Wilful Eye – fairytales retold

‘When I was a child, I did not love fairytales…They frightened me almost as much as they fascinated me (but) when I grew up, I came to love fairytales for all the things that had frightened me as a child…’ writes Isobelle Carmody in the introduction to ‘Tales from the Tower: the Wilful Eye’.

This collection of 6 short stories by renowned fantasy authors revisits classic fairytales to give them a modern twist. At the same time, each of the stories reflects the differences and nuances of individual authors.

Carmody invited the authors to explore fairy tales of their own choosing. Some chose familiar tales (like Rumpelstiltskin and Beauty and the Beast) as their foundation; others worked with slightly less well-known stories. All have moved away from the Disneyfied versions known to modern children, and have provided some interesting and varied scenarios.

Indeed, a binding feature of the stories is the way in which traditional tales have been transformed, as they move away from their traditional audience of young children to a much more mature one. Already the tales have raised some controversy, many questioning whether they even suit a young adult market. (But then, this may just give the book greater appeal and material for exploration and discussion?)

We are forewarned of the nature of the book in both its blurb and Carmody’s introduction:

‘Characters are enchanted, they transgress, they yearn, they hunger, they hate and, sometimes, they kill.
Some of the stories inhabit a traditional fairytale world, while others are set in the distant future. Some are set in the present and some in an alternative present. The stories offer no prescription for living or moral advice and none belong in a nursery.’

However, the depth and detail, and the twists and turns which each tale takes, inspired by fairy tales of old, makes this book well worth the study – particularly for students in years 11 and 12 Extension English. That some of these stories touch on controversial issues, or that others are dark and enchanting, is nothing new to the world a fairytale appropriation, or indeed to many dark fairytales passed down the generations in the past – after all, many children have been frightened by fairytales, as attested to by Carmody herself.

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