Troll’s Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales

Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling children's anthology Troll's Eye View: A Book of Villainous TalesTroll’s Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Fairy tales were my first love when I was a child. My mother introduced me to the joys of stories with The Golden Book of Fairy Tales long before I learned how to read. My early reading included the first three volumes of The Junior Classics and Andrew Lang’s colorful fairy tale books. When Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling started editing anthologies of new takes on the old tales for adults with Snow White, Blood Red, I was delighted. And when Datlow and Windling started editing a series of original fiction for young adults based on fairy tales, I couldn’t resist them. Troll’s Eye View is one of four in a series of books for ages 10 and up, which also includes A Wolf at the Door, Swan Sister and The Beastly Bride.

Troll’s Eye View is subtitled “A Book of Villainous Tales,” but really, villains seem like an unfairly disparaged lot in most of these stories. In fact, it’s not unusual to find someone you thought was a heroine turn out to be a villain, as in Garth Nix’s “An Unwelcome Guest,” which portrays Rapunzel quite differently from the long-haired victim we’re used to. Sometimes the good guy is disguised as a villain, as in “Wizard’s Apprentice” by Delia Sherman, which is set in a store called “Evil Wizard Books,” a place I’m longing to visit. And the giant’s wife was apparently unfairly characterized by Jack — though not by much — as she reveals in Peter S. Beagle’s “Up the Down Beanstalk: A Wife Remembers.”

A few of the stories deal with the titular trolls. Midori Snyder’s “Molly” is about a troll named Dongoggle attempting to masquerade as human so that his wife and daughters can enjoy living in town, rather than in the wilds under a bridge. The titular Molly befriends the daughters, but has a motive for doing so, as the trolls discover when certain of their belongings go missing after a visit from the child. Dongoggle seeks revenge, which doesn’t work out quite the way he planned. Jane Yolen’s “Troll” is all about the hunger of a motherless child. Poor Troll isn’t “poor” for very long.

My favorite story is Catherynne M. Valente’s “A Delicate Architecture.” Valente has such a weird and wonderful imagination; she always takes me to places I’ve never been, never imagined, and never could imagine. Her story is about a girl made of sugar and spice and everything nice — literally. Who would make a girl out of sugar, and why? And what would happen to that girl? Valente answers all of those questions, and ties her tale back to a classic fairy tale in a way that one can just barely see coming, if she’s paying attention. Valente uses prose the way a pianist uses a piano; with it, she makes beautiful music. I cannot get enough of her work.

Readers will be familiar with many other names in this book: Nancy Farmer, Kelly Link and Holly Black, among others, contribute tales, and Neil Gaiman offers a poem. A few of the stories won’t get much of a grasp on your imagination, but they are only a few. This collection is one to read with your child; you can take turns reading stories out loud to one another, together figure out what classic tale is being retold, and bond over your mutual love for fairy tales in whatever form they take.

Troll’s Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales — (2009) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Everyone thinks they know the real story behind the villains in fairy tales — evil, no two ways about it. But the villains themselves beg to differ. In Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s new anthology for younger readers, you’ll hear from the Giant’s wife (“Jack and the Beanstalk”), Rumplestiltskin, the oldest of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and many more. A stellar lineup of authors, including Garth Nix, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman and Nancy Farmer, makes sure that these old stories do new tricks!

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TERRY WEYNA is spending the second half of her life as a reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, after having spent the first half practicing law in a variety of states and settings. (She still does legal research and writing for a law firm in California). Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor and writer Fred White, the imperious Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a personal library that exceeds 12,000 volumes.

View all posts by Terry Weyna

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