So, I tempted you yesterday with a short story from the Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter ‘The Lady of the House of Love, but if I haven’t quite convinced to find a copy of this book and start reading here is a review of another one of short stories, The Erl King.
Due to some of the stories that Carter writes she is often termed as an ‘erotic writer’ however I warn you to remember her other incredibly beautiful stories. Out of the stories, The Bloody Chamber is perhaps, Carters most popular book, however do not focus to much on the excess use of sexuality in some of the books and instead focus on the beauty of Carters descriptions. “When I realized what the Erl-King meant to do to me, I was shaken with a terrible fear and I did not know what to do for I loved him with all my heart and yet I had no wish to join the whistling congregation he kept in his cages although he looked after them very affectionately, gave them fresh water every day and fed them well.” It resonated with what I am currently writing, and it felt like I too had experienced that feeling, though I had never lived it.’ Carter’s descriptions have feeling and are beautifully constructed and structured to transport the reader right to the wood where the Erl King is standing.
Carter’s story revolves around the Erl King, an embodiment of nature, originally conceived as a villain in Scandinavian mythology, a villain of nature that should not only fascinate us but also make us fear its mystery. When the heroine enters the forest initially the beauty of the forest shocks her. “You step between the first trees and then you are no longer in the open air; the wood swallows you up. There is no way through the wood any more, this wood has reverted to its original privacy. Once you are inside it, you must stay there until it lets you out again for there is no clue to guide you through in perfect safety . . .” As the heroine meets the Erl King and begins to fall in love, she notices and she understands the horror of his cages of twigs in the woods. Every woman that enters the forest and meets the Erl King, is transformed into a bird, with the same mark on their neck. The Erl-King loves her and she loves him however the act she must commit is something she must do, and she understands this. She has to kill him and set the other women free.
On the surface, this is a story about a woman who falls in love with a beast and must kill him to save herself and set others free. The story also revolves around the abuse and freedom; each of the women has a bite on her neck to show the wrath of the Erl King. But the contrast is that when you free yourself from such an incident, you have the power to save others. The descriptions in the book are stunningly beautiful and it is an all encasing story of love, death and nature, not one you can miss!