Exclusive Extract: Angela Carter's The Snow Child

Posted on 17th November 2016 by Sally Campbell
If you have yet to read our Rediscovered Classic for November, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, you are in for a savage and wonderful treat. Carter's irreverant, feminist reinterpretation of traditional fairy-tales, full of gallows humour and magical realist touches, are a marvel and a joy to read. Her writing is passionate, intelligent, rich with oddity and utterly original.In the 25 years between the publication of her first novel, Shadow Dance and her last, Wise Children, she transformed the British literary landscape: it became more political, more risky, more teeth, and more claws. In the words of Ali Smith, "Go out tomorrow and get Carter. Get all her fiction, all her fact, read it from its beginning all the way to its glorious open end."

It is both an honour and a delight for us to present to you one of stories from the collection, The Snow Child.
 Photo: Yellowstone National Park (c) Sascha Burkhard


                                                                                THE SNOWCHILD


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;

screams;  falls..

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.

‘It bites!’ she said.


Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber is our Rediscovered Classic for November.


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