Image Credit: Liana Mikah
Fairy tales contain the wisdom of older cultures. They are the means by which lessons were imparted to children, back before books existed, and children were not children for very long. As we get older, we sometimes find that we want stories which are darkly enchanting and hail back to the times when tales were told, sitting by a fire. To take us back to these roots, here are a few contemporary books which do the trick.
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Every short story in this book is a beautiful rewrite of a classic fairy tale, which packs a hard punch to the gut. Carter’s prose is stunning, and it’s difficult to not be impressed. Each story is written to make it feminist (Carter was deeply involved in the movement). This book feels wholly necessary in this age.
Bluebeard’s Egg by Margaret Atwood
Atwood is the contemporary literary world’s big hitter. Again, these are fairy tales rewritten to have a modern, feminist approach. They are all fresh reimaginings in vibrant prose. The titular story is my favorite from this collection. In the piece, a woman married to a heart doctor finds out that her perception of her husband has been completely wrong.
The Hanged Man by Francesca Lia Block
While Block also has a collection of revamped fairy tales, I really feel like her other work belongs on this list. She tells original stories, which have the mystique of fairy tales. This novel is one of them. When Laurel’s father dies, she finds herself haunted by family secrets. This book is gritty and magical—I love the reference to the Hanged Man tarot card.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Any of Gaiman’s books could be considered modern fairy tales. This one, told from the perspective of a grown man who just delivered a eulogy, looking back on a childhood event really has the feel and aesthetic of an oral tale.