The Erl-King

by angeliska on November 15, 2013

It’s the season for reading my most favorite story from my most favorite book by my most favorite author… The Erl-King, by Angela Carter, from her astounding anthology of dark fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber. It’s the very best thing to read around a wood-fire on a chilly evening, which is exactly what I shall be doing this upcoming full moon, for the Moon Language Story Circle. It’s the Mourning Moon in Taurus, and the theme of this month’s circle is Sadness and Relief. I love reading stories aloud, and don’t often enough get the chance to do it, so I’m very excited to get to participate in this gathering. This one, though – ach! It’s just such a pleasure to let those words roll off your tongue, almost musically. It’s a hypnotizing tale, about the magic of the woods, hunter and prey, and a strange kind of love.
I came across a sort of random assortment of fashion-y images stashed in one of my various inspiration folders, and thought their autumnal glamour might illustrate some lines from the story well. I forget where they’re all from, alas. But aren’t they lovely?

I walked through the wood until all its perspectives converged upon a darkening clearing; as soon as I saw them, I knew at once that all its occupants had been waiting for me from the moment I first stepped into the wood, with the endless patience of wild things, who have all the time in the world.

A young girl would go into the wood as trustingly as Red Riding Hood to her granny’s house but this light admits of no ambiguities and, here, she will be trapped in her own illusion because everything in the wood is exactly as it seems.

He smiles. He lays down his pipe, his elder bird-call. He lays upon me his irrevocable hand.
His eyes are quite green, as if from too much looking at the wood.
There are some eyes can eat you.

The woods enclose. You step between the first trees and then you are no longer in the open air; the wood swallows you up.
There is no way through the wood any more, this wood has reverted to its original privacy.

The clearing was cluttered with dead leaves, some the colour of honey, some the colour of cinders, some the colour of earth.

The trees stir with a noise like taffeta skirts of women who have lost themselves in the woods and hunt round hopelessly for the way out.

What big eyes you have. Eyes of an incomparable luminosity, the numinous phosphorescence of the eyes of lycanthropes. The gelid green of your eyes fixes my reflective face; It is a preservative, like a green liquid amber; it catches me. I am afraid I will be trapped in it for ever like the poor little ants and flies that stuck their feet in resin before the sea covered the Baltic. He winds me into the circle of his eye on a reel of birdsong. There is a black hole in the middle of both your eyes; it is their still centre, looking there makes me giddy, as if I might fall into it.

Your green eye is a reducing chamber. If I look into it long enough, I will become as small as my own reflection, I will diminish to a point and vanish. I will be drawn down into that black whirlpool and be consumed by you. I shall become so small you can keep me in one of your osier cages and mock my loss of liberty. I have seen the cage you are weaving for me; it is a very pretty one and I shall sit, hereafter, in my cage among the other singing birds but I — I shall be dumb, from spite.

(Artwork by Kristina Carroll)
Erl-King will do you grievous harm.

The two notes of the song of a bird rose on the still air, as if my girlish and delicious loneliness had been made into a sound.

(Artwork by Chloe North)
Piercingly, now, there came again the call of the bird, as desolate as if it came from the throat of the last bird left alive. That call, with all the melancholy of the failing year in it, went directly to my heart.
The Bloody Chamber - a trusty $14 dollar edition. I've had soooo many copies of this one - I'm forever lending it out... Perhaps one day I'll splurge on the signed one to have as an official non-lending copy! I ended up spending exactly $125 anyway tonigh
I had to buy another copy especially for the occasion… I’ve had soooo many copies, but I’m forever lending it out…
Hunting down a copy of The Bloody Chamber because I've lent all mine out! I'm reading The Erl King on Sunday for the Full Moon Language Story Circle on Sunday. Horribly tempted to buy this beautiful signed copy - but trying to warrant a $125 expenditure,
Randomly came across this beautiful signed copy, but trying to warrant a $125 expenditure proved paining, horribly tempted though I was (and still am!)
Had to restrain myself mightily from not only buying this, but also passionately caressing her signature. I was only partially successful in not making a scene. Minor tantrum, but escaped sans book, bank account intact. Still ravenously coveting this book
Had to restrain myself mightily from not only buying this, but also passionately caressing her signature. There’s something magical about the fact that she was here in Austin, also – even though I was just a wee one at the time. She was here! Yes, I’m a little obsessed with her genius. I was only partially successful in not making a scene. Minor tantrum, but escaped sans book, bank account intact. Still ravenously coveting this treasure.

One comment

Read out loud to yourself; once you get over the timidity, it’s quite nice. Some stories demand spoken voice.

by J Blazewell on November 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm. Reply #

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