Archive for fairy tales

Tales of Blood: Origins of Mannymärchen

Posted in Angela Carter, Fairy Tales, Gothic Fairy Tales, Märchen, Red as Blood (book), Tanith Lee, The Bloody Chamber (book), The Company of Wolves 1984 with tags , , , , , , , on April 25, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

By now most of you have some inkling of my love for Gothic Horror, but what you may not be as aware of is my love for Fairy Tales and old school Fantasy. As a grown man, I still thrill to find an old edition of the Grimm Brother’s Hausmärchen, especially if it’s illustrated, or a faithful rendition of the tales of Charles Perrault. I even read essays on them by such scholars as Jack Zipes, and Iona & Peter Opie. I love fairy tales, I love their weirdness, and I love their romance.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Jack Zipes ed. (2014 Princeton University Press)

I also love the Victorian authors whose stories for children drew heavily from the genre, like Lewis Carroll or George MacDonald. I always saw potential in there to tell darker tales and looked for stories with the magic of these tales but with more grown up themes. Unfortunately, most adaptations are nothing more than an excuse to sex them up or to throw some unrelated tale together and name-drop some fairy tale character for name recognition.

Then one day I found a book that caught my eye and gave me hope. It was a massmarket paperback of Tanith Lee’s “Red as Blood”. These drew from the fairy tales of my childhood, but reinvented them as quality fantasy tales. The only problem is that Lee, like my other Fantasy fave, Clark Ashton Smith, has a tendency to go full on Fantasy, setting stories in totally made up worlds with exotic names and fanciful creatures. I like my fantasy and horror to have some basis in reality for me to identify with and balance the fantastic element.

“Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer” by Tanith Lee (1983, Daw)

I was intrigued by the idea, but still hadn’t quite gotten there myself. Then I saw the movie “The Company of Wolves”, which mixed the story of Little Red Riding Hood with werewolves. An obvious conceit at first glance, but the script was smart, with humor and the werewolf theme was explored fully as a folkloric creature not a Hollywood trope.

Poster for “The Company of Wolves” (1984).

I was enthralled. It explored some of the latent themes in the original fairy tale of a girl’s coming of age and exploring her burgeoning emotions and desires as she tries to navigate the world around her which is beginning to take notice. All this was there along with the deep folklore surrounding these themes as well as the werewolf legends. In my enthusiasm for the movie I eventually I found out that it was based a couple of stories from the book “The Bloody Chamber” by Angela Carter. In fact, she had written the script for the film. I went on a hunt for this book and I believe I found a copy at the Watersons bookstore on Newberry Street in Boston, which was shut down shortly thereafter when a fire wreaked havoc and destroyed the place in the late 90’s.

“The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories” by Angela Carter (1987, Penguin Books)

I recall jumping to the related stories first: “The Company of Wolves”, “The Werewolf”, and “Wolf Alice”, but it was when I started reading some of the other tales that I began to fall under the spell of Ms Carter and her intoxicating, baroque prose. Every line is carefully crafted. She drops references to history, literature, fashion, cuisine, art, dance, music, she referenced things that I liked and knew about, like obscure decadent authors, but then she hinted at other things that I had yet to discover then wanted to seek out. She was sensual, sometimes explicit, and even vulgar at times, but one forgave her because of the clever or beautiful way she expressed herself. She never shied from Horror and she knew her Gothic tropes. Best of all these were less full on fantasy and more like magical realism, most of the tales took place in an identifiable setting and referenced real things that I could relate to. This also made the fantastic element stand out more and seem all the more marvelous when they appeared.

The clincher however, for me, was “The Lady of the House of Love”, a tale about a female vampire who falls prey to the whims of love. The description of this vampire woman in her lonely abode broke my heart. I wanted to write like this. I have yet to attain her greatness and most likely never will, but I shall try every time I put my pen to paper.

This what I had in mind over 15 years ago when I began writing my own fairytales. I completed 3 tales and began a 4th which is, as of today, still incomplete. I hope to wrap it up someday, but the desert is not much inspiration for such tales. Since my poetry book “Black Hymeneal” is in limbo at present, I am working on a chapbook of these Gothic Fairy Tales, which I plan to call “Mannymärchen” It shall feature the aforementioned tales: “Gothilocks”, “Belladonna”, and “Felo-de-se”, along with an introduction explaining their genesis. I shall attempt to do the cover art, and if that goes well I may try some interior artwork. More on that as things develop.

As a parting thought, I understand Carter wrote an adaptation of “Lady of the House of Love” which she called “Vampirella”. Apparently Neal Jordan had intended to film it but backed out when she passed away. Hopefully someone while pick it up someday and film it. I would love to see it come to life(?).

 

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Gothilocks

Posted in Dracula, Fairy Tales, Frankenstein, Gothic Tales, The Wolf Man with tags , , , , , , on January 23, 2012 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Cover art, by Jesus Gutierrez, for the 1st Edition of the “Gothilocks” comic.

And so they sat: Count Dracula, the Wolf-man, and Frankenstein’s monster, alternately staring at the mean mess spread before them, and the dreary countenances of their compeers.

“What I would give for a nice young milkmaid to feed on,” said Dracula, lisping through his overbite.

“Yeah, then when you were done draining her, I could take her limbs to gnaw on and store the rest in the smokehouse for jerky during the winter!” growled the Wolf-man.

“Jerky would be nice.” uttered the monster.

“I thought you were a vegetarian!” the Wolf-man barked.

“Yeah, well maybe I’m getting tired of all this squirrel food, ever think of that?” retorted the monster, “I need to find something I can really sink my teeth into.”

“Amen to that!” blurted Dracula.

“Something with resistance, but that won’t crack my brittle denture”, the monster continued, as he absentmindedly ran his great gray hand along his massive jaw.

