Saturday, January 12, 2008


Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 411
Number in Series : #1 Fairy Tale Anthologies
Reason for Reading : Themed Reading Challenge, Short Story Reading Challenge, my interest in re-tellings of fairy tales

This is the first published in a series of 6 short story collections edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. Each story is an adult re-telling of a fairy tale. Some are very well known like Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Jack and the Beanstalk, while others I didn't know like The Dead Moon, Le Petit Poucet and The Glass Coffin by The Brothers Grimm. The stories are told from a fantastical or horror perspective with many focusing on the erotic elements of the original stories. The anthology contains 20 tales in total by 21 different authors.

1. Like a Red, Red Rose - Susan Wade
The only completely original tale in the anthology that is not a re-telling of another existing fairy tale. It combines many key elements of fairy tales with a witch, roses that represent a daughters virginity and love for a man, and a magic garden. The witch is not evil, she is just trying to keep her daugher away from men so she will not fall in love, It turns out she has good reasons for this which only become apparent after she dies. A sad and poignant tale. Blanche loses her love but gains a new daughter to raise in her own magic wood.

2. The Moon is Drowing While I Sleep - Charles de Lint
Based on a tale I didn't know, "The Dead Moon", this is set in Charles de Lint's Newford with one of his regular characters Sophie Etoile. She is having lucid dreams where the moon (a lady who looks just like her) has been trapped under water and is slowly drowning. Sophie wonders whether the moon is the mother who left her and her father suddenly when she was young. Like many of the fairy tales in this book she goes through a sexual awakening as well with Jack Crow.

3. The Frog Prince - Gahan Wilson
A strange tale about a frog in psychtherapy who dreams every night he is the frog prince in the tale. Everything seems so real to him and like a true memory and he spends his waking hours weeping over the dream and true love he lost.

4. Stalking Beans - Nancy Kress
Jack and his wife Anna have lost all their finery. He exchanges their best cow for some beans which grows into a beanstalk and he has made many trips up to the top to sleep with the giantess wife to the giant who lives up there. The giantess Maria becomes pregnant with the child Anna could never have when Jack is finally chased away by the blind giant for good, never to see his son.

5. Snow-Drop - Tanith Lee
A different version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Cristena lives in a house that looks after itself and her new husband is often away for long periods of time on business leaving her alone there. He was married once before and his first wife died in suspisious circumstances which the house cleaned up. She had been an artist and the house is filled with paintings of a woman with raven hair and dark eyes but porclain skin. One day Cristena destroys all the paintings but then sees the girl on television advertising the circus where she performs with seven dwarves. Cristena goes to see the show and then brings her back home where things take an interesting turn.

6. Little Red - Wendy Wheeler
The story is told from the perspective of the wolf in the Little Red Riding Tale. Josef is a dark hairy man who has made an effort to culture himself. One day he embarks upon an affair (nothing new for him) with Helen who is married to a priest and has a young daughter. When he meets the daughter (who he has bought a red hat for) he finds his tastes are for her rather than the mother.

7. I Shall do thee Mischief in the Wood - Kathe Koja
Another Little Red Riding Hood re-telling also from the wolfs perspective involving lust for the young girl. The young girl in this tale has a red cape and the villagers think she is simple. She lures the wolf back to her house in the woods where he meets the beast of the forest, her grandmother for a nice role reversal.

8. The Root of the Matter - Gregory Frost
The story of Rapunzel focusing on the sexual aspects of the tale. It sticks pretty closely to the original but exands in the witch who has Rapunzel in the tower (in this version a lighthouse). She had been abused by her father at a young age and ran away from home before she was 14 scorning all men. She locks Rapunzel away (the daughter she tricked from another family) to keep her safe from men and tells her all kinds of horror stories about sex and penises. One day however a man finds his way into the tower and opens Rapunzel's eyes to the real meaning of sex.

9. The Princess in the Tower - Elizabeth A. Lynn
A second Rapunzel tale told from a more humorous slant. Margheritina (Rapunzel) is scorned by her family and friends as she has such a tiny waist and barely eats. In their culture larger woman are much sexier and desirable and it is thought she might be anorexic. She meets her prince despite being locked in the house by her mother and they run away together.

