Fairy tales are a curious genre of literature. Their origins float around in an unfathomable past ravelled up in one another like the tangled roots of water vegetation. Their contents are equally inextricable: ‘There was and there was not a time’, Angela Carter tells us, is the invariable opening of Armenian fairy tales – only marginally more equivocal than our own version – and indeed, both the history and the contents of fairy tales thrive on the mystique of their own elusiveness.
In The Virago Book of Fairy Tales, Angela Carter has taken care to preserve the mystique of the timeless and the placeless that is so liable to violation by too much analysis and editorial intrusion. This lively collection of stories from around the world is prefaced by a stimulating introduction,