<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Truly Grim Tales

Truly Grim Tales

by Priscilla Galloway

Truly Grim Tales. Can.: Stoddart, 1996. 0-7737-5846-1. U.S.A.: Delacorte, 1995. 0-385-32200-3 (pap). Grades 6 and up.

In this singular and macabre collection of short stories, Priscilla Galloway gives eight traditional tales very untraditional interpretations. For her readers, the familiar tales of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen will never seem quite the same again. Each of her stories offers a perspective that is startlingly imaginative as well as profoundly disturbing.

In a futuristic rendition of "Little Red Riding Hood," young Ruby inhabits a world of giant carnivorous clams and wily beasts who stalk humans. In a tragic version of "Jack and the Beanstalk," an ogress describes her once loving husband's fatal and disfiguring disease and explains that it can be treated only with a substance found in the ground bones of an inferior humanoid species now hunted almost to extinction.

Fantastical, yet terrifyingly believable, these stunning tales are both homages to the great story-tellers and commentaries on the evolving human condition.

Ages 14 to adult.

"Eight famous traditional folktales are retold from a startlingly oblique and mind-bending point of view New interpretations of familiar material may turn the tale into a tragedy or a farce, and villains may be heroes-or at least portrayed as human beings. One of the most ingenious of the stories is a retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk" from the point of view of the ogre's wife. The tale gives a plausible explanation for why the ogress protects Jack from her husband and the meaning behind the ogre's well-known chant of 'fee, fi, fo, fum.' A fascinating short-story collection." THE HORN BOOK, January-February 1996 (Starred review)

"tales retold with twists more ironic than grim. "The Prince" chases after glass-slippered Cinderella because he has a foot fetish;"The Woodcutter's Wife" denies any intent to eat Hansel and Gretel-she just wants to keep them around as sources of blood for potions and lab experiments A distinctive, formal narration thought-provoking." KIRKUS REVIEWS, June 15, 1995 (Diamond rating)

"Nearly operatic in their conception and accomplished in their execution, these stories could also serve as a guide to young writers: their inventive, vigorous exploration of familiar territory easily stimulates the reader's own imagination." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, September 11, 1995

"One might expect a lively sense of humour from the author of Truly Grim Tales, a collection of fairy tales for adults. . . Galloway's versions are told from unexpected points of view, lending the familiar stories often slyly humorous overtones. Galloway [is] 'a mix of Lucille Ball and Vincent Price'. " H.J. Kirchhoff, THE GLOBE AND MAIL, Dec. 2, 1995

"Priscilla Galloway's revisionist Truly Grim Tales surpasses Garner's Politically Correct Fairy Tales, or Zipes' collections, both in the quality of her writing and her fascinating perspective. . . For example, we always cheer for Jack as he steals a hen that lays golden eggs and a singing harp from an ogre, but have we ever considered what happened to the 'ogre' after his money was gone? Galloway re-tells this story from the perspective of the ogre's wife, who watches the slow deterioration of her husband, who suffers from a bone disease. The ending to this story is so tragic that it reverses the traditional self/other construction we generally bring to these stories, and makes us seriously question the old 'happily-ever-after' convention. . . . Galloway's revisions are not grounded in present-day rhetoric, and perhaps they will one day become as timeless as the classic fairy tales she emulates." Jennifer Hale, CALGARY HERALD.

EXCERPTS FROM PRISCILLA GALLOWAY'S TRULY GRIM TALES

A talking mirror! The oddest part was that I believed it. Everything felt as if it was meant to be, including my pledge to Esmeralda. I calmed right down. I breezed through that competition, smiling all the way. It was easy to slip the magic pill into the king's drink, easy to walk across the stage and preen and turn, easy to swing my heavy skirts.

It was no surprise when I won the beauty contest. It was no surprise when I married the widowed king. His daughter, pale little black haired thing, was flower girl at our wedding. Snow. What a stupid name. Might as well have called her Rain or Hail, or Sleet.

from "The Woodcutter's Wife"

The story that I intended to eat them is a fabrication. People will make up anything. I did intend to observe them closely under conditions of stress, and more blood would have been very useful to me.

In the end, I would probably have let them go back home. Their father, my husband, was making my life as wretched as his own. In the end, it would have been a choice between having the children back and pretending (for a while) to be a happy-ever-after fairy-tale family, or getting rid of all three of them and moving on.

from "The Prince"

Suddenly I looked down. The current damsel was gloriously attired in something with pearls and ermine trim. I hardly saw her dress. My eyes fixed on her feet.

Glass! I could see right through her shoes!