Personal Assessments of The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
Extracted from Illustration DV3500 Resit Project (June – August 2013)
The approach to this project, is to visualize and portray an interpretation of one of three book choices of Folio Society’s book illustrations competition; The Stranger/Outsider, The Bloody Chamber or Brave New World (not in that order).
Thoroughly and accurately researching each outline of the narratives of each, Angela Carter’s novella of fairy tales was the strongest and more compelling, artistically.
Each short story contains, and not dissimilar to the original tales, a strangely mystifying and twisted account of what love is or could be; combining the hurtful revelations, disastrous downfalls and everything else in between. Lust, deceit, first impressions, Chinese whispers, and tormenting truths of one’s nature which has to be dealt with in real life, all separated into coordinated counterparts or one of pages.
One of the strongest adaptions for me are that of Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, The Erl-King, Snow White, and Red Riding Hood; the motivations, characters and settings parallel to one another, as if Carter wanted to reader to step into connected universes, as I took note of mentionings of fable characters intertwined in other stories prior introduction. Illustrating through written word the various natures of man (kind and gender).
THE BLOODY CHAMBER
Almost a rugged adaption of Jane Eyre, where the young maiden walks into a disastrous wake of misadventures for the sake of her new lover; only realizing his secrets almost too late – this adaption of Bluebeard looks upon the tale from the innocent’s eyes.
The heroine is fascinated by the antagonist’s demeanor, his seductive, yet mysterious air to him. He is a worldly, intellectual individual with the passion to keep his sweetly pure pianist as naive as possible; not wishing her to see his murderous, sadistic side. Almost as if he is protecting her from himself, or at least trying – as deep down he knows that her inquisitiveness is just as deadly as his fetish to kill.
Carter approached this possessive love, like an introduction to domestic abuse; the warning signs are there, yet either party are choosing to ignore from the benefit of the doubt; deceit of the heart and mind.
THE COURTSHIP OF MR. LYON
Short and sweet, Angela Carter brings us the subject of misconception, the Chinese whisper.
The Beast is no more than a simple man, who is trying to find solitude after an adventurous life; a former hunter. His nose broken; his hair tattered and torn with a tired, gruff voice; it’s comparable to that of a lion, his surname’s name sake.
Upon seeing the man before him, Beauty’s father could do nothing more but to envision the animal before him, the man strong and powerful with piercing eyes that stare into your soul; as he was scorned for trying to steal one singular white rose, from the garden after been given hospitality he deserved.
He’d passed this imagery to his daughter; and she could not anything less but to see him for the beast her father portrayed. When confronted with the truth, by seeing her own altered image when her life changed from poverty to luxury, the creature’s facade faded into the human being he was; as he was lying sick, dying from heart break. His paws were simply fisted hands, his eyes possessed eyelids.
Beauty came to appreciate she had allowed fear to overcome her, deluding her sight, and overcoming that fear, the delusion melted.
THE TIGER’S BRIDE
Entering a more psychological, lustful transit of the fairy tale, Angela explores far more domineering personalities which could have been.
The Beast in this variation is very much so a true animal and nothing to be of comparison, or likened to.
He is in fact the polar opposite of his Lyon counterpart; instead of having the mannerisms of a wild creature, and being confused to be so – he is an animal trapped within his illusion of humanity, so far in that he hides himself behind a pristine mask, and bathes himself in riches and herbs to disguise his scent.
Beauty’s behavior is distinctively forthright, proud and independent of the patriotic establishments of the times, in fact she is appalled by the Beast’s need to have her as a companion, on the basis that her father had lost his one, treasured possession at cards.
Fascinatingly, this interpretation of Beauty and the Beast is possibly the stronger of the foundation of Walt Disney’s 1994 classic. The scenery, the lack of human activity within his fortress, his untamed nature trapping him into a beastly form. Belle’s disregard to his attempts of wooing her.
Of course, to counteract, Disney infiltrated the romantic adaption to conclude that perhaps her perceptions of him were wrong, that the rumor of his transformation was simple the power of word rather than fact.
The narrative implies to a woman’s love for nature, playing to the idea of hallucinations or delusion. The female protagonist is enamored by the beauty of the forest that once as a child frightened her, to the point where she feels its calling to her, taking the form of a handsome king. Deceiving herself.
He is the physical manifestation of the forest, a guardian if you will (like Pan, of Greek mythology), and she is his guest. He is at one with the creatures of the forest, as like the woodland is home to the animals. The king is compared to that of fungi, growing in the darkest depths of the undergrowth, as if out of necessity.
A humanoid companion for a young, lonely girl. Like a lost soul, forever trapped in a forest, unable to get out on her own accord, the Erl-King represents the prison of ethereal beauty, having imprisoned every lost girl that came across his path; they too afraid to leave; having lost the resistance to find a way out.
The female protagonist, love interest, not dissimilar to Beauty in Courtship of Mr. Lyon, sees through her own imagination, sees the man for what he is, a temperas woodland, too thick in undergrowth that it had cut off the exit, decides to fight her way out, having the murder the one thing she loves to rescue herself and the lost souls to their fate – death. The Erl-King’s playing with their love being a metaphor for such.
It holds references Red Riding Hood, and this fairy-tale was previous mentioned in The Tiger’s Bride.
Carter’s adaption to Snow White is short and sweet, combining the jealousy of the evil step mother with the mother of birth right.
The Count’s yearning for a child with immediate effect creates inward friction between him and his wife, who desperately tries to grab his attention and to murder her own daughter, disliking the imaginary competition – for the girl is immaculate, perfect.
She is of snow, a raven’s feather and a trickle of blood found upon the path, nature having creating her to the man’s desired wishes. She is mercilessly killed by the prick of a finger (a reference to Sleeping Beauty, which is followed through by The Lady in the House of Love). Leaving only the ingredients of which she was made behind.
It is left open ended if the rose picked out was that of a living creature, for it bit the Countess out of vengeance, hinting the conclusion that nature is itself alive and able to see and hear all. For murdering its child with the Count.
THE COMPANY OF WOLVES
An adolescent, who echoes the description of the folklore mentioned within The Erl-King, is confronted by a wolf in human skin, a lycanthrope, a werewolf. He portrays himself as a hunter, who uses his guise to lure the female protagonist into trusting him, implying romantic intentions.
His appearances echoes that of a human Erl-King, with his chosen clothing attire of green to suit the forest, and his eyes hypnotizing, giving the impression that she and the unnamed woman of the former fairy-tale are one of the same; lured into the same forest.
Therefore, it is assumed we are experiencing her past, unknowingly foretelling the future. Instead of the lycan wishing to eat her, as assumed in the original story, he instead wishes for a companion; distracting himself from his cursed life beneath the moonlight sky; as each werewolf is yearning for.