Sunday, January 27, 2008




Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 386
Number in Series : #2 Fairy Tale Anthologies
Reason for Reading : Themed Reading Challenge, Short Story Reading Challenge, my interest in re-tellings of fairy tales

The second in the fairy tale anthologies collected by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. Again it contains short stories that are adult re-tellings of fairy tales. This time there are 18 tales by 18 different authors with the only cross overs from the first in the series being Susan Wade, Nancy Kress and Jane Yolen with Susan Wade writing the only completely original tale in the collection again.

Worlds Like Pale Stones - Nancy Kress
A re-telling of Rumplestiltskin looking at the magic of words and the power of knowledge. Ludie is the daughter of a drunk and a boastful washerwoman who tells people she can spin straw into gold. She is taken to the Prince and told if she cannot spin gold she will be killed. A rat-boy comes to her aid, one of the Old Ones, and when she spins gold she is forced to marry the Prince. She gives birth to the savage Dirk before finally running away when a woman who can spin straw into diamonds is found.

Stronger Than Time - Patricia C Wrede
A bittersweet look at Sleeping Beauty. A Prince appears on the doorstep one evening of a woodcutter and persuades him to help him reach the keep contained within the thorns. He claims there is an enchantment within caused by the Count insulting a witch-woman at the christening of his daughter. She laid a curse that on the girls sixteenth birthday she would die, but the Queen was able to counter it keeping her alive for 100 years safe in her resting place. She was very specific and her magic was to cause a specific Prince to arrive to set her free the day after the 100 years had passed. Unfortunately the Prince was impatient and arrived a day too early and was killed by the thorns. This new Prince is a relative of the one who died and has come to finish the task.

Samnus's Fair Maid - Ann Downer
Another Sleeping Beauty tale. The roles are slightly reversed and it is the male who has the sleeping sickness which his Aunt believes can be cured by a kiss from the one he loves.

The Frog King or Iron Henry - Daniel Quinn
A look at what happened to the Frog King after he was rewarded by the Princess for bringing back her golden ball. Scattered bits of information recalled by one with amnesia.

Near Beauty - M E Beckett
A strange science fiction tale if a sleeping beauty and an amphibian. Amanda talks to the three foot toad she finds in her boyfriends shower called Kane and they strike up a friendship that no one else knows about. An odd tale that sees them leaving and her becoming the Pilot for the Carnival the toad is in.

Ogre - Michael Kandel
Another strange tale about an ameatur dramatics group putting on a fairy tale performance of "The Yellow Dwarf". One of the cast members is an ogre who eats human flesh sandwiches prepared by his mother. When the director is fired by the ogre-like Connie, it is the ogre who is kind and thanks him for his direction.

Can't Catch Me - Michael Cadnum
A look at The Ginger-Bread Man. He is born in a hot oven before escaping into the cold world. On escaping from his parents and running away from them and his neighbour who chases him with a pitch fork, he stops long enough to repeatedly taunt those chasing him. He crosses a rinver on the head of a river fox who eats him all up, but ginger doesn't agree with foxes and the parts brought back up run away faster!

Journey Bread Recipie - Lawrence Schimel
A strange, short poem on how a wolf, child and hood for grandma can be made into bread. I very much enjoyed this short poem:
"5. Now crack the wolf and sseperate the whites -
the large eyes, the long teeth - from the yolks."

The Brown Bear of Norway - Isabel Cole
A classic Scandinavian tale in the "animal bridegroom" folklore tradition.It implies that the sorcery of shapeshifting is not to different from the magic used in turning from adolescence to adulthood.It follows a young girl living in New York who has a boy from Norway in her class. He gives her an address of someone back home who wants a penpal. They begin to write to each other and he signs his letters The Brown Bear of Norway. He starts to visit her in the evenings and tells her not to look at him, but one day she cannot resist and he is gone. She learns Norwegian and tracks him to his homeland, eventually finding him changed from a bear to the boy she knew from school.

