(CLASSIC: from The Great Fairy Tale Tradition, Norton)
Setting aside the differences between fairytales and short stories, the reason I have selected this as my favourite classic short story is because for me it embodies a lot of the fundamental elements I enjoy in a good short story. The narrative is compelling and vivid. It dives straight into dark, grisly subject matter but offers a positive resolution (at least for the bride escapee.) Although the moral of this tale is questionable, what has always gripped my attention is the way this tale probes the things we are most afraid of. I also really admire a lot of literature inspired by this story – and by versions of ‘Bluebeard’ which shares similar themes – such as Margaret Atwood’s novel The Robber Bride and short story collection Bluebeard’s Egg, and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. For me this demonstrates the power of the short story to really penetrate a collective imagination and manifest itself in many different ways and forms.
(MODERN: from Dancing Girls, Vintage)
I think this story is a must-read because although the title sets it up to be provocative, Atwood handles the subject matter in a really quirky and unusual way. The narrator chats directly to the reader and the story as a whole undermines our culture’s reflex to sexualise the things we’re intimidated by. It’s a story that is dark around the edges, witty and unexpectedly funny. It has been omitted from some editions of Dancing Girls so you will need to check that the edition you borrow/buy includes it.
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