Exclusive Extract: Angela Carter's The Snow Child
It is both an honour and a delight for us to present to you one of stories from the collection, The Snow Child.
MIDWINTER – INVINCIBLE, IMMACULATE. The Count and his wife go riding, he on a grey mare and she on a black one, she wrapped in the glittering pelts of black foxes; and she wore high, black, shining boots with scarlet heels, and spurs. Fresh snow fell on snow already fallen; when it ceased, the whole world was white. ‘I wish I had a girl as white as snow,’ says the Count. They ride on. They come to a hole in the snow; this hole is filled with blood. He says: ‘I wish I had a girl as red as blood.’ So they ride on again; here is a raven, perched on a bare bough. ‘I wish I had a girl as black as that bird’s feather..
As soon as he completed her description, there she stood, beside the road, white skin, red mouth, black hair and stark naked; she was the child of his desire and the Countess hated her. The Count lifted her up and sat her in front of him on his saddle but the Countess had only one thought: how shall I be rid of her?.
The Countess dropped her glove in the snow and told the girl to get down to look for it; she meant to gallop off and leave her there but the Count said: ‘I’ll buy you new gloves.’ At that, the furs sprang off the Countess’s shoulders and twined round the naked girl. Then the Countess threw her diamond brooch through the ice of a frozen pond: ‘Dive in and fetch it for me,’ she said; she thought the girl would drown. But the Count said: ‘Is she a fish, to swim in such cold weather?’ Then her boots leapt off the Countess’s feet and on to the girl’s legs. Now the Countess was bare as a bone and the girl furred and booted; the Count felt sorry for his wife. They came to a bush of roses, all in flower. ‘Pick me one,’ said the Countess to the girl. ‘I can’t deny you that,’ said the Count..
So the girl picks a rose; pricks her finger on the thorn; bleeds;
Weeping, the Count got off his horse, unfastened his breeches and thrust his virile member into the dead girl. The Countess reined in her stamping mare and watched him narrowly; he was soon finished..
Then the girl began to melt. Soon there was nothing left of her but a feather a bird might have dropped; a bloodstain, like the trace of a fox’s kill on the snow; and the rose she had pulled off the bush. Now the Countess had all her clothes on again. With her long hand, she stroked her furs. The Count picked up the rose, bowed and handed it to his wife; when she touched it, she dropped it.
Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber is our Rediscovered Classic for November.