Vanessa de Sade Reclaims the Fairy Tale In The Forests of the Night
I’ve always been in love with fairy tales. From my earliest childhood they have fascinated me, not so much all those sweet Disney-happy-ending-books that well-meaning aunts bought for my birthdays, but the old tooled-leather volumes that my mother kept on her highest shelf, with browned pages that smelt of mouse droppings. I used to love to sit on rainy Saturday afternoons with those rare tomes on my knee, their crackly old pages brittle as dead leaves, and immerse myself in the dark worlds that they opened up for me.
I liked Grimm’s stories the best, then Perrault, and though I found some of Andersen twee there were others of his tales that were just so heart-breakingly sad. But it was the German stories with their dense black forests and nasty old witches that really got to me, and I loved that slate grey October country with all those woodcutters’ cottages buried so deep in the woods that the sunlight never penetrated; a land where evil often went unpunished and, it always seemed to be hinted, maidens lost their innocence behind the cover of spreading oaks. The Famous Five were OK, but they didn’t come close to Wilhelm and Jacob.
And as childhood passed I never lost my love for this art form, and even when I went to university and discovered intriguing people like Kafka I could always find time to go back to Grimm. And then one day I walked into a musty old bookshop in a back street and my life changed. I never had much money in those halcyon student days, and, though I often salivated over the Victorian rare editions with their gold embossing and decorated spines, my purchases were always from the big cardboard boxes of cheap paperbacks that lurked moodily at the back of the store.
I bought two anthologies that day. One, an old 1960s collection of “German Folk Tales” from the Olympia Press in its distinctive saffron yellow livery and obligatory “adults only” warning; the other a scruffy paperback by somebody called Angela Carter with the intriguing title of “The Bloody Chamber”.
And after that nothing was ever the same.
The German tales were badly printed and poorly translated but nothing could dampen their brilliance as I suddenly came face-to-face with pure untampered with peasant fantasy. English busybodies like John Ruskin had already been snipping and expurgating away at fairy tales to make them child friendly, long before Unca Walt ever got his hands on them, and even the dear old Brothers Grimm had toned down the content of their own stories to make them acceptable to the publishing mores of their day.
So imagine, then, my surprise and delight when the Olympia Press book was packed with stories of woodcutters’ daughters who got pregnant to fathers and uncles; of old dames who lured young men into their woodland cottages and robbed them of their purity; or the maiden with the hairiest cunt in all the land who was relentlessly pursued by suitors until she set them all tasks to win her heart – and body!
This was the missing ingredient that I suspected had been bubbling away as an undercurrent all this time, the raw earthy sensuality of Victorian magic and the salty barbs of peasant wit, all missing from so many of the stories that I had pored over, but now suddenly restored. It almost made these German tales exactly what I had been looking for, but with their poor and hastily compiled translations there was still something lacking in them.
And in that battered copy of “The Bloody Chamber” I discovered the true power of the real fairy tale, dark, magical, potent, poetic, mysterious and, most of all, breath-takingly erotic. It’s safe to say that I grew up on Angela Carter and the magic realist writers, though none of the others in the genre ever quite matched her skilful blending of the lyrical with the sexual, or her ability to paint word pictures that so perfectly resembled the insane canvases of Victorian painters like Richard Dadd. I adored every story in “The Bloody Chamber” and read and reread them over and over again. I delighted in other books like “The Magic Toy Shop”, I fell in love with “Wise Children”, and I totally went to pieces when the movie of “The Company of Wolves” was released.
No-one had ever heard of either Angela Carter or Neil Jordan in those far off days, and I queued alone to see “Company of Wolves” amongst hoards of spotty splatter-geeks and bespectacled Fangoria readers who eulogised endlessly about the transformation scenes and the prosthetic wolf effects; whole cinemas full of people blind to sheer fucking ART that was being projected onto that screen, while I sat quite overwhelmed – in between swooning at David Warner and having my knees turn to water when Terrence Stamp played his cameo, looking so suave in his white Rolls Royce. I grew up lusting at Terrence, by the way – BBC 2 played a season of his films late at night when I was about thirteen and I devoured classics like “The Collector” and “Billy Budd” with my hands wedged firmly between my legs, I can tell you, darlings!
So, many years later, when I read Nancy Friday and decided to start writing my own sexy stories that featured woman who looked like me, it should be no surprise to anyone that I’ve come up with a collection of highly explicit erotic fairy tales of my own.
In the “Forests of the Night” is a modern urban reimagining of some of those classic Grimm tales that so turned me on in my youth. I haven’t simply retold the originals to incorporate sex scenes, but, instead, I’ve written new urban fables that evoke all those dark woods and even darker deeds, transposing them to the cement jungles and weltering neons of my own city life.
Thumbelina takes place in a midget’s strip club in a seedy costal town in the north west of England; a vampiric Hansel and Gretel plays out in a Manhattan Penthouse; Cinderella fights for her place to appear nude in a TV-reality show; while Little Red Riding Hood is reenacted in a decaying Hollywood hacienda, the overall tone of the entire collection being Angela Carter meets Hustler magazine, rich in imagery and peopled by weird and eccentric characters.
