Vladimir Propp says, ‘ In most languages, the word “tale” is a synonym for “lie” or “falsehood”‘ . Angela Carter’s Book of fairy tales is an enormous collection of such lies. Though the book is titled ‘Fairy Tales’, majority of the stories are not about fairies. ‘Fairies’ are imposed imaginations about how women should generally be. The cultural and social norm of insisting a little girl to be always pleasing and smiling to others, to be addressed as an angel,fairy or princess, in itself creates a gender divide which every woman is forced to carry along with her to the grave. The stories in this book are collected from all over the world and include stories in certain languages like Somali for which a written script was developed in the recent past. The stories are grouped into thirteen sub groups based on their nature and character. Some are funny, witty and hilarious while others depict the darker side of human beings . Some of the stories are written in the spoken dialect and simulates the experience of listening to them directly from the narrator.
Angela Carter was an English feminist writer whom Salman Rushdie called, upon her death in 1992 at age 51, the “high sorceress” and “benevolent white witch” of English literature. Though she is listed as one among the most influential English writers of all times, she is little known outside of England because she has been ignored by many of the acclaimed literary prize committees.She believed in the power of story telling and in rekindling the past in order to anticipate future. Though at any point of time , more than half of humanity comprised of women, there is an under representation of women in stories and tales. Angela Carter observed that even when the narrator was a woman, many a times derogatory remarks about another woman was made, which she attributed to the upbringing of such women in an evidently inviolable patriarchal society. By collecting these tales from across the world, Angela Carter did not want to prove that we are all alike beneath our skins. We are not alike; but in our differences lies the abundant capacity of human imagination. Carter also gives an account of the origin of many of the tales which helps us to comprehend the history of such stories.
Definitely, I might not be able to recollect all the stories so as to narrate them later. But I will be able to remember the effect those stories had on me. Some made me laugh, some made me cry and some made me wonder. Angela Carter wrote,“Swahili storytellers believe that women are incorrigibly wicked, diabolically cunning and sexually insatiable; I hope this is true, for the sake of the women.” I yearn for a real and imaginary world where more wicked, cunning and sexually insatiable women exist with equal right, dignity and liberty as every one else.