wannabe mum finally gives birth to a pot, or the one about a Burmese woman who kept her promise. I already told the one about a man who fed his wife the Meat of the Tongue to keep her happy….

1 comment to Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales

  • Peg

    Hi again Melanie,

    I too have a book edited by Angela Carter; I picked it up second-hand but have not had time to look at it due to all the reading I have to do for school right now.

    The copy I have is called “Strange Things Sometimes Still Happen: Fairy Tales from around the World.” Now I am curious to see what it contains!


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