The Erl King: Angela Carter

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!

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The Bloody Chamber: Angela Carter

Recently I was asked to recommend a few books that could be related to the genre of the Tim Burton. Burton’s style and imagination has always been a great inspiration to me and has motivated and enthused me to complete a number of projects that use him and his eccentric style as the main inspiration for the project. The one book that I recommended was the Bloody Chamber a set of short stories by Angela Carter. The stories are unusual and knotty with stories that links to sexual dependency and death. The stories are dark and mysterious with complex plot-lines and some of them were to murky and shadowy for me, however one really struck with me and this is the story that I will be reviewing.

I will admit that the stories are dark and ominous but they also have such interesting and knotty short stories that make the reader think and reflect. The story I want to talk about is ‘The Lady of the House of Love.’ It follows the life of a female vampire, frail and beautiful that is feeding off the lives of young men to keep her alive. The interesting plot is the beautiful vampire is revolted by her life as a vampire, feeding off the souls of the young men. Her garden is full of rows of stunning roses that feed of the bodies of the young men that she has slain. The story follows a soldier and the Countess, ‘the last bud of the poison tree that sprang from the loins of Vlad the Impaler.’ Everything about the Countess is as it should be except for her horrible reluctance for the role; “She resorts to the magic comfort of the Tarot pack and shuffles the cards, lays them out, reads them, gathers them up with a sigh, shuffles them again, constantly constructing hypotheses about a future which is irreversible,” – the cards always show the same configuration; “, death, dissolution.” Until the young officer appears anddd….. I will not spoil the rest for you!

The description of the young vampire is striking and her frail and delicate disposition is described beautifully. As a reader I felt pain of the expectations of family and the disappointment of being able to fulfil wants and dreams for the future. This short story by Carter was extremely refreshing; recently supernatural creatures predominantly vampires have been adorned and embellished so that they now lack their supernatural edge. However Carter’s story is completely different and it is unusually and curiously different. I would definitely recommend this story; it deals with desperation, hope, love and naivety. It is unusual and extraordinary in its writing and the descriptions are flawlessly constructed, definitely worth a look! Image