Angela Carter always knew that she was drawn to “Gothic tales, cruel tales, tales of wonder, tales of terror, fabulous narratives that deal directly with the imagery of the unconscious”. This is exactly what the reader gets in her short story collection The Bloody Chamber. It contains retellings of fairy tales given subversive, feminist twists, rich language filled with literary references, and evocative symbols of blood, snow, feathers and fur. Similar themes run throughout her work: in Nights at the Circus, a winged woman named Fevvers hatches from an egg; in The Magic Toyshop, a puppeteer inflicts his twisted control on his family. Decades later, they are as sharp and mysterious as ever…
Carter often uses animals to express the desires and violence of humans; there are winged women and wolf children throughout. This is typical of fairy tales — think of Beauty and the Beast, which she adapts twice in The Bloody Chamber. In one version, the heroine transforms into a tiger after the Beast licks off her skin to reveal fur. Are we closer to animals than we think?
Animals that talk ‘could be a nightmare’
What if all animals could talk? For the first time, a killer whale has been taught to say words like “hello”. Some think that we will soon be able to communicate with other animals too…
Meet the man who ‘took a break’ from humanity
Life can be hard, and one day Thomas Thwaites was at ‘a bit of a low ebb’. His solution? To leave the human world behind and live in the mountains with a herd of goats. What is the appeal?
Why dolphins are even cleverer than we thought
Are we as unique as we like to think? According to a major new study, dolphins and whales have a comparable intelligence to us. This flies against centuries-old beliefs about human nature.
In The Bloody Chamber, Carter said her intention “was not to do ‘versions’ or ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to extract the latent content… and to use it as the beginnings of new stories.” And that latent content was violent, sexual, and often focused on the horrible fates that could befall women at the hands of men. Carter brings these same themes out in vivid detail. How do we see fairy tales now?
The stars were aligned says a prince in love
Is romantic love a force for good? Nobody could doubt the sincerity of the love between Prince Harry and his bride-to-be. Yet for nearly half the population, romance still ends in divorce.
Long-lost fairy tales unearthed after 150 years
Once upon a time, 500 fairy stories were lost in a dusty German archive. Now, von Schönwerth’s collection has been discovered – but why are we attracted to these fantastical tales?
Wrong-headed romance of teenage runaway Megan
Police are searching across Europe for Megan Stammers, on the run with her maths teacher. What are the risks someone will run when they are seduced by a dream?
The women in Carter’s work are often in danger from violent men — but she strongly believed that women should not see themselves as victims. Her heroines can only survive by refusing to passively play the role of the damsel in the distress. In this way, they are able to save themselves, or sometimes to tame the beast and turn the tables against him. Is this still an important message of feminism?
Sex abuse ‘silence breakers’ win Time award
Will the #MeToo movement lead to real change? Those who spoke out about their experiences of sexual misconduct have been named Time magazine’s “person of the year”. Their story is not over.
Emma, nudity, and the meaning of feminism
She is an actress, a feminist activist for the UN, and now a semi-nude model in Vanity Fair magazine. Her photoshoot has sparked a fierce feminist row: does baring your breasts betray women?
Real-life ‘Rosie’ who inspired a generation
What does the iconic “We Can Do It” poster teach us about feminism? Around 75 years after it first burst upon the world, the woman who inspired the image has died at the age of 96.
Sexuality has a dual role in Angela Carter’s work. On the one hand, it is an empowering way for women to break free from the passive roles they are forced to play in society. But with sex, there also comes danger; take the first story of The Bloody Chamber, where the narrator’s sadistic husband has tortured and murdered his previous wives. Society’s views on sex are still as complicated as ever…
Death of a playboy sparks row over legacy
Libertine or liberator? Yesterday’s news of the death of Hugh Hefner, the man who launched Playboy magazine and filled his home with bunny girls, has launched a fierce philosophical debate.
British model allegedly kidnapped for sex
The strange tale of Chloe Ayling’s kidnapping (and subsequent release) in Italy has shone a spotlight on the murky world of human trafficking. How can this global problem be stopped?
Carter’s stories are often tinged with violence. She never shies away from descriptions of rape, murder or mutilation. But the violence is not gratuitous, or modern: it comes from a long tradition of gruesome fairy tales. Later, her work softened somewhat. “Sometimes when I read my back pages, I’m quite appalled at the violence of my imagination”, she said. “Before I had a family and stuff.”
‘We are less safe than cows’ say Indian women
The epidemic of violence against women in India has prompted some to wear cow masks, saying that the sacred cattle are safer than women. How much effect will this campaign really have?
First evidence of human violence found
Archaeologists in Spain have discovered the first known victim of a fatal human attack, dating back 430,000 years. Is violence an inescapable part of human nature?
Model Harry Uzoka dies in London knife attack
How can we stop the rise of violent knife crime in Britain? Last year, 80 people were stabbed and killed in London alone. Now, male model Harry Uzoka has become the latest victim.