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Fairy Tales: The Original, Original Horror

Ah, fairy tales. You know, like The Little Mermaid and its happily ever-after ending, where the doe-eyed mermaid gets her legs and singing voice back just in time to marry the equally doe-eyed prince. Or Snow White, where the evil queen gets her just desserts from an unfortunate lightning strike.

Pure and utter bullshit.

No, I’m not on some kind of feminist rant, I simply read fairy tales, and not the sanitized, consumer friendly versions offered by Disney and other purveyors of suburban childhood. I grew up with original, original fairy tales, like the Andrew Lang Fairy Books, a collection of stories and fairy folklore spanning the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, Grimm’s Fairy Tales published in 1812, and Fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen, first published in 1899.

These versions were a bit more…horrific. Granted, they were designed to be told around some kind of rustic hearth to instill terror into the hearts of children so they didn’t go off wandering alone in the woods or moors. But that’s a nuance lost on a 6 year old.

I was sure the wild-haired Struwwelpeter, a tailor with scissors for hands, would cut off my thumb if I continued to suck it. I heard the screams of the evil queen in Snow White as she was forced to dance to death, wearing red-hot iron shoes. And the ending of The Little Mermaid, where she gains a soul but loses her life and turns to foam, was downright spooky. Don’t even get me started about what really happened to Little Red Riding Hood.

And people wonder why I write horror.

So it’s odd that I’ve been told, on more than one occasion, people are surprised to find out I’m a woman. Yeah I know, the pseudonym doesn’t help, but I think it’s more the beheading, graphic serial murders, and demonic possession in Poe that throws them off.

Because while the iconic Shelley and breakout stars like Anne Rice and Shirley Jackson easily come to mind when you think about the genre, women are only sprinkled through “Best of” horror lists. The question is why. The gender that passed on tales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where the bears rip poor Goldy apart before devouring her, is strangely missing.

Maybe we’re out there, just not being read. To help shine a light on all the fabulous women writers who know a thing or two about things that go bump in the night, next month is officially “Women in Horror” month and you can help spread the word. Share a link, pick a book, and get ready to be afraid. Very, very afraid.

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