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Literature / The Bloody Chamber

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A short story anthology by Angela Carter based around the gothic retelling of old fairy tales.


The Bloody Chamber contains examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Puss-in-Boots is well-aware of this trope and suggests that the best way to woo an unattainable woman is to "convince her her orifice will be your salvation, and she's yours!"
  • All Men Are Perverts: A common theme in Carter's stories, but taken to an extreme in "The Snow Child", in which a dead adolescent girl is violently raped by a sobbing man, just because he can.
  • Baleful Polymorph: A major plot point in several of the tales.
  • Beard of Evil: The Marquis in The Bloody Chamber. Makes sense as he's based on Bluebeard.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The heroine's mother in "The Bloody Chamber", showing up and shooting the Marquis just as he is about to decapitate her daughter.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: None of the characters in "The Snow Child" is particularly sympathetic. The Count is a lecher who neglects his wife's wellbeing (though he at least briefly pities her) to lust after a younger girl; the Countess tries to get said girl killed; and the Snow Child herself is a completely wordless, probably non-human cypher.
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  • The Bluebeard: The Marquis in "The Bloody Chamber", unsurprisingly if you know the original story, has killed his three previous wives and is looking for a fourth.
  • Caged Bird Metaphor: Appears a fair bit.
    • 'The Bloody Chamber' has the protagonist live in an opulent but remote castle but it is very clear she's a prisoner there, especially when she learns the truth about her husband.
    • The Erl King imprisons songbirds in cages, many of whom are girls he's captured and raped.
    • The Lady of the House of Love has a bird in a cage and questions whether it must always sing the same song, or whether it can learn a new one.
  • Conspicuous Gloves: In "The Tiger's Bride", the Beast wears an Uncanny Valley disguise to hide his appearance, which consists of very stylish (but outdated) clothing that is much too large for a normal person along with a handsome (too handsome) paper-mache mask over this face. The outfit includes enormous kid gloves that hide his paws.
  • Deadly Distant Finale: It is heavily implied that the young soldier in "The Lady of the House of Love" will die in the trenches.
  • Determined Widow: The mother in The Bloody Chamber, who dramatically rides in on her horse and shoots the Big Bad in the head.
  • Disabled Love Interest: The blind piano tuner, who the protagonist bonds with, confides the horrors she discovered, and later marries after the Marquis is killed.
  • Disappeared Dad: The heroine's fondly-remembered father in "The Bloody Chamber" was a soldier who died in war before the start of the story.
  • Fully-Embraced Fiend: "The Tiger's Bride" ends with the female protagonist willingly transforming into a tiger herself.
  • Grimmification
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Erl-King could be argued to be this. Appearing as a peculiar green tree-like man that represents the feral side of humanity, he has a tendency to kidnap young girls, rape them and transform them into songbirds, as well as being able to control the forest and its inhabitants. He is also not a nice guy.
  • Improvised Weapon: The protagonist of "The Erl-King" uses the hair of the Erl-King to strangle and kill him.
  • Karmic Death: The Marquis again.
  • Kneel Before Zod: The Marquis commands his bride to kneel before him before he presses the blood-stained key into her forehead, leaving a heart-shaped mark like the Brand of Cain upon it.
  • Lighter and Softer: "Puss-in-Boots" is a Restoration sex comedy amidst mostly Gothic horror. "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon" is also not a horror story.
  • Lost Him in a Card Game: At the start of "The Tiger's Bride", the protagonist's father, a gambling addict, makes heavy losses when playing a game of cards with The Beast. When he thinks he has a winning hand, he stakes his daughter, thinking he will win back his fortune with no risk of losing her. Naturally, he loses, and his daughter becomes the prisoner of The Beast. As she puts it herself in the narration: her father valued her as highly as a king's ransom, but no higher.
  • Love Redeems: A surrogate-maternal version of this occurs at the end of "Wolf-Alice", wherein Alice's act of kindness toward the Duke heals his soul and allows him to regain his reflection.
  • Mama Bear: The heroine's mother in "The Bloody Chamber" who realises that her daughter is in danger and rushes to the castle, rescuing her at the last moment.
  • Missing Mom: "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon" and "The Tiger's Bride".
  • No Name Given: In "The Bloody Chamber", none of the major characters are named. The heroine is the first-person narrator, and her mother and husband are only referred to as "Mother" and "the Marquis" respectively.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: In "The Lady in the House of Love".
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Werewolves figure in several stories.
  • Parental Abandonment: Crops up a lot in the form of Missing Mom and Disappeared Dad.
  • Retired Badass: The heroine's mother in "The Bloody Chamber". She had already dealt with pirates, nursed back to health a plague ravaged village, and singlehandedly shot and killed a man-eating tiger, all before she was even 18. She comes out of retirement at the very end of the story.
  • Sadist: The Marquis from "The Bloody Chamber." One of the earliest clues is the fact that he has some... interesting literature in his library.
  • Uncanny Valley: In-Universe, the Beast in "The Tiger's Bride" is described as this: he is ungainly, moves like he's not used to standing upright, and wears a mask that, while depicting a handsome man, is too perfect, being completely symmetrical. Underneath the disguise, his true form is that of a tiger.
  • Virgin Power: The young soldier in the "The Lady of the House of Love" is not afraid of the lady herself, despite her vampirism and the decay of her house, because he's a virgin. This is also why he's able to Mercy Kill her.
  • Wicked Cultured: The Marquis.
  • Would Harm a Senior: The red riding hood protagonist of The Werewolf kills her grandma upon spotting warning signs of a witch/werewolf.
    • In The Company of Wolves, the werewolf kills and eats the girl's grandma after reaching her house first.