When I was 12 or so, a copy of The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm found its way into my dad and step-mom’s house.This was not the Disney version.
In these fairy tales, the little mermaid was spurned by the prince and turned to seafoam. Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and sisters were given red-hot iron shoes, and forced to dance until they died. And, in at least one story, children were slaughtered and baked into a pie.
Needless to say, I loved the book.
And I’ve never found anything quite like those stories, with their dream-like settings, brutal, capricious justice, and graphic violence.
Until I picked up de Maupassant’s Cautionary Tales.
Narrated by the restless spirits of the dead, these are dark, serious fairy tales. Each story is a warning – against greed, deceit, and even caution – yet they all feel fresh and surprising.
I loved Cautionary Tales even more than the Brothers Grimm collection, because the good Brothers, whether through careful editing or just 19th century German sensibilities, totally ignored human sexuality. De Maupassant, however, embraces sexuality in all its forms, from human to demonic, from the dangerous seduction to the poignant pain of lost love.
Over the course of these short, stand-alone tales, de Maupassant weaves a beautiful world, drawing on Slavic traditions and incorporating her deep knowledge of the culture. These stories transport you to the kitchens, bathhouses, and terrifyingly deep, dark forests of folklore…and the real world seems that much more nuanced and interesting when you return.
Now if you’re excuse me, I’m off the search the forests for a certain flower. Or at least a well-endowed demon…
We are the shiver on your uneasy flesh, the creep of the unknown on your skin.
Darkly delicious imaginings for the adult connoisseur of bedtime stories.
Tread carefully, for the dark things best left behind in the forest may seep under your door and sup with you.
The lover at your window or in your bed may have the scent of your death already on their breath.
The boundaries between the everyday and the unearthly are snakeskin-thin.
The trees have eyes and the night has talons.
Demons are drawn by the perfume of human vice and wickedness.
Whispered to you from the edges, from the haunted mouths of those who see more than you or I, here are twelve tales of lust and rivalry, of envy and deceit, and of secrets gouged from the darkest depths of the human heart.
Is the shadow on the wall, really yours, after all?
Buy 'Cautionary Tales' and delve the shadow world of dark superstitions and folklore
‘Funny, brutal, and irreverent’ – Bustle.com
Short stories inspired by the customs and ancient tales of Russia and Eastern Europe.