‘You are different,’ whispers the princess, almost crouched there, looking up at me. ‘You were gentle and kind before. What has happened? What has changed?’
Whilst the term fairytale may conjure up, for many readers, images of beautiful singing princesses, wicked witches and Disney-esque happy ever after endings, these ancient tales were not intended for young readers. And, says Isobelle Carmody in her introduction to this collection, when they were passed over to children they lost their gloss and their value. In The Wilful Eye and The Wicked Wood Carmody and her co-contributors attempt to rediscover this value with six retellings of six classic tales in each volume.
To label the stories retellings is really an inadequate description both of the concept of the collection and of the work it contains. Each writer has chosen a traditional fairytale and given it their own touch – sometimes set in a modern or futuristic environment , at other times telling the story from a new perspective. The reader will not necessarily easily recognise the original story, and some of the stories may even be new to the reader, but each is followed by an Afterword from the author explaining something of their process and choice.
This is not comfortable reading, but it is not meant to be. Each writer takes their story to depths which will have the reader gasping, or wondering, or pondering even long after the last word is read. Suitable for reading cover to cover, but these collections are probably best dipped into and savoured one at a time. Suitable for older teens and adults.
The Wilful Eye
The Wicked Wood
Both edited by Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab
Allen & Unwin, 2011