Thursday, 25 October 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--A Girl in Perrault Is A Temporary Thing (2003)

Hello and welcome to our last Red Riding Hood Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.

For the the past 34 weeks we have looked at variations on the story Little Red Riding Hood. Today is our last look at this classic story before we begin looking at Cinderella next week. 
click to enlarge to see our stamps of LRRH from around the world
This week is different because the final story we look at is written by me. I wrote this story in 2003, the year before we emigrated to the UK. We owned a bookshop called Books, Etc and I was devouring the short story collections of fairy tales  edited and compiled by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. These were inspired by the darker children's fairy tales, but these were definitely not for children. This story was the first in a series of what my mother calls my "creepy" tales. 

The title was suggested by Spiderman as a reference to both Charles Perrault and the 1984 song A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing) by new wave/post punk band Romeo Void. 

I hope you enjoy it. 

A Girl in Perrault Is A Temporary Thing

By Heather Elizabeth Tisdale

            The moon rose over the canopy of trees like a silver orb. It was dark in the forest below; the trees were too thick to allow more than a sliver of light from the circle of the moon. The huntsman put down his axe. He could feel the pull of the moon pricking at the back of his neck. The hairs on his arms stood on end. It would not be long before the change. He locked the axe in the cabinet then took off his clothes and folded them neatly and placed them on a chair at the far corner of the room. He then lay down on the bare floor and waited for the inevitable. He could hear his blood pounding in his ears and he knew it had begun. He felt the terrible rip of muscles as they tore and reformed into his lupine limbs. He twisted in agony as bones broke and stretched into that all too familiar shape. He cried out as teeth ripped through his gums and wiry hair covered his naked body.  The ground was covered with sweat and faeces from the transformation. He leapt onto the bed, flexing his hind legs, and growled at his reflection in the mirror. In one swift movement, he jumped through the open window and into the night. He called out to the moon to send him blood to sustain himself for another cycle and give him the courage to kill when he found it. His terrible howl could be heard for miles.           
            In a little cabin beside the woods a mother worked quickly. The mother was packing a basket full of food while the daughter lay in her bed and looked out of the window into the darkness. She heard the howl and shivered. Her mother, sensing her fear, came and put her hand on her daughter's shoulder. She turned to look at her mother's face which was pale and lined with worry.  The mother took hold of her hands and whispered, “This is the only way, my child. Your grandmother cannot feed herself any longer and so we must provide for her.  It is time for you to learn to go by yourself. I must stay here and feed your brothers and sisters for they are as helpless as Grandmother and cannot fend for themselves yet.”

The daughter knew it was so, but she could not help but be a little afraid. She climbed out of the bed; her nakedness was as pale as the moonlight itself. Silently she dressed herself. She wrapped herself in her cape, the same blood red cape that her grandmother had given her when she was confirmed into the faith. Her mother handed her the basket of goodies. It had an odd smell that made her want to retch. As she pulled the hood up over her head she could hear the snapping of neck bones. She looked over to see her mother leaning over the rabbit hutch, softly cradling the dead animal in her arms. The little ones will have rabbit tonight, she thought. How I wish I could stay here and not have to go all alone. Her mother pointed to the door, her lips pressed together as if she might cry. The girl pulled the velvet cape around her body and slipped out the door into the blackness of the night.   
            The wolf prowled through the darkness trying to feel the heat from some hapless animal that would be his prey. He crouched silently behind a tree, listening, smelling and tasting the air. His golden eyes glimmered in the darkness. He could faintly hear footsteps coming toward him in the darkness. He rolled his ears back so that could hear more clearly in the frozen air. This was no animal on four legs approaching. He could only hear the sound of two feet. A human being. What would a human be doing in the woods in the dead of night? He growled to himself and hunched low to be ready to attack.

