Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Forgotten and The Fantastical 2 - edited by Teika Bellamy

review  by Maryom

In The Forgotten and The Fantastical 2, editor Teika Bellamy has once again put together a wonderful collection of re-worked folk and fairy tales, half-familiar from childhood but given a modern twist

The first story, a not-quite-familiar tale of a little man who can spin things into gold, begins, as all good fairy tales should, with those immortal words Once upon a time... and leads the reader on a journey with fairy folk, spirit animals, selkies, magical manipulative mirrors and, or course, wicked step-mothers, through faraway lands, the frozen North, steaming jungle, modern cities, and the deepest, darkest forest of all, the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

These aren't stories to read at bedtime to small children but ones which seek out the darker themes hidden within the cosy, comfortable framework of the folk tale, often giving it a contemporary, feminist slant. There are tales of abduction - seal-women taken from the sea and forced to live as human, or a twist on Hansel and Gretel which asks just HOW could anyone live happily-ever-after after the trauma of being abandoned and imprisoned. There are stories in which animals help heal a grieving heart, and others which explore the deep bond between mother and child, or the manipulation of women - either by men (whether father figure or the stranger offering to turn 'straw' into gold) or by their own obsession with appearance and image.

There are seventeen stories in all ( a larger collection than the original volume); some are short, only a few pages, others longer; some close to the original (The Worm), others totally new work but within the fairy tale framework. I'm not going to go into great detail about all of them - suffice it to say, I enjoyed all.
BUT, of course, I had favourites.
For the retelling of an old myth - Solstice by Deborah Osborne, about the death of the old year, and the birth of the new.
For re-working classic tales - Rumpelstiltskin by Rebecca Ann Smith, and Reve/Revival, Elizabeth Hopkinson's 'green' version of Sleeping Beauty.
For creating a new fairy story out of fact (if I had to choose just one, it would be this) - Icarus by NJ Ramsden which takes the true war-time story of an attempted escape from Colditz castle and re-imagines it as, well, a fairy tale.  Each segment of the story starts with the sentence 'Once there was a man who wanted to fly' (a classic folk tale device of repetition) and tells the tale of  a man who wanted to be free but is forced first to become a paratrooper, then confined in a seemingly impregnable and inescapable fortress by the Germans but never gives up on his dreams. Maybe it's how myths and legends are made ....

Authors - Rebecca Ann Smith, Lindsey Watkins, Ana Salote, Julie Pemberton, Anuradha Gupta, Laura Kayne, Rachel Rivett, NJ Ramsden, Ronne Randall, Sarah Hindmarsh, Finola Scott, Hannah Malhotra, Jane Wright, Deborah Osborne, Elizabeth Hopkinson, Marija Smits

Maryom's review - 5 stars 
Publisher - 
Mother's Milk Books
Genre - 
adult folk/fairy tales

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