Reggie Oliver: The Silken Drum

r4eggieThe delightful and erudite Mr Reggie Oliver talks about Fearie Tales, Christina Rossetti’s  “Goblin Market”, doppelgangers, and spiritual possession.

Fly, fiend! Over the Western Sea
Followed by cries of hate from the Afterworld

Aya no Tsuzumi, The Silken Drum,
Japanese No Play, origin and author unknown.

‘SHE’S JAPANESE,’ SAID Karen from the estate agents. I noticed a hint of apprehension in her voice, as if she had felt compelled to warn me.

1.What is the fairy tale you remember most from your childhood ? the one that made the biggest impression on you?
Christina Rossetti’s  “Goblin Market” with, of course, her brother’s memorable illustrations, first read to me by my mother. It’s an extraordinary poem with a power to fascinate and shock me even today. Of course it was only much later that I became aware of its extraordinary sexual and sensual undercurrents, but part of its power lies in that very absence of explicitness.

2. Is there a natural link, do you think, between fairy tales and horror? FT1
Without question. We tell ourselves stories about life and love and loss and death. They are nearly always tales of terror because that is how life is. We may call them myths, or ghost stories or fairy stories or horror stories, but they all plumb the same psychological depths. That is why the brothers Grimm were often very grim indeed.

3. Does your work usually play with fairy tale elements or is this a first for you?
With mythic elements, I would say, which is a slightly broader category that includes fairy tale. By mythic, I mean such things as: the doppelganger myth, witches, familiars, demons, demonic possession, bargains with unearthly powers, spells and incantations, alien beings, magically imbued objects and places, etc. etc.

4. What do you think the fairy tale form offers to writers and readers?
Because it goes back to our childhood, it offers access to some of our deepest and most primitive hopes and fears, and, above all, our natural sense of wonder.

grimm5. What is your favourite fairy tale trope/motif/element/character with which to work?
It is the motif of spiritual possession because though we may give it different scientific names from the worlds of psychology, neuroscience, or pharmacology we know it to be a fact. People are sometimes “not themselves”, sometimes we appear to be “not ourselves” and however we may explain it, it is still the greatest and most bewildering of terrors – that and the fact of death with which it has connections.



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