Feb 13, 2008

Snow White, Blood Red

edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Years ago as a teenager I read several of these books, collections of adult fairy tale writings by various authors, all with cover illustrations by Tom Canty and edited by Terri Windling. When I saw this copy of Snow White, Blood Red at the Book Thing, I recognized it as one I hadn't read yet, and brought it home expecting something curious and fun. I don't know what has changed, but I don't remember the stories being so dark and sensual. Maybe my memory is dim, maybe I glossed over or didn't understand those passages when I was younger? But several of the tales in this collection were so blatantly s-xual they made me uncomfortable and I had to skip them outright. (Yes, I'm something of a prude). If this is an example of gothic fiction then I'm not sure I like it at all, and may reconsider the werewolf and vampire stories that have made their way onto my TBR recently.

I did enjoy reading the introduction by Datlow, which explains that fairy tales ("about ordinary men and women in extraordinay circumstances") were originally not intended for children at all, and had much darker, more violent implications and endings than the pap we see Disney regurgitating today. Out of the twenty-one stories, my favorites were "Like a Red, Red Rose," "Troll Bridge" and "The Snow Queen."

The writers include Charles de Lint, Susan Wade, Tanith Lee, Jane Yolen, Patricia McKillip, Lisa Goldstein and many more, who "have produced richly imaginative retellings of existing fairy tales, as individual as the authors themselves, penned for a contemporary, adult audience... [set in] a time not so long ago, in a land much like our own, with no guarantee of safe travel, timely rescue or of ending Happily Ever After. Much like life itself." (p.20) They are strange and dreamlike, and don't shy away from the darker side of human nature. Deliciously frightening at times, if you want to curl up under a blanket and explore stories of wild imagination that sometimes feel a little too close to home...

Rating: 3/5     Published 1993, pp 411

10 comments:

Nymeth said...

I've been meaning to read these anthologies for ages. And that's a great list of contributors. I'll have to pick this one up. I do enjoy gothic retellings of fairy tales, like Angela Carter's, so I think I'll like this too.

Datlow said...

Hi Jeane,
Sorry to hear that you were disappointed with the antho the second time through. Not sure what you mean by "gothic" fiction but the anthology was always intended as fantasy, including light and darker stories.

And I did not write the introduction. Terri Windling did. She's the fairy tale expert and she wrote the excellent introductions to our collaborative retold fairy tale anthos.

Jeane said...

My edition has two introductions, one titled "White as Snow: Fairy Tales and Fantasy" by Terri Windling, the second titled "Red as Blood: Fairy Tales and Horror" by Ellen Datlow.

I did enjoy the more lighthearted tales; it was the darker ones I found a bit disturbing (which means they were effective, as that was probably their intent!)

Jeane said...

Nymeth- I have read one Angela Carter collection, and it did not sit well with me, either. I guess I'm just not the kind of person who likes horror. My husb has to practically twist my arm to get me to watch any mildly scary movies - because I do get scared! Books with a hint of horror do the same thing, because they can give me nightmares.

Datlow said...

Wow! It's been so long since that book was published I forgot. Yes, I did write that intro, buy Terri writes all the erudite ones for our YA anthos :-)

Datlow said...

Angela Carter was Terri and my inspiration for the whole series.

Eva said...

That last sentence made this one sound super compelling!

VTWriterGal said...

I can't remember which anthology it's in, but one of them has an awesome retelling of "Rumplestiltskin." Some of the stories are better than others...but always imaginative!

Ellen Datlow said...

IIRC more than one does. "The Root of the Matter" by Greg Frost though, is in the very first book.
Ellen Datlow

VTWriterGal said...

I had to go look it up, LOL- it's "The Price" in Silver Birch, Blood Moon. Something about the ending...happily ever after and all that :)O