snowwhitebloodredFull credits for Snow White, Blood Red by Ellen Datlow (Editor), Terri Windling (Editor), Elizabeth A. Lynn (Contributor), Harvey Jacobs (Contributor), Steve Rasnic Tem (Contributor), Melanie Tem (Contributor), Caroline Stevermer (Contributor), Ryan Edmonds (Contributor) , Neil Gaiman (Contributor), Leonard Rysdyk (Contributor), Esther M. Friesner (Contributor)

This is a very adult collection of fairy tale re-tellings. From Little Red Riding Hood to Snow White, these are not stories that I’d share with my child or any impressionable young mind.

Fairy tales haven’t always been exclusively for children as Terri Windling explains in the introduction: “..most fairy tales were never initially intended for nursery duty. They have been put there, as J.R.R. Tolkien so evocatively expressed it, like old furniture fallen out of fashion that grown-ups no longer want. And like furniture vanished to the children’s playroom, the tales that have been banished from the mainstream of modern adult literature have suffered misuse as well as neglect.” pg 2

But fairy tales are important because they touch on dreams, archetypes, and the psyche. However, these re-workings were far more bleak than I expected. “The fairy tale journey may look like an outward trek across plains and mountains, through castles and forests, but the actual movement is inward, into the lands of the soul.” pg 10. And personally, I think that the soul is a rather light place.

The most disturbing of the bunch, in my mind was, Little Redby Wendy Wheeler, which told a tale of sexual relations between a mother/wolfish boyfriend/daughter. (A warning for any sensitive readers, triggers abound in these stories from rape to physical/sexual/emotional abuse towards adults as well as children.) “Before she climbed in, Helen looked in my face as though something in my smile disturbed her. “I’ve never noticed before what white teeth you have, Josef,” she murmured. “So large and white.” pg 140 The only saving grace for the darkness of these tales are that they’re short and you’re soon on to the next one.

My favorite was Puss by Esther M. Friesner: an excellent but nightmarish re-imaging of Puss-n-Boots. “Help! Help, ho!” My paws flailed the air; I brandished my plumed hat to make the coachmen see so small a creature as a cat before the horses trampled me. “Robbers, thieves, rascals and hounds! They have despoiled my good master, the Marquis of Carrabas!” pg 319

A close second was Troll Bridge by Neil Gaiman, based on The Three Billy Goats Gruff. His depiction of a troll was creepy but magical, that curious blend of two unrelated traits that Gaiman crafts so well. “Trolls can small the rainbows, trolls can smell the stars,” it whispered, sadly. “Trolls can smell the dreams you dreamed before you were ever born. Come close to me and I’ll eat your life.” pg 286

Recommended for ages 18+ and the brave at heart. Some read-alikes, if you dare: The Book of Ballads by Charles Vess, Alice by Christina Henry or The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins.

Thanks for reading!

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