            She walked down the uneven path that cut through the heart of the forest. Her breathing came at ragged intervals. She didn't know if it was from fear or excitement. After all, this was her first trip alone through the woods. She quickened her pace, swinging the little basket by her side. The odour from the contents made her feel queasy, but she kept on at a steady pace. Almost there, she thought to herself, Not much longer now. You can do it. The smell drifted ahead of her, carried on the cool night air to where the wolf lay in wait. His mouth began to water as he waited for her to pass by.  Almost here, he thought to himself, Not much longer now. You can do it. His breath came at ragged intervals at the thought of devouring the girl and the basket she held in her hand. Suddenly, he saw her. She was like no human he had ever seen. Her skin was as pale as the moon itself and her green eyes glimmered in the blackness around her. She was walking quickly now and mumbling to herself. He leapt out of the shadows and crouched before her on the path. Her eyes grew wide and her teeth chattered with fear or cold, he could not tell which. He hoped it was cold; it was so hard for him to kill when they were afraid. She burst into tears right there on the spot, wiping her nose on the red sleeve of her cape. He couldn't kill her now. He would have to wait until she was without fear. He looked at the pale, weeping figure and managed to growl a few words at her. He inquired as to where she was going in the middle of the night all alone in the dark, dark woods. She sniffled and replied that her grandmother was very ill. She could feed herself no longer and someone in the family must bring her food. She must get to the little house on the far side of the woods before dawn or her grandmother would surely die. He knew he could not eat her now. She was terrified. But at her grandmother's house she will be calm, he thought. I will eat the grandmother and then when she comes, I shall consume her as well. He howled one last howl at the moon a thank you for sending him prey and dashed off through the trees.     

            The girl stood as still as a marble statue there in the darkness until the creature was out of sight. She breathed a heavy sigh. She had done it. She had talked to a wolf and she was still alive to tell about it. With renewed strength, she skipped through the forest. How clever that I have outsmarted that wolf!  she whispered to herself and she went on about her mission.

            In the meantime, the wolf had reached the little house on the far side of the woods. It was just as the blubbering girl had said. This was going to be so easy. How clever that I have outsmarted this girl, he whispered to himself. He lifted the latch on the door with his hairy paw and slunk into the house. When he saw the grandmother, it was worse than the girl had let on. The woman was as pale as death and lay like skin and bones in the bed. The faint smell of decay rose from her body. He decided not to eat her after all. What if she had some contagious disease? He might be poisoned by the ingestion of her flesh. He picked her up by the scruff of the neck and dragged her to the wardrobe. He left her there in a heap and closed the door. There was no need to lock her in; the woman would not have enough strength to try to escape.     

            She arrived on the porch of the little house. She laid the little basket down outside the door and tiptoed in. She entered the old woman's bedroom and saw a dark figure lying in the bed. Her heart skipped a beat, but she continued. “Grandmother!” She called out, “Just wait until you hear! I was stopped in the woods by a humongous wolf, but I cried and pretended to be a baby so that he would not eat me! And it worked! He ran off into the night and here I am safe and sound.”

The wolf made a low guttural noise under the blankets, but the girl took no notice as she neatly folded up her red cape and placed it on a chair at the far corner of the room. He saw that she was naked. No wonder she had been cold. She climbed right up in the bed with the wolf, pressing her soft body into his. “Mmmmm,” she said. “You feel warm.” The wolf's heart started to pound. She was without fear; he would be able to tear into her pieces and glut himself until her was sick. Suddenly, she sat up in the bed and looked at him quizzically. 
“Grandmother, what big eyes you have!” she whispered.
“The better to see you with, my dear!” he growled. She continued to stare at him.
But Grandmother, what big ears you have!” she murmured.
            “The better to hear you with, my dear!” he rasped. He saw a flash of white in the dark. His eyes grew wide as he stammered,
“Little girl, what big teeth you have!”  She bared her fangs and laughed,
“The better to eat you with, my dear!” Then she sank her teeth into his neck and cut the vein until the blood flowed freely. She sucked on his neck until he was too weak to move. She sat up, her lips and teeth stained scarlet and said, “Grandmother, come out! Look and see what I have brought you for supper!” The wardrobe door creaked, and the grandmother stepped out. She was pale and thin, but her eyes still glimmered in the darkness. She climbed up in the bed and licked the punctures in his neck that her granddaughter had so thoughtfully provided. “They taste so much better when they're afraid, don't you think?” said the grandmother as she slurped away at his neck.
“Mmmm,” said the little girl. A thin trickle of blood fell from the corner of her mouth as she stared into the terrified eyes of the beast, “Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Wolf?”

 That's all for this week. Join me next week as we begin to look at Cinderella. 

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