The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
The simplest way to describe Angela Carter’s collection of short stories is fairytales gone dark. She takes familiar children stories and folktales like ‘Blue Beard’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Snow White’, etc. and draws on their already bloody nature to create absorbingly dark stories.
The narrative is lush and sensual, with sexuality being one of the most explored themes in the book. The atmosphere is filled with classic gothic elements that can satisfy even the most demanding tastes: forsaken castles, dark forests, luxuriant chandeliers, sadistic counts, and countesses in scarlet heels.
In this scenery, supernatural creatures of all kinds (vampires, werewolves, beasts, goblins) crawl all around the pages in a veritable combination of fantasy and horror.
‘The Snow Child’, which is my personal favourite of the collection, is a very good example. Based loosely on ‘Snow White’, the story is the briefest of the volume but also the most intense. It follows a Count and his Countess as they ride in the dead of the winter, across a snowy landscape.
The Count wishes he had a girl ‘as white as snow’, ‘as red as blood’ and ‘as black as that bird’s feather’. The girl of his dreams appears by the side of the road; she is naked. The Count takes her onto his horse and by doing so triggers the Countess’ jealousy.
The Countess tries to trick the girl off the horse by gradually undressing herself and ordering the girl to retrieve her items, but is constantly countermanded by her husband. Her attempts continue to fail until she sees a rose bush and demands that the young girl pick a rose for her. As she does so, the girl pricks her finger and dies. Crying, the Count rapes the corpse and when he is done, all that remains are a raven feather, a bloodstain on the snow and the rose the girl had plucked from the bush.
With her clothes back on, the Countess if offered the rose by her husband but when she touches it, she drops it saying, ‘It bites’.
I’ll let you discover the rest of the tales by yourself!
All in all, Angela Carter’s collection is nothing less than a brilliant must-read for all gothic lovers but definitely not a set of fairytales to be read to children before bed