The Goose Girl - Tim Wynne-Jones
Tells the story from the viewpoint of the Prince in the traditional tale. For a lark a Princess and her chambermaid exchange places before they meet the Prince the Princess has been sent to marry. Things go a little further than planned with the Prince marrying the chambermaid and the Princess being sent to work with the geese. The Old King realises what has happened and asks the chambermaid what punnishment someone who had done something like this should recieve, and then committs this punnishment upon her. Things do not quite end happily ever after as the new Queen is cold and unforgiving on the Prince.

Tattercoats - Midori Snyder
A lovely tale of Lilian who has been married to Edward for 7 years before feeling something is missing from their marriage. Her mother, the Queen, gives her a series of impressive gifts including a tattered coat made of animal skins which she says is the most important as it will teach her about herself. Lilian tries wearing the different beautiful dresses to attract her husbands attention, but ends up wearing the tattered coat on a bridge and seducing her husband. They begin to meet in secret, her hidden in the furs and him unsure who she is, until one day after they have rebuilt their marriage she decides it is the final meeting and she is going to tell the truth. Turns out Edward was not so unsuspecting afterall.

Granny Rumple - Jane Yolen
Yolen's take on Rumplestiltskin using her Granny as the main storyteller and the sad murder of her husband for being Jewish. It brought a lovely personal twist to the well known tale.

The Sawing Boys - Howard Waldrop
Based on a tale I didn't know called "The Bremen Town Musicians" and retold in the South of America. A group of people end up in a small town in Kentucky intent on mischief and murder, until they are dissuassed by local musicians entering the towns music contest.

Godson - Roger Zelazny
A very cool tale about David who has a very interesting Godfather. It is based on a Brothers Grimm tale and I don't want to say too much as it will spoil the story and it is one of the best in the collection.

Ashputtle - Peter Straub
A strange and unsettling tale about a Kindergarden teacher called Mrs Asch. She is excellent at her job although it is unclear whether she even likes the children she teaches and their parents. Every so often a child or parent goes missing from where she teaches and the implication is that she is killing them. Each time she moves on with no suspiscion to another town.

Silver and Gold - Ellen Stribar
A poem baed on Little Red Riding Hood looking at the path we take through life and the wolves we face in the real world. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between the ones who love you and the ones who will eat you alive.

Sweet Bruising Skin - Storm Constantine
A wonderful re-telling of The Princess and the Pea told from the eyes of the Princes mother who is a cruel sorceress. Lots of alchemy, magic and death, the story looks at what happens after the Prince marries the Princess with the bruised skin. My favourite in the collection by far.

The Black Swan - Susan Wade
An original tale looking at how far women will go to transform themselves to a particular ideal of feminine beauty. Ylianna is dark to her cousins light and desires to change everything about herself secretly. When she unveils herself to everyone in the Kingdom including Prince Sigfried they all fall in love with her. However, she is accused of having an affair with the kind servant who helped her to transform (the narrator of the tale) and Sigfried openly denies her. She rushes upstairs and throws herself off the balcony, but instead of hearing her body hit the ground a beautiful black swan flies away to freedom.

My absolute favourite was Sweet Bruising Skin. It was interesting to sympathise with such a controlling tryant rather than the innocent Princess. I also really enjoyed The Black Swan, Silver and Gold, Godson (perhaps my second favourite), Tattercoats, The Goose Girl, The Brown Bear of Norway and Journey Bread Recipie. It took me a little longer to get into this anthology as the first stories didn't appeal to me as much, but I am so glad I stuck with it as they got much better.

2 comments:

Nymeth said...

Like the first one, this also sounds excellent!

Jane Yolen seems to have several stories that include both fairy tales and the holocaust. I look forward to reading your thoughts on Briar Rose.

Sweet Bruising Skin does sound really good!

Rhinoa said...

Nymeth - You need this series, trust me!