I’m a sucker for fairy tales. We all know that. But I’m not particularly impressed by the fiercely sanitized, Disney-esque fairytales of today. I like the original ones. Grimm and Anderson and fairly dripping with darkness. The wolf gets hacked open by an axe in order to release Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood. Blackbeard keeps all of his dead wives behind a special door. Cinderella’s sisters chop off pieces of their feet in order to fit into the glass/fur/metal slipper. This is the true essence of a fairytale.
So imagine my joy when I picked up Wolves and Witches: A Fairy Tale Collection, a wonderfully dark collection that eschews the frilly Princess fairy tales that I’ve come to expect. Amanda C. Davis, author of “Drift” from Shock Totem #3, and Megan Engelhardt have put together a book of appropriately whimsical and sorrowful fairy tales.
It’s a diverse collection, full of poems, different retold fairy tales, and the occasional story told in the second-person. Even two retellings of the same story, “Rumpelstiltskin,” had clever twists to them and ended up completely different from the original and from each other. One filled me with hope, and the other with delightful despair.
Many of the tales are written as if they were being told to the reader, and I found this to be very effective. The language is beautiful and simple. The writing is sometimes light and breathy, but often has a solid, almost grim cadence to it. This is something that I would definitely read aloud to somebody else.
My favorite of all was “A Letter Concerning Shoes,” which is written by a poor cobbler for one of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Full of charm and melancholy we see her story from his point of view. There is a clever tie-in at the end that links this cobbler to other fairy tales.
Wolves and Witches was an absolutely delightful read, and I look forward to seeing other works from the authors.