10. Persimmon - Harvey Jacobs
Thumbelina told with not too many plot differences, just with humans rather than animals. Persimmon (Thumbelina) ends up having the power of restoring life and escaping a marriage unsuiltable for her leaving with the man she has revived. He has considerable wealth and takes her away to his island where they live together as father and tiny daughter. He realises she is lonely so introduces her back to her people who he has been growing to take over the world and not be a drain on its resources.

11. Little Poucet - Steve Rasnic Tem
The darkest of the tales based on Le Petit Poucet. This reminded me of the old, true fairy tales the most. It has elements of Hansel and Gretal as little Poucet and his 6 brothers are led away by their father and left as they do not have enought food to feed them all. Poucet has used biscuit crumbs as a trail and leads the way back, but the second time one of his brothers eats all the crumbs and so they are lost. They end up in a house with Auntie and her 7 demonic daughters. Their father is a cannibal who returns wanting to kill and eat the boys the next day. They disguise themselves as girls and give the daughters fake penises so the father kills the wrong ones leaving them to escape and return home with jewellry, money and torture devices stolen from the house. Little Poucet is able to sleep in his parents bed with the comfort of holding the torture devices under his pillow when he hears his parents speak of not having enough food...

12. The Changelings - Melanie Tem
A sad tale in modern times of Scandinavian chanelings and forest trolls. Bridget had a baby aged 16 with no support from the father or her own mother. When she gets the baby home it disappears and she is left with a changeling. When her daughter is 11 she finds a girl who she believes is her original daughter whose mother seems to have a forest-like aura about her.

13. The Springfield Swans - Caroline Stevermer and Ryan Edmonds
Based on The Wild Swans but set around a father who dreams of having enough sons to start his own baseball team. When he dies their stepmother curses the boys into swans and it is up to their eldest sister to make them jerseys without speaking or smiling until they are complete.

14. Troll Bridge - Neil Gaiman
A tale with one billy goat (human male) trip trapping over the trolls bridge. The first encounter is when he is just a boy and he puts the troll off eating his life by saying he will come back when he has lived more as there are so many things left to do. The second encounter is when he is a teenager and he offers up the girl he supposedly loves in his place. Again he escapes by saying he has more life to live and promises to return. The final visit is as an adult with a sense of missed opportunity and loss.

15. A Sound, Like Angels Singing - Leonard Rysdyk
An interseting re-telling of a famous fairy tale from the animals perspective. It is more about not heeding warnings in this version than favouring the people of the town.

16. Puss - Esther M. Friesner
In this version Puss-in-Boots is a shafeshifter who changes after tasting blood. He promised his former master he will get his son "bred by princes". He does this by tricking a king and another shafeshifter to get his young master married to the kings daughter, the princess. Puss then takes pity on the princess after his contract runs out and ends up making her a shafeshifter in a vampire fashion involving sharing blood.

17. The Glass Casket - Jack Dann
Based on "The Glass Casket" by The Brothers Grimm, set in Italy in the time of Leonardo da Vinci with poet, philosopher and magus Picodella Mirandola as the main character. He hears a womans voice and sees her in a dream before following her and freeing her from her glass casket. She is named Ginevra and lives 79 years in the past. Pico stays with her as long as he is able, listening to her tale and falling more in love with her. Eventually he has to return to his own time to face the emptiness of his destiny and never hear her voice again.

18. Knives - Jane Yolen
A short poem looking at the language and symbolism in Cinderella. Yolen focuses on the meaning of shoes, glass and knives.

19. The Snow Queen - Patricia A, McKillip
Pretty close to the original by Hans Christian Andersen in plot. Kay and Gerda and a married couple, Kay is annoyed by Gerda's innocence and turns to the sophisticated Nerva instead. Gerda meets thief Briony and ends up setting up a flower shop in the middle of winter filling peoples lives with colour. They end up rediscovering each other and Kay goes on to try to find the right flower to express how he feels for Gerda.

