Truly Grim Tales


131 pages
ISBN 1-895555-67-1
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Sheree Haughian

Sheree Haughian is an elementary-school teacher-librarian with the
Dufferin County Board of Education.


There’s an entire genre of fractured fairy tales. Snow White in Art
Deco Manhattan. The wolf’s view of the dead-pig story. Cinderella with
glass flippers. These parodies are lighthearted, frothy, guaranteed to
amuse. Priscilla Galloway’s eight-tale collection is not of the same
mindset. Her stories are grimmer than Grimm, unsettling fantasies on the
black side of enchantment. The teller of these tales is sometimes a
character deemed evil in the familiar versions—the cruel stepmother or
misshapen ogre who must block the happiness of the protagonists. Their
perspective on events, a kind of justification of action, is usually not
without a malignant tone. The giant’s wife tells us that her husband
must grind “pygmy” bones into his bread to survive a devastating
disease. Witch and stepmother are revealed as one scheming entity still
at large. Humans are prey to giant clams and roving beasts in a world
devastated by chemical wars. In these tales, the powers of darkness
appear to be winning, and no one lives happily ever after.

Intriguing in content, Galloway’s stories are also clever
arrangements in form. It is not always possible to guess the tale’s
original source from its title, or even from the first page or two. Like
an innocent rambling in the deep woods, the reader is seduced into the
tale, not certain who might appear or what might happen. Conclusions are
often as ambiguous as a two-forked path; they invite a sequel or yet
another perspective. While this collection is not appropriate for
younger children, its potent exploration of the archetypes in the
fairy-tale tradition make it a compelling choice for mature readers.
Highly recommended.


Gallaway, Patricia., “Truly Grim Tales,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 7, 2023,