“Hey, you’re the one who said, ‘I do not destroy the lamb and the kid, to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment’.” His lupine messmate howled.

The monster, frustrated and somewhat embarrassed, just clenched his teeth and pounding his big cadaverous fist on the table, responded with an agitated “Arrgh!”

“Gentleman, please!” hissed the count, “Why don’t we go for a walk in the woods, and work out some of this pent up choler!” The other two mumbled their consent and off they went.

Gothilocks had lost her way in the forest looking for belladonna to blanch her complexion, which just wasn’t fair enough for her taste. Even though she was renowned for her lovely mane, which framed her round face in shiny black ringlets, she still secretly coveted the pallor of that bitch Faustine, who was so wan and thin that she looked positively consumptive! “I’m going to get that ghostly hue,” Gothilocks swore, “even if it kills me!”

For a self-proclaimed “Child of the Night”, the little darkling was starting to get uncharacteristically worried now that she noticed the crepuscular sky beginning to drape over the treetops and settle in heavy folds ‘twixt the branches. She had all but lost hope when she noticed a dingy little cottage in a clearing. She was feeling weary, as well as a little peckish, and figured this was the only shelter she was bound to find this deep in the woods. It was a little forbidding and uninviting in its appearance, but it would have to do.

She walked up to the curtained window, caught a glimpse of her reflection in the moonlight, and stopped to primp herself for her meeting with the denizens of this lowly hovel. She wanted to look her best so that they would automatically take her in on account of her jetty locks, and fetching good looks. She grabbed the heavy knocker, unusually ornate for such a paltry looking place, and rapped three times.

No answer. She tried again, only this time a little harder, and to her surprise the door swung open! She sashayed across the threshold and stopped for a moment to take everything in, as well as look for a host to charm.

“Hello there, is anyone home? Hello!” No reply. She noticed a table with three places set for supper. At the head of the table was a fancy dish with a thick red fluid in it. To the side of the dish was an inlaid ebon spoon, with a small bat design on it; the bat had its wings wrapped around it as if it were sleeping with its head at the top of the grip and its body tapering as it wound its way down the spoon. Placing it into the bowl, she scooped up a generous spoonful of its ichorous contents, which she eyed suspiciously, as she mused,

“What is this, borscht? Wait, there’s no sour cream, it must be gazpacho! Either way, I don’t do cold soup, and this stuff looks like it’s starting to congeal.”

She then dropped the spoon into the bowl, causing some of the dish’s contents to spill onto the table, and moved on to the next seat. Before her sat a dish with a large marrowbone that had many teeth marks on it, which indicated that it had been chewed a great deal by something with a large bite.

“What, they let the family dog eat with them at the dinner table? Ew!”

“Ew!” sketch by artist Kim Mc Kelvey.

Disgusted, she pushed away the bone and went to the last place, where she found a dish full of nuts and berries. She figured this was as good as it was going to get without any hosts in sight, so she ate them all up, and washed it down with a swig of water from an Evian bottle she had in her satchel.

Feeling sleepy, she went upstairs to the loft where the beds were kept. She saw a casket, which she climbed into, because she always wondered what it would feel like to be in one. It was too creepy for her though, and she began to feel claustrophobic, so she bailed. She saw a basket with cushions and blankets, but upon closer inspection, found them to be repellant with animal sweat.

Finally, she found a slab, which had a small cushion at the top, and even though it was a bit more like a table than a bed, it reminded her of some Japanese accommodations she had seen in a magazine.

“This is no worse than my futon at home,” she thought, and soon she was fast asleep.

Now, the night was waning, and our boys were all tuckered out from walking around the forest and venting spleen, so they decided to head back and eat their supper, no matter how dismally pathetic it was. Upon arrival, they found the front door ajar, so they chose to enter the cottage with caution; Dracula leading, reddened penetrating eyes peering out from above his heavy black cape. Wolf-man followed, beady black eyes squinting, snout a-snarl, teeth bared for an attack; and the monster trailed behind, his yellowed eyes wide as doubloons, nervously looking about, like an oversized, and misshapen boy, frightened out of his patch-worked gourd.

In the main room, where their meal had been set, they found a sight which caused the trio some concern and, for the monster at least, some degree of dismay.

“Someone has spilt my plasma potage!” cried Dracula

“Someone has been hanging around my marrowbone, I can smell it!” yelped the Wolf-man.

“Someone has eaten all of my nuts and berries!” sobbed the monster, “Now I won’t have anything to eat for supper tonight!”

“Don’t worry mon frere, all is not lost,” the Wolf-man said to the monster, as he patted his elbow reassuringly, with a furry black-taloned hand, “for I smell an intruder in our midst!”

And so the Wolf-man led his friends up the ladder, into the loft, where they found a disturbing scene.

“Someone has been in my casket!” gasped Dracula, aghast at the thought of someone else desecrating his immaculate crib.

“Someone has been snooping around my basket!” gnarred the Wolf-man irately.

“Yeah, well someone has been sleeping on my slab, and they’re still there!” bawled the monster, “Where am I going to sleep now?”

The three friends stood around the monster’s sleeping slab and began to marvel at the beauty of their uninvited guest.

“Boy, she sure is pretty,” said the monster, as he rubbed the tears out of his eyes and wiped his nose on his sleeve.

“Yeah, her hair is so shiny and black,” said the Wolf-man, “I just love the way the curls frame her pretty little face. I mean look at that skin, white as alabaster.”

“I’ve seen whiter,” Dracula interjected, “but yes, she is a fine specimen.”

Then the Wolf-man grinned a toothy smile and growled slyly, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Dracula responded with a leer, as the monster looked back towards his comely usurper and said, “Jerky.”