The Bloody Chamber
by Angela Carter is a book containing the titular short story followed by a collection of nine other stories, all of which are darker and more adult renditions of common fairytales. The list of short stories available within this collection are as follows: The Bloody Chamber
, The Courtship of Mr. Lyon
, The Tiger’s Bride
, The Erl-King
, The Snow Child, The Lady of the House of Love, the Werewolf, The Company of Wolves
.The Bloody Chamber
story, based on the legend of Bluebeard the pirate, is the tale of a teenage girl and talented pianist who marries an older French Marquis who was known to have wed many wives. The teenage girl does not love him, yet this wealthy man takes her back to his castle and attempts to make her enact embarrassing sexual acts for his pleasure. Another young man, a blind piano tuner, also inhabits this castle from time to time, and one evening, hears the girl playing a beautiful song on the piano, and falls deeply in love with her.
One night the Marquis travels to America on business and leaves the girl alone in the castle, and wanting to discover more about this man that she is married to, she searches through his things and even enters a private chamber that the Marquis had expressly forbade her from entering. In this room she finds a collection of dead bodies that the girl discovers are the Marquis’ previous wives, whom he had killed as part of his sexual homicidal perversions.
The girl contacts her mother, afraid and lonely, confiding in her about her marriage, however the Marquis returns abruptly and discovers that she had gone into the chamber she was not supposed to enter. Now that she learned of this secret, the Marquis believes it is time she joins his previous wives in the secret room. The piano tuner attempts to save her, but being a blind man he is unable to thwart the Marquis. As he is about to decapitate the girl, her mother shows up and saves her by shooting and killing the Marquis. The story ends with all three of them leaving the castle, giving all the riches to charity and living the rest of their days in a home together in Paris.
The stories that follow are much briefer; however, they also contain some grim plotlines based on famous folk tales. For instance, The Courtship of Mr. Lyon
and The Tiger’s Bride
were both inspired by The Beauty and the Beast
. The former is a modern retelling where the Beast helps Beauty’s father out with his car, helps him get his money back, and curiously steals a white rose for his daughter. Beauty and her father return home, but when she discovers the Beast is dying without her, she returns to save him. In The Tiger’s Bride
, the Beast is a tiger, who wins Beauty over from her father after besting him in a game of cards, however in this one, Beauty transforms into a tiger and they live out their last days together as beasts.Puss-in-Boots
was of course based on the character himself – Puss is dismayed when his human friend falls for a woman who is already married to a miserable old man, however he ends up falling for the woman’s cat, and together they all hatch a plan to trip the old man so he falls to his death, and they live happily ever after in their respective little couples.
The fifth story is called The Erl-King
, and it is also a cynical retelling of the story of the Erlking
, a famed German folk tale that tells of an evil forest goblin who attempts to imprison a wandering lady and transform her into a bird, however she escapes by choking him with the strands of his own hair. The sixth and shortest story is The Snow Child
, it’s the gloomy telling of a count who wishes for a beautiful pure child when he sees the whiteness of the snow, and he gets his wish when she appears before him. The count’s wife is displeased with this and tells the child to pick a rose. The child does, and then pricks herself on the thorn and dies instantly – to his disappointment the count is left only with the choice to rape the girl’s corpse and leave her to melt back into the snow.
In The Lady of the House of Love
, a young soldier is enticed into the bedroom of a female vampire, (based on Vampirella) who seduces men, and feeds on their bodies. The soldier joins her, yet because he is a virgin with a pure soul, she feels different around him – the vampire accidentally cuts herself and is found dead the next morning after the soldier sets off to fight in WWI.
The following three tales are adaptations of Little Red Riding Hood. The first, titled The Werewolf
, it turns out that the grandmother is a werewolf, who is then killed and Red ends up with a large inheritance. In the second, The Company of Wolves
, Red meets a strange hunter who she immediately likes. The hunter makes a wager with her, about who can get to her grandmother’s house the fastest, if she loses, then he’ll kiss her – she of course wants the kiss, letting him win, however, when he reaches the house he eats the grandmother. When the girl arrives and finds her grandmother dead, the hunter threatens to kill her too, but she is unfazed, and seduces the hunter. Finally, Wolf-Alice
is about a feral lupine child who is left in a house with a vampire in an attempt by nuns to civilize her.
This collection of stories is not only extensively popular, but it won several literary awards. It contains some fascinating adaptations on some mundane stories and vastly unique themes and styles ranging from gothic fiction, to the ever-underused female heroine.