It’s all being published by the wonderful Sweetmeats Press and comes in a handy ebook edition if you need a quicke (that’s a quick reading break, what did you think I meant, Smutburger?) or as a lavishly illustrated paperback in October. I’m quite over the moon since this is easily my finest collection to date, and I’m absolutely thrilled that it’s seeing print in such a great edition.
So, here’s a little excerpt to whet your appetite:
Excerpt from Rapunzel:
He should have known about the coming storm, everybody else did, but Edward read no newspapers and listened to no radios, so his first inkling of the downpour was when thunder rumbled and the blazing August sky suddenly clouded and turned a sickly green and then yellow and eventually black like a ripe bruise and the rain began to fall. Edward’s crops were secure, well banked in and staked against the possibility of inclement weather, but the girl’s were not, her greenery lying thick and abundant in the loose soil, ripe for the slaughter.
And the rain, when it came, was like a biblical torrent, great sheets of water thundering down from the heavens and washing away everything that stood in its path. Edward had not even known that she was there until he saw her from inside his shed, the rain water slewing down the window pane like a fishmonger’s display, making her form undulate like a warped film as she ran through the wet trying to keep her crop from being uprooted and washed away by the waters of Noah.
He hadn’t thought about what he was doing, but he found himself out in the unrelenting wet with her, the two of them working as one, staking down great sheets of black plastic that billowed like ghost ship sales in the storm as they hammered stakes into the splunging-wet soil to cover the crop which, he suddenly realised, was what would keep her family fed over the coming winter. The girl worked like a field slave, her body a sinewy machine in the pouring rain, the faded dress soaked through and clinging to her, her only care the saving of her crop, and she did not rest until they had it secure, tucked in against the elements like a favourite child in its cot.
Outside the rain was still hammering on the asphalt roof of the shed and through the tiny window the world outside looked like a greenish aquarium, eerie in the storm light and everything undulating to the pulse of the tempest. Inside, though, the little hut was still warm from the heat of the day, and Edward lit the hissing gas ring to boil a kettle and dry their clothes.
He worked soundlessly, methodically, not speaking, and was shocked when the girl broke the silence.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, and her voice was soft and well-modulated, not the coarse accent of the tower blocks. “Is there something I can do to repay you?”
Edward shook his head. He had everything he wanted right he here. He needed no more.
The girl shivered, her wet clothing clinging to her, her long chestnut hair, worn in a single braid, hanging sodden to her back.
“Come closer to the stove,” Edward chided, “dry yourself off.”
She did, and he suddenly became aware of her scent. Cheap shampoo, wet clothing, supermarket deodorant. Nothing extraordinary, but in the confines of the little shed with its comforting smells of resin and new wood, she was heady and potent.
The girl sighed and drew nearer, lifting her arms behind her head to undo the band that held her wet hair in it plait, and he saw that her limbs were silky and white and her armpits were covered with thick jungles of soft brown hair, slowly undulating like bracken in a spring breeze and awakening in him all the long buried desires that he thought his wife and the old paper-cut-out judge had burned out of him for ever.
He looked at the girl, fixing her long brown hair, saw the thick down in the white of her armpits and visualised her cunt, and the girl, seeing him and seeing what he was seeing, read his mind and smiled. “So there is something,” she said quietly, and Edward Edwards nodded.
There was only one chair in the shed, a steel frame and gaudy canvas folding deckchair, and she pushed him into it and unzipped him, taking his cock out with great and meticulous care, like an antique dealer carefully unwrapping the tissue paper from an intricately carved ivory tusk. He was already huge, his member like an engorged monolith, the red and purple head already inflamed beyond the confines of his foreskin and poking out insistently.
She smiled and took him gently in her hand and pulled the soft chamois leather skin first up and then down, exposing the full proud head of his uncircumcised cock and marvelling at its size and scent, noting how the gaping snake’s eye hole was already weeping clear come, and slipping her hand below his clothing to feel his warmth and run her fingers thorough his thick pubic hair.
“You thought about my cunt, didn’t you,” she said, running her fingers up and down his veiny shaft, “you visualised me naked and this is what grew up from your dirty thoughts.”
“And now there’s something you need after all, isn’t there?”
He nodded again.
“Then ask for it,” she whispered.
Edward Edwards blushed scarlet but found his voice nevertheless. “Show me,” was all he said.
Vanessa de Sade is a passionate lady in her early forties who likes exploring the darker sides of sexual desire. An obsessive lover of old movies, operatic theatre and authors like Angela Carter, Vanessa likes to fill her own stories with lush imagery and people them with bizarre characters, misfits in search of love.
She is a contributor to many anthologies, including Naked Delirium, and her solo story collections include Nude Shots and Tales from a Tangled Bush.
Find Vanessa here: www.taboo-quickies.com
Buy In the Forests of the Night Here: