Angela Carter and the Modern Fairy Tale

Don’t talk to strangers, especially the unassuming, handsome ones! Our parents drum this into our innocent little minds as kids, usually the first time we walk to school ourselves or the first time we are allowed to play beyond their line of sight. Little did we know then that this wise warning was handed down from 17th century Frenchman, Charles Perrault, and his tale of Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, better known as Little Red Riding Hood. The fairy tale genre continues to thrive and nowadays, it’s a big deal on the big screen. But although evolving, what role does the fairy tale play in the modern world?

WPA poster by Kenneth Whitley, 1939.

ONCE UPON A TIME, fairy tales were used to scar virtues and morals into the minds of young children. However, with children now savvier and more informed than ever, it’s difficult to imagine that their behaviour could be influenced simply by reading The Boy Who Cried Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood.

In her article All the Better to Eat You With, novelist Angela Carter recognises that “the notion of the fairy-tale as a vehicle for moral instruction is not a fashionable one.” So with moral instruction becoming less fashionable, what purpose does the fairy tale now serve?

In 1979, Carter radicalised the fairy tale in her collection of short stories, The Bloody Chamber. Taking great care not to parody or pastiche the fairy tales of the Grimm brothers or Perrault, she creates new stories based on old tales to articulate feminist ideas, explore male sexual desires and subvert the traditional roles of fairy-tale women. But The Bloody Chamber is not one for kids! Read the rest of my article on The Flaneurthe indie art and culture magazine and website