20. Beadcrumbs and Stones - Lisa Goldstein
Another tale looking at the metaphorical langugage used in fairy tales, this time based on Hansel and Gretal. Lynne and Sharon's mother is in hospital with camcer. They know little about her life as she keeps her secrets close to her after escaping Germany as a Jew. Her parents were both killed in concentration camps when she was young and she was raised by a foster Christian family. Once released from hospital she tells her girls the story of Hansel and Gretal leaving a trail of stones and the breadcrumbs. She tells them she used to have a brother, their uncle Johann who they never knew existed. It turns out he was killed in Auschwitz (possibly in an oven like the witch tried to do to Hansel). Sarah and Lynne realise their mother has always told them the breadcrumbs of her life to distract them from the stones.

My favourite in the anthology was "Like a Red, Red Rose" and I look forward to reading more tales by the author in the future. I also really liked "The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep", "The Root of the Matter", "Little Poucet", "Troll Bridge" and "Breadcrumbs and Stones". I can't wait to start the next anthology in the series, "Black Thorn, White Rose".


13 comments:

Nymeth said...

I really need to read these anthologies... this sounds amazing.

I didn't know the Grimm's "The Glass Coffin" either until I read a retelling of it in "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" by A.S. Byatt, which is a book I think you'd like.

Darla D said...

I read this one years ago, and it was amazing how many of the stories came back to me as I was reading your reviews! I love fairytale retellings. :-)

Rhinoa said...

Nymeth - There were a couple of fairy tales I didn't know, including The Glass Coffin. You definitely need to get this series, I just know you will love it. Thanks for the book recommendation too.

Darla - Did you read any of the other anthologies? It shows they are great tales for you to remember them again. I love fairy tale re-tellings as well as will start the second anthology at the end of this week hopefully.

Ladytink_534 said...

I'm pretty sure I read this but I don't really remember any of these stories so I guess it's time for me to go to storage and find my copy!

Darla D said...

I think I read at least one of the other anthologies. And wasn't it about the same time that they did the series of novels that were fairytale retellings, too? I remember Jane Yolen's Briar Rose absolutely blowing my mind. I had to go buy that one, just so I can clutch it in my hands when I feel like it, knowing I can reread it whenever I want!

Rhinoa said...

Ladytink - Happy hunting for your copy, I hope you enjoy it the second time around.

Darla - Yes there are a series of fairy tale adaptions like Pamela Dean's Tam Lin which I plan on reading this year. I also just bought a copy of Briar Rose and am looking forward to reading it. They are both on my Mythopoeic Award challenge list.

Darla D said...

Of course! I LOVED Tam Lin - I'd forgotten it was part of that series. I recently found my copy (things have been a bit disorganized since we moved a year or so ago) and had set it aside for a reread. Serendipity is definitely shoving me at that Mythopoeic challenge, so that's it! I'm in!

Andi said...

I've always wanted to read one of these anthologies, but I've never done it for whatever reason. Thanks for a great review!

Nymeth said...

Rhinoa and Darla, there's a complete list of the books in that series here. I've only read Briar Rose and Tam Lim, and I loved both. I must read the others. Maybe for this year's Once Upon a Time.

Darla D said...

Thanks for the list, Nymeth. I've read about half of them - but I'd definitely like to read the rest, since I really enjoyed the ones I've read!

Rhinoa said...

Nymeth - Thanks for the list, I hope to read two off it this year and then will look out for the others.

ellen-datlow said...

So glad to hear you all enjoyed the first book in the series and the rest that you read.
Just fyi, SNOW White, Blood Read is still in print in its mass market edition. Black Thorn, White Rose the second--is back in print from Prime Books in trade paperback. And the other titles will be brought back into print by Prime this year and next. The next one is Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears.

Also, Terri is totally responsible for the novel series.

If you're at all interested, there are two middle-grade retold fairy tale anthos we co-edited: A Wolf at the Door and Swan Sister, and both are collected in a B&N special THE DARK OF THE WOODS.
Ellen Datlow

Rhinoa said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and the update. I am just over halfway through Black Thorn and will be starting Ruby Slippers next. I have the other two anthologies you mentioned (will get the collected works for my best friend who will enjoy them as well I think). Eventually I will work my way through the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series as well...