I made the mistake of binge-reading Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods right before bed. Let me tell you, these are not stories you should read before turning out the light.
Through the Woods is a collection of fairy tale-esque comics. The illustrated stories are divided into chapters. There’s “My Friend Janna” a tale about fake psychics, “His Face All Red” featuring a formerly dead brother, a mysterious man in a black hat looms in “Our Neighbor’s House, “The Nesting Place” features monsters hiding in plain sight, and “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold” is about what happens when you go searching for ghosts.
The artwork paired with each of these tales is very gorgeous and contains enough black, grey, and red to add to the overall creepyness of the book. There’s also a starkness to many of the pages. It gives an unsettling sense of isolation to the characters. Just by flipping through the book, you get a sense that these are no happy fables but rather horror stories masquerading as fairy tales.
Each of Emily Carroll’s stories creeped me out. The entire book was unsettling yet weirdly fascinating, but my favorite tale had to be “Our Neighbor’s House.” It was very disturbing with the smiling sisters and the mysterious man paying house calls in the night. None of the stories made me quite as nervous as this one. (There was one moment in particular that especially creeped me out in “Our Neighbor’s House,” but I’ll leave that gem for you to discover yourself.)
“The Nesting Place” was my second favorite. It had a grosser edge to it than most of the stories–mainly because, while the other tales were often about specters, here there be monsters. If you have a thing for the TV show Supernatural, the beasties in “The Nesting Place” might remind you of even more nasty looking Leviathans.
Overall Through the Woods has a vibe similar that of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber stories. While traditional fairy tales are often weird and disturbing (just read Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”), there’s a distilled terror in these two women’s stories that will stick with you more than those tales told two hundred years ago.
I highly recommend reading Through the Woods (and The Bloody Chamber too if you haven’t already). Emily Carroll’s stories rest in a perfect balance between being absolutely terrifying and being gloriously enchanting. Please, just learn from my mistakes and don’t read it right before light’s out.