Critics' Picks: The troll's revenge

Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link and other writers reimagine fairy tales from the villain's point of view

Published August 5, 2009 10:19AM (EDT)

"Troll's Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales," edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

This anthology of fractured and reconfigured fairy tales for young readers offers an excellent introduction to the unreliability of perspective, one that plenty of adults will find provocative, too. How do the old stories look when retold from the point of view of the wicked witch, the evil wizard, the troll under the bridge?

A dazzling array of contributors -- Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Jane Yolen, Peter S. Beagle and Kelly Link, among others -- present the other side of the story. Some hew pretty close to tradition; Beagle's clucking giantess says of Jack, "He was a nice boy, really, for all the vexation he caused. They always are. I've never eaten a bad one yet," even if she insists that the beanstalk was planted by her husband. Garth Nix's Rapunzel is actually a lazy teenage freeloader, not so much imprisoned in the hardworking witch's tower as squatting there, gorging on free food and cable TV.

Link, not surprisingly, provides the edgiest tale, reinterpreting "Cinderella" as a modern-day account of blended family resentment and a boy's temptation to do "exactly the wrong thing." The book's creepy cover art may give some sensitive kids nightmares, but it's Link's story that will make the grown-ups think.

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By Laura Miller

Laura Miller is the author of "The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia."

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