Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears

Datlow, Ellen and Terri Windling, eds. Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears. New York: Avon, 1996.

This book contains three twists on the Sleeping Beauty tale, which I will discuss separately:

“Summer Wind” by Nancy Kress presents what it might have been like had the spell taken hold of everyone in the castle EXCEPT for Beauty, who instead has to live in real time while everyone around her has frozen stiff. Bored to tears, Briar Rose still talks to the frozen people although they cannot hear her, cleans, and makes new clothing for everyone. Princes come and go, but of course none are ever able to make their way through the deadly briars. All the while, she is aging, as she has not been affected by the spell. She often hears the whispers of old women, whom she joins at the end of the story, when everyone else comes back to life. These women, apparently magical in some way, tell her, “You have seen, as few do, what and who you are. But Rose is ungrateful for her experience: “I would rather have had lost my life” (67).

“The Crossing” by Joyce Carol Oates tells the story of a woman in a coma, unaware of her state, whose dreams bring her to the place of an intended visit. This visit will never really happen, as she was involved in a train crash on her way to see her aunt in upstate New York. Martha never realizes she is dreaming, although she is often bewildered by the strange feelings she is having. The saddest part of the story is how her husband sits dutifully by her side, never giving up hope that she will wake up. There does seem to be a connection between the things he says to her and her dreams, suggesting that people in comas are somewhat aware of what is going on around them, although they do not realize it. When Martha, in her dream state, gets on board a train at the place her accident occurred, she dies, and her husband is left to feel intense guilt as she was alone at the time. But I think she probably wasn’t able to die with him there; you hear about this sort of thing a lot.

“Waking the Prince” by Kathe Koja tells two stories in one. One tale is of a prince in a real coma, whether this is the result of some sort of spell is never shared, while the other “prince” is very much awake but still inattentive to his girlfriend Cissy and unaware of or indifferent to the promises he makes. The latter story was effective, demonstrating how women often try to make their boyfriends into something they are not, putting them on an undeserved pedestal. I think that maybe by using the parallel story, the author was trying to make it clear that her inspiration came from a fairy tale. However, in this collection, that wasn’t really necessary, as that is the idea behind every story in the book. I was happy to see the main character Cissy finally break up with her undeserving prince. She was blinded to his insincerity for a while because he was outwardly attractive, but in the end she was able to let him and her imagined fairy tale ending go.

After taking this course I can see that I will really enjoy reading books such as this that draw on fairy tales for their inspiration. It really is amazing, the unlimited creative opportunities fairy tales offer.

Click here to read a review of this book.

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