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Snow White, Blood Red by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (eds).
Published by Avonova Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
Once upon a time, fairy tales weren't just for children. Far from it, they were dark, hard-hitting parables about dealing with the perils of life in a very uncertain world. But as the traditional gave way to the modern, they were discredited for adult audiences and given over like worn-out furniture to the nursery, where they were Bowdlerized and purged of anything disturbing or substantial in order to make them "fit" for children.
Editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have sought to recapture that original power in their series of anthologies of fairy tales retold in a modern sensibility for adult audiences. Many of the stories in this volume, as in the previous one, will be far too dark and disturbing to be suitable for children. Some of them push the boundaries of horror, leaving the reader chilled as much as entertained. All of them are powerful and thought-provoking, and many will leave their readers thinking about them long after the book is finished.
It should be noted that "modern retelling" does not necessarily mean that the story will be recast in a modern setting, although several excellent ones, such as "The Springfield Swans" and "Little Poucet" are. (The former, written in American vernacular, deals with a family totally dedicated to baseball and a stepmother who has no use for the sport and whose curse transforms the would-be team into swans, while the latter takes place in the seamy underworld of a modern city that is never explicitly identified by name but could be Paris, London, Berlin or New York).
Many others are just retold with a modern sensibility. "The Glass Casket" takes place in Rennaissance Italy and uses historical figures. "I Shall Do Thee Mischief in the Woods" retells the story of Little Red Riding Hood in an unspecified pre-industrial era, perhaps Medieval.
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This review posted September 8, 2000
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