The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

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‘Turnbull and Asser’ – Jermyn Street tailors, established 1885.

‘the sword which his great-grandfather had presented to the little corporal, in token of surrender to the Republic, before he shot himself’ – If this is intended as a reference to Napoleon, it is an error: the future Emperor, although famously short of stature, never held the rank of corporal. The aristocracy’s surrender to ‘lesser men’ is implied by the phrase.

‘those clockwork tableaux of Bluebeard that you see in glass cases at fairs’ – ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is an adaption of ‘Bluebeard’, and the knowledge of the old story in the context of the new adds a metatextual element to Carter’s version. In giving his new wife his keys and then returning unexpectedly to murder her, the Marquis has apparently fetishized the Bluebeard story for his own gratification, as he also, for example, fetishizes the executions of noblewomen during the French Revolution.

T H E T I G E R ’ S B R I D E

Both of these stories are based upon ‘Beauty and the Beast’, an eighteenth century French fairy tale originally composed as an adult novella by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, and then abridged and adjusted into its familiar ‘fairy story’ format by the governess Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Given that Carter’s two versions are collected in sequence by the author, it makes sense to consider them together. Although, on the surface, they appear quite different in their approach – indeed in some ways they are polar opposites – they both share key features that are altered from the original tale, and it is these points of comparison that, as in ‘The Bloody Chamber’, reveal Carter’s intentions most clearly.

A Trio of Dangerous Beasts

To recall ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is inevitably to note these two tales’ similarities to the first in the collection. All three stories concern aristocratic, reclusive, solitary males of extraordinary wealth seeking a bride (admittedly this is not obviously the case in ‘The Tiger’s Bride’, but the two main characters do end up mating, if not marrying). In a fundamental sense, the Marquis, the Beast and ‘Milord’ all represent the patriarchy in its most extreme form: possessing seemingly limitless wealth and near absolute power. Perhaps their inherent animality is a reflection of this, given that power is essentially something brute rather than necessarily human. The Marquis is not actually an animal, but the ‘leonine shape of his head’ is described, and he is closely associated with the ‘man-eating tiger’ that was shot by his mother-in-law. Furthermore, the protagonist of ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ certainly experiences a degree of sexual frisson at the possibility of being eaten by Milord.

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the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

Available HERE where you can read the opening chapters.

The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul