Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Emily Carroll’s illustrated book Through the Woods came into my life just at the right time. Well, any time would be great, but I’m particularly interested in the uncanny and what spooks us for a few projects I’m working on.

through the woods cover

Besides the engrossing illustrations, Carroll captures the straightforwardness of language that, even though it might appear simple, is in fact hiding the monster that waits beneath our beds ready to pull us by the leg. This book has teeth; large, gnashing teeth ready to eat the characters up.

There are five complete stories in the book and like many of the Grimm fairy tales before it, concern themselves with children protagonist and/or the invasion of the home from an uncanny force. The English name “fairy tales” always seems misleading. In German, these types of stories are labeled Kinder-und Hausmärchen, or children and house stories/tales. Not as fanciful sounding, but more correct.

The stories in Through the Woods do not have happy endings and have not been Disneyfied. It is hard to pick a favorite, but perhaps, if I had a huntsman’s axe pointed at my head, I would choose “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold.” A young wife joins her husband at his expansive home and is haunted by knocking coming through the walls. It’s a bit of a mix of Edgar Allan Poe and Rebecca.

Even though Carroll clearly has a style, she gives each story its own unique look and color scheme. They do not blend together, but reflect well on the story (in words) being told.

It was fortuitous that I finished this book and then the following night–with the lights turned off, of course–that I watched the film Stoker. I’ve been meaning to see it ever since it was released, but I have only now watched it. It clearly was inspired by Hitchcock films and Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. An uncanny presence (who doesn’t eat food) comes into the home. The film utilizes style, and the layering of images and scenes, overlapping events allude to a sinister unease. I enjoyed the film. Although, I absolutely did not like the final scene. Has anyone else seen this movie? I think the song used over that bit was totally ill-fit and knocked me out of sync with the rest of the film.

Anywho, it was an interesting pairing. I’m glad I finally read Through the Woods. It made 2014 a more interesting publishing year than it was.

This book is best read at night before you go to sleep with only a single nightlight or book light. One of the stories is available on the author’s website, along with further stories not collected in the book.

through the woods 1

 

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10 comments

  1. It seems like something I would enjoy, I like retold fairy tales. And I googled the pictures – they sent shivers down my spine!

    As you already know I loved Stoker and I’m glad you enjoyed it as well. I agree that the song in the last scene could have been different. Maybe they wanted it to sound “wrong” just as the ending seems “wrong” from a moral standpoint?

    The movie is certainly the retold version of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt and IMO easily tops the original. Uncle Charlie is a well-written character in both movies but his niece in Hitchock’s film is cringeworthy. India Stoker is a complex protagonist and I love Mia Wasikowska – she’s a great young actress in every performance I’ve seen. Ah, these sets and costumes in Stoker – I miss such elegantly shot movies!

    1. The Uncle Charlie character was exceptional and Matthew Goode was perfectly cast. I understand the idea of matching the music to be off-putting, but it took me out of the film. That is so unfortunate because the rest of the film had a strange mood that was completely engaging. It’s like having a final, untasty note of a something delicious you’ve just eaten.

  2. A mix of Edgar Allen Poe and Rebecca? You wouldn’t have to hold a huntsman’ axe to my head to get me to read something like that! 🙂 I’ve added this to my TBR list on goodreads so I won’t forget it.

    I never did get through my retold fairy tale collection “My Mother she Killed Me, My Father he Ate Me” which has forty (!) stories. I also recently picked up a new edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I need to make time for all these. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.

      1. Thanks for the link. My edition is the “Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version” by Philip Pullman (2012). I particularly enjoyed his introduction.

      2. I’ll have to search it for the intro alone. I’d be curious what Pullman has to say. On a side note, my last jaunt to Berlin found me living around the corner from where the Grimms are buried.

  3. I’ve heard SO many good things about this book I’m considering buying it, and I so rarely buy books in hardback. But the art is gorgeous, and loads of bloggers have been singing this book’s praises all around the internet.

    1. I’m not a lover of hardbacks by any means, but this one is worth it. Unfortunately, I am so low on funds it’s all library books and publishers’ galleys for me these days. Otherwise, I would totally buy it.

  4. I am very much looking forward to this one, more so after your review. For what it’s worth, I really loved Stoker. I went to see it in the theater (alone) and I was the only one there. It was strangely satisfying.

    1. Sometimes seeing a film alone in the theater is the way to go. I did this with Shame a few years ago.

      I hope you like this book. I didn’t really know much about it or the artist, but I was really happy with it. I hope she has more collections in the future. It’s also worth a look in physical form, because even her excellent images online can’t compare to the book.

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