Strange Things Sometimes Still Happen is, as its subtitle suggests, a collection of fairy tales from around the world, compiled and edited by British novelist, folklorist, and critic Angela Carter. It is her second folklore collection: the first, The Old Wives' Fairy Tele Book, was published in 1990. Strange Things was published after its editor's death of cancer in February 1992, but Carter managed to complete notes and commentary on most of the stories in the collection. Additional commentary, mostly based on Carter's notes, was added by Shahrukh Husain. Marina Warner contributed an introduction, based in part on her obituary for Carter, which first appeared in the Independent on 18 February 1992.
I picked up a slightly damaged copy of Strange Things for $2 at Black Sun Books in Eugene, Oregon just over a week ago. I was slightly self-conscious about getting it at the time, thinking it was the kind of book I'd normally pick up at the library and maybe buy later when I had a little money to spare, but it was cheap, and my parents were visiting and eager to buy me things. So I gave in. Now I'm really glad I did (and not just because liminal told me Angela Carter is one of her favorite writers). Strange Things is full of myth and magic, wit and wisdom, and best of all cleverness and common sense. There's a good mix of sources from different countries, which in turn makes for a wide range of tones and narrative voices, all of which I found highly enjoyable. Finally, I was pleased that I only recognized one of the stories in the collection, "Vasilissa the Fair", a Russian story sort of like Cinderella (evil stepsisters and all), only with the Baba Yaga in a major supporting role. There were a lot of familiar themes and motifs, of course, but I really liked the fact that Vasilissa was the only story I'd heard before.
Strange Things is divided into five sections by theme:
- Strong Minds and Low Cunning
- Up to Something --- Black Arts and Dirty Tricks
- Beautiful People
- Mothers and Daughters
- Married Women
- Useful Stories
I felt that there was a lot of overlap between these categories and that many of the stories could have been placed into more than one of the sections, but then again I think that's pretty typical of folktales. They often blend many themes and ideas, and part of what makes them so fun is reading them from different perspectives and focusing on different aspects of the story every time.
Carter, Angela, ed. Strange Things Sometimes Still Happen: fairy tales from around the world. Boston/London: Faber and Faber, 1992. ISBN 1-571-19838-4