Jan 2, 2011

Witches and Warlocks

Tales of Black Magic, Old and New
edited by Marvin Kaye

A collection of forty-one short stories, Witches and Warlocks features tales of people dealing in the supernatural, or having magical power, inflicting curses, etc. There are fortune-tellers and magicians, enchanted objects and magic potions, dealings with the devil, mysterious beings and monsters, even spiritual guides which aren't malevolent at all etc. There's even a few zombie stories (the most disturbing of all, I found, was "Emma's Daughter", of a woman who insisted her recently-deceased child be brought back to life- with awful results). There were lots of authors whose names I recognized- Isaac Asimov, Oscar Wilde, Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, H.G. Wells; as well as many others I never heard of. All the stories were new to me (even "Young Goodman Brown", which I'd heard of in high school but somehow never read). I was actually surprised how much I liked reading them all, as such dark stories aren't my usual fare (but these weren't terribly dark; nothing like the Angela Carther I once read, which was really creepy!)

So here you'll find amusing stories, some clever ones, a few little mysteries. There were some that simply didn't make any sense to me at all, like the one about the man who tied pipes onto bat's wings and then controlled them to create eerie music in the air? or "The Song of the Morrow" by Robert Louis Stevenson, which I just could not make heads or tails of.

My two favorite stories were "The Fisherman and His Soul" by Oscar Wilde and "The Tiger's Eye" by Frank L. Baum. In Wilde's story, a fisherman falls in love with a mermaid, and a witch tells him that to join her in the sea he must cast away his soul. So he does, and his soul wanders off in the world alone, each year coming back begging the fisherman to let them be one again, telling marvelous tales of wonders he's seen to tempt him. The ending quite surprised me. "The Tiger's Eye" features a tiger family on an exotic island; a baby tiger is born missing an eye and his parents force a magician to turn himself into an eye for the cub. But the eye still holds the magician's consciousness, and full of anger he fills the young tiger with maliciousness, causing it to rampage through the forest. Eventually the other animals get tired of his destruction and band together to destroy the rouge tiger. Of course the magician in the eye doesn't want to die, so he has further plans....

Some of these stories are quite long, even divided up into little chapters of their own, as it were. Others are only a page or two. I found that most of the shorter stories didn't work well for me, they just felt too incomplete. The only one I liked was "Too Far" by Frederic Brown, it amused me. Some other stories of note:

"Fat Chance" by Thomas D. Sadler- a Duke entreats his court magician to do something so he doesn't have to join forces with the King's army and go to war. The magician's solution makes the Duke unfit to ride to war, but unfortunately  he won't reverse the spell after the King's army has moved on.

"The Traveler" by Ray Bradbury- in a family of magical people, Cecily's only power is the ability to enter other people's (or animal's) minds and experience what they see and hear. Sometimes she can even influence them...

"Between the Minute and the Hour" by A.M. Burrage- an unfriendly shopkeeper is cursed by an old woman to randomly time-travel, each time going back further and further, the world he visits becoming increasingly unfamiliar.

"The Curse of the Wandering Gypsy" by Patricia Mullen- an old lady joins a team in a fortune-telling shop, causing jealousy among the other employees. She seems quite unaware that strange things happen when she gets angered by her co-workers.

"Sanguinarius" by Ray Russell- a lonely noblewoman, bored whilst her husband and lover is away at war, invites a strange woman into her castle who at first pretends to merely entertain but then tempts her into darker and darker activities until she finds herself trapped in a mire of unsavory circumstances.

"Vasilisa and the Witch" - a Russian folk tale rather like Cinderella, but featuring the witch Baba Yaga instead of a fairy godmother, who must be tricked into giving assistance.

"Doll-Baby" by C.H. Sherman- a young girl in a rural area is compelled to assist at a childbirth, which she does grudgingly. She helps out only hoping that things will be over quickly, but after she finds a crude baby doll hidden in the forest, the birth starts to go wrong and she wonders if it will ever end.

"The Party Animal" by Alvin Vogel- in a futuristic world where zombies are commonly raised and used as servants, one is cursed to go amok and spends his time crashing rich people's parties.

"Light-Headed" by John Tunney- a teenager buys pot from a mysterious man, but instead of getting high, the kids turn invisible. At first it's fun, but then they start to feel lighter on their feet, insubstantial enough to float away...

Rating: 3/5 ........ 529 pages, 1989

anyone else read this collection? I couldn't find any more reviews


Cath said...

I've read quite a lot of this type of thing but none of these stories sounded familiar, not even the Oscar Wilde. It sounds like an excellent collection which I'll check the library catalogue for.

Jenny said...

I love Oscar Wilde so much I always feel like I should thank people for enjoying his work. I won't do that because it's weird, but anyway I'm glad you liked "The Fisherman and His Soul". It's one of Wilde's less-known stories, but I'm fond of it.

Jeane said...

Cath- I hope you can find it! It really was a fun book to work my way through. I've read quite a few Oscar Wilde stories in school, and have another anthology just of his short stories; but I never encountered that story before either.

Jenny- Funny, growing up the only work of his I knew was The Picture of Dorian Gray so for a long time I thought his books would always be so- deep and rather upsetting. I was delighted to discover his fairy tales later on!