“The Armless Maiden” edited by Terri Windling

Subtitle: And Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors

This is an anthology of fairy tales retold for adults, with the scary bits left in, and also the bits about resilience and survival. Yes, her father cut off her arms, but then the armless maiden rescues herself and her child through quick wits as well as magic.

The stories vary widely from beautifully retold tales, to heart-wrenching realities, to clunky pieces using child abuse for cheap drama. I imagine each reader would put different stories in the three categories.

Some of my favorites are:

  • “The Session” by Steven Gould, where an adult Sleeping Beauty has a therapy session about who, exactly, gave her that poisoned apple.
  • “Knives” by Munro Sickafoose, where a girl is isolated in a tower by her beloved father, and has to learn about the outside world after he dies.
  • Terri Windling’s “The Green Children” about a young girl whose mother killed her abuser, and Terri Windling’s essay about her real mother, who didn’t.
  • “The Little Dirty Girl” by Joanna Russ rings true about what’s needed for healing.

This is a book to read slowly, with time for emotional processing, and plenty of permission to skip the stories that don’t resonate for you, or that resonate too much.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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