I relish reading short fiction and nothing gives me greater joy than reading a superior anthology or short story collection. It’s especially rewarding when said material tackles fairy tales – those timeless pieces of dark wisdom that are the core of storytelling. It’s essence.
Recently I had the pleasure to read The Starlit Wood – an anthology not so much only retelling fairy tales, but retelling the concept of retelling. Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien have outdone themselves in the selection. Their vision is sharp, but also varied and well-balanced with few duds and a lot of powerful narratives. Here’s an excerpt and the rest you can find at TOR.com:
In her exceptional study on fairy tales, From the Beast to the Blonde, Marina Warner, in a single sentence, sums up the true worth of fairy tales: “for they are stories with staying power, as their antiquity shows, because the meanings they generate are themselves magical shape-shifters, dancing to the needs of their audience.”
With this succinct and elegant explanation as to why fairy tales entice our continued fascination, I’ve found my entry into The Starlit Wood—an ambitious anthology collecting eighteen fairy tale retellings drawn from various traditions.
Fairy tales possess an almost deceptive simplicity in the way they’re told. They’re light on a storyteller’s tongue, quick to burrow deep into memory, and infinitely malleable. It’s a chief reason we see fairy tale characters reimagined into completely different literary traditions and properties, and it’s not incidental the anthology opens with “In the Desert Like a Bone”—an Old West-style retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” that’s as dry and hardened as the very desert itself. Seanan McGuire remains faithful to the tone of the original, instantly recognized and beloved, even as she conjures an air of severity and harshness synonymous with the Wild West. McGuire has written a predatory narrative and it circles received and unexamined assumptions—the so-called Known-by-All Truth—with bared teeth. Ultimately, “Little Red Riding Hood” is a story about innocence lost as much as it is about betrayal and, consequently, growing up. McGuire understands the story’s fundamental nature, and reframes it to great success.