Manuscript notes and drafts of stories from The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter


This collection of manuscript sheets and typescripts contain notes, drafts and fair copies for stories from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter (1979), including ‘The Company of Wolves’, ‘The Snow Child’, ‘The Lady of the House of Love’ and ‘Wolf Alice’. Although not included here, the folder also contains drafts and fair copies of 'The Courtship of Mr. Lyon', 'The Tiger's Bride', 'Puss-in-Boots', 'The Erl-King' and 'The Werewolf'.

In The Bloody Chamber Carter upturned the western European tradition of fairy tales and folk narratives, crafting a collection of new, subversive short stories.

Carter’s dark, fantastic tales of Bluebeard’s castle and Red Riding Hood are genre-hybrids, eluding easy categorisation. Written in lush, ornate prose they combine fairy tale with aspects of the Gothic, surrealism, and fin-de-siècle decadence, not forgetting touches of tongue-in-cheek humour, too. Published in a decade of growing feminist activism, the tales bristle with gender politics; they address female sexuality, identity and agency. At times the collection contains graphic sexual and violent content that still can shock. Carter, undoubtedly influenced by Freud, believed she was surfacing latent meanings within the original tales.

As Carter wrote in 1977, ‘Each century tends to create or re-create fairy tales after its own taste’ (The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault).

'The Snow Child'

The first portion of material shown here contains three complete drafts of ‘The Snow Child’, one of the shortest stories within the collection, together with a fair copy. The first draft is written entirely in Carter’s hand; the second and third are typewritten with annotations; and the fair copy is an unannotated typescript. Of the many revisions that Carter made, the most significant reveal her stripping away the characteristics of the original fairy tales ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ and 'Snow White', to create her own unique, startling tale. For example, the story first began with a fairy-tale-esque phrase that sounds almost familiar: ‘There are many ways of beginning this story’. Along with several other openings, this was eventually discarded for the stark and distilled image of ‘Midwinter – invincible, immaculate’.

'The Lady of the House of Love'

The second section shows three versions of the opening page of ‘The Lady of the House of Love’, taken from two heavily annotated typewritten drafts and a lightly revised fair copy. The first draft reveals that the story was originally titled ‘Vampira/La Belle au Bois Dormante’, which suggests that Carter conceived it as merging a glamorous television vampire (‘Vampira’ is a 1950s horror television character portrayed by Maila Nurmi) and Perrault’s classic Sleeping Beauty fairy tale (‘La Belle au Bois Dormante’ , or ‘The Beauty in the Sleeping Wood’). On f. 340r, Carter’s annotations show her layering Gothic adjectives and phrasing. A ‘creaking door’ is substituted for ‘a cobweb shifting on the ceiling’, the ‘high house’ becomes ‘a dark, high house’, and the cat no longer merely ‘shows his teeth’ but ‘grins + spits’.

'The Company of Wolves' and 'Wolf Alice'

In the third section is the complete typewritten, annotated fair copy of ‘The Company of Wolves’, Carter’s reworking of the ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ tale. Although it is not shown here, the folder also includes an incomplete first draft. Among the differences between the draft and published texts is a subtle play with narrative voice. When describing the wolf in the opening passage of the first draft, Carter writes: ‘he is as cunning as he is ferocious, once he has tasted human flesh then nothing else will do’. In the fair copy, Carter introduces a more informal tone between narrator and reader, achieved by minor changes to punctuation, grammar and phrasing: ‘he’s as cunning as he is ferocious; once he’s had a taste of human flesh then nothing else will do’ (our emphasis).

The final section displayed here contains one page of notes and three versions of the opening page of ‘Wolf Alice’, taken from three drafts. The first is partly typewritten and partly autograph, the second and third are annotated and typewritten.

Full title:
Angela Carter Papers: 'The Bloody Chamber and Other Short Stories' 2
estimated 1975–79
Manuscript / Typescript / Draft
Angela Carter
Usage terms

© Displayed with the permission of the Estate of Angela Carter c/o Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd., 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN. Angela Carter’s work is published in the UK by Vintage, Virago, Penguin Classics. You may not reuse the material for commercial purposes.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 88899/1/34

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