She is a Beast is a collection of fairytales, but not the ones that we heard in our childhood. It is not a book of damsels in distress waiting for their knight in shining armour to rescue them. It is a book where women take the reins into their own hands. They are brave, witty and glorious. It’s a book where men are foolish to fall for the traps laid out by a woman and completely powerless at her hand.
“Once upon a time… Women were told they were weak, foolish, and most importantly, voiceless.”
But not anymore. Time has come to unleash the real power that lies dormant in women. Time to reveal the beast within. Time to welcome She is a Beast.
“A beast has no loyalty, no home. He knows no boundaries.”
Christina Rosso has come up with a book of feminist fairytales, written in the voices of female protagonists. Here, the women aren’t mere play things at the hand of the narrators, but have a voice of their own. Hence, they tell the tales in their own voice, giving us a peep into their mind in the process.
For too long women felt the shackles of being dominated. Now it’s time for them to break the cage. And break it they will, at the end of every story. Wild as they are, these women refuse to confine themselves in the boxes created by the society. And in their wilderness, they find freedom.
“Savage is simply another word for freedom.”
The book borrows the setting and essence of familiar fairytales like Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast. Christina Rosso weaves her own imagination around these classics. The re-imagination creates completely new tales with a wider perspective. In all of Rosso’s stories, the fairytale-like setting is the same, but the plot has changed.
Here the women don’t conform to the ordeals of the society, but create their own path. Here, they don’t need their prince charming to come riding on their horse back to rescue them. The women are their own saviours; they rescue themselves using their own wit and intelligence.
“I know how to escape in my mind to my own world.”
All the stories seem to say: “You probably have in mind the fable society told you”—but you will be gravely disappointed if you try to search for them in this book. So, let’s remove the black veil of society from our eyes and open them to see a new light emerge from the old.
It is a bold attempt on the part of the author to depict women in the light that society refuses to see them in.
And what’s more, this book is a replica of the original form of the fairytales that were written before its commercialisation in the 19th Century. The elements from the older darker folk form of fairytales enter into these stories. The original form of fairytales derived power from the sombreness of their atmosphere, discontinuous prose, occasional brutal language and magical qualities. This book does the same, too.
Magic is woven alongside the chaos of the real world. However, unlike the morally simpler fairytales, the magical elements do not provide any simplified moral resolutions but rather complicates the whole thing. Thus, like the crude versions of fairytales, here too, readers are confronted with disconcerting paradoxes and desperate choices.
All these aspects relate themselves to the stories in the book She is a Beast. It shows that the author has done serious work into researching and reading the earliest versions of fairytales. And then Rosso re-imagined the stories in order to impart a modern taste to these tales.
“It shows you’re the real predator, and everyone else is your prey.”
In addition to the re-imagined tales, the book also has two original stories—“The Siren of Wailing Lake” and “Becoming a Beast”. The most striking feature of these two stories is that the modern concept of women’s empowerment is smoothly mingled with elements from the old world of fascinating fairytales.
Both stories deal with the expectations that the society has from its girls, failing which they are doomed forever. Women are forced by society to ‘keep their virtue at all costs’. And if they fail, the women are at once labelled ‘Devils’, ‘Monsters’, ‘Witch’, ‘pure evil’ and what not.
Girls are taught to be the soft docile creatures, helpless maidens at the mercy of men who would trot on horse-back to rescue them and take them away. And that too only if they are lucky enough to attract attention. Too many fairytales talk of damsels in distress waiting for their prince charming.
But not this one.
This is a book that believes in the wilderness, the desire of adventure, the lure for power and freedom that women home within. And it’s high time to free women from the shackles of patriarchy and break the cages that the society traps them in.
It’s time to set the wilderness free. It’s time to unleash the beast.
“I was raised to be a maiden, yet I dreamed of becoming a beast.”
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