Review by Jamie McNeil
“The summer I turned eighteen was a strange summer. It was the summer that would decide my fate.”
Eve and her friend Tom live in a village on the edge of the Black Forest surrounding an imposing castle inhabited by the mysterious Bluebeard. There are many rumours about this man few have seen, most about the beautiful wives he marries but are never seen again. These are unimportant things to young children who dream of the world beyond the forest but that all changes when Eve turns eighteen and Bluebeard comes to their village.
Metaphrog, the pseudonym for creators John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs, have adapted both The Little Mermaid and The Red Shoes and Other Stories for publishers Papercutz. This time they focus on the French fairy/folk tale of Bluebeard, first recorded by Christian Perrault in 1697. If compliments from the likes of Denise Mina, Frank Quitely, Charlie Adlard and Nate Powell on the back cover blurb aren’t convincing enough then all you have to do is simply open the book. Stare agog at stunning landscapes from castles atop high peaks to deeply shadowed and thorny trees forbidding entry. The colours are rich and bright, enchanting Eve’s childhood yet dark scenes intersecting them foster foreboding. Traditionally Bluebeard’s is a grisly tale described by Dr Oliver Tearle as “A studied analysis of the horrific capabilities of corrupt masculinity… though far from the most typical. No prince and princess destined to live happily ever after, no kindly woodsman, no evil stepmother.” Marrs’ and Chalmers’ interpretation is obviously directed towards children so it’s toned down, the cast rendered in a way that reminds you who this is for. Still, there is an overwhelming sense they could easily traumatise your sprogs should they choose.
Bluebeard: A Feminist Fairy Tale is a visual beauty, a book you could happily flick through sighing in admiration. It’s also a compelling and steady paced story, Metaphrog entrancing you with their eerie spell. If you want to educate yourself or your children in fairy tales, start here.