Honestly, does anyone say it better than Neil Gaiman, when it comes to fairy tales?
“I feel like some kind of alchemist,” Gaiman suggests. “I have to go to the cupboard and take one ounce of Snow White and two ounces of Sleeping Beauty, and heat the Sleeping Beauty and froth the Snow White and mix them together: it’s kind of like fusion cuisine. It tastes like both of them but it’s actually a new dish.”
“The Bloody Chamber is such an important book to me,” he says. “Angela Carter, for me, is still the one who said: ‘You see these fairy stories, these things that are sitting at the back of the nursery shelves? Actually, each one of them is a loaded gun. Each of them is a bomb. Watch: if you turn it right it will blow up.’ And we all went: ‘Oh my gosh, she’s right – you can blow things up with these!’”
When I ask Gaiman who his favourite fairy tale character is, he says he fell in love with Red Riding Hood when reading Carter. She was also Charles Dickens’s favourite, but in order to interpret Gaiman’s taste, you need to know that Carter’s take on the tale was “The Company of Wolves”, an ornately told story in which the heroine makes a relatively late appearance in a savage, sexual world, not a small child skipping along a path but a daring pubescent girl who strips naked, laughs in the face of danger and sleeps with the wolf – rendering him post–coitally “tender” – in her dead grandmother’s bed.
In fact, as Gaiman explains (becoming, in his own description, “fairy tale nerdy”) the bombs inherent in such stories have been defused more often than they have been detonated. For instance, the reason why Disney’s Sleeping Beauty doesn’t work, he says, is because “it’s not a story. It’s the opening to a story. The first versions we have of it make more sense but are less kind to human nature.