Published by Delacorte Press on February 11, 2014
Genres: fairy tale
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Death hasn't visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders' bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.
Rowan's village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan's door once again.
Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.
I am always drawn to reimaginings of classic fairy tales, but I’ve found that the ones I’ve enjoyed best seem to be very dark or sad, and more closely aligned to the Grimm or Andersen versions of the stories than the happy cartoon versions. In The Glass Casket, McCormick Templeman serves up an atmospheric fantasy full of mystery, romance, and bloodshed, and it’s a great stormy night read if you like your fairy tales with a little bit of bite.
We’re very pleased to be part of the official blog tour for this book, and invite you to read about the author’s process for researching and shaping her story.
On Retelling Fairy Tales
by McCormick Templeman
I have memories of my grandmother reading me fairy tales when I was pre-literate. The book we had was beautiful, but the versions were too sanitized for my grandmother’s taste, so she changed them to the much darker ones she’d known in her own childhood. In her version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” the wolf consumes both the child and the grandmother, and there is no woodcutter to save them, no happy ending. I appreciated the darkness. There are horrifying things in the world, and sometimes it’s easiest to express our emotions about them through symbol and metaphor. Certainly for children, I think it’s easier to put those symbols together and make sense of how the world is dangerous through allegory, and even humor. I also appreciated the fluidity of my grandmother’s approach to narrative as well as the inherent strength of the stories’ structure – that you could change elements of a tale like “Little Red Riding Hood” while maintaining that spark of meaning at its core.
My new novel The Glass Casket is a fairytale retelling of sorts, and I got to have a lot of fun researching the tales that inspired it. Aside from re-reading Angela Carter’s “The Snow Child,” I avoided looking at modern retellings, wanting my inspiration to come as much as possible from early sources. It was interesting to observe the transmutations these tales have undergone throughout the years. In the case of “The Sleeping Beauty,” most of us are familiar with Charles Perrault’s significantly toned-down retelling of Giambattista Basile’s earlier tale, “Sole, Luna, e Talia.” In Basile’s version, the heroine is raped in her sleep, and subsequently gives birth to twins. It is the suckling of one of the twins on her finger that removes a toxic splinter and awakens her from her trance. In the case of “Cinderella,” the story instead becomes increasingly gruesome in its retelling. Basile’s early version, “Cenerentola,” is mellow compared to the Brothers Grimm’s bloody version in which the step-sisters maim themselves, cutting off toes in an attempt to fit in to the coveted slipper.
I read these tales with a soft eye, looking for the symbols that leapt out to me, looking for themes that seemed only partially explored, and I used them for inspiration and jumping-off points. When I wrote the first draft, I kept those elements in my pocket, alluding to them sometimes intentionally, sometimes subconsciously, as well as sometimes intentionally subverting them. One thing I knew I wanted to address was the role of the stepmother in “Snow White.” In the earliest Grimm version, the evil queen is actually Snow White’s mother, but over the years, she’s evolved into a stepmother character. Something about this has always sat wrong with me because stepmothers so often get short shrift in fairytales. I remember as a child listening to Snow White and wondering what if they got this part wrong? What if the stepmother wasn’t really the villain? What if she’d sent Snow White out into the woods to protect her from something truly terrible – something against which she herself was powerless? This idea figures fairly prominently in The Glass Casket.
Whatever form these stories take—the gruesome, the absurd, the fantastical—I believe that there is an inherent human truth to each of them. When working with fairy tales, I found that it was important to extract the threads of truth that spoke directly to me, and to follow them into unfamiliar territory, uncertain what I might find lurking in those recesses. There is something truly enchanting about entering into a dialogue with these artifacts that, simple as they may seem, somehow manage to communicate our greatest fears and our deepest longings so viscerally across time, across disparate cultures, giving shape and form to that which otherwise is often too difficult to be voiced. Each is like a finely hewn box, intricately carved and elegantly gilded, each holding a secret about what it means to be alive. What we find when we open up these boxes and look inside is unique to each of us, but no matter the specific perceptions of the individual observer, what’s inside is always, indisputably, magic.
Win a copy of The Glass Casket!
Thanks to our friends at Delacorte Press, we have a beautiful hardcover to offer to one of our lucky readers. All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us what your favorite fairy tale is and why. (We’d also love to hear if you have a favorite retelling!)
Open to U.S. residents aged 18 and up, or 13 and up with parental permission. See entry form for complete details. Good luck!