Transformation – a traditional plot device in fairy tales, where a moment of magic precipitates a physical metamorphosis and narrative shift – takes on various forms in ‘The Girl of Fur and Bones’. Those that happen to us – ie. the bodily transformations that usher in the frightening rapture of adolescence – those transformations we can engineer for ourselves in defense, and those that may prove to be our salvation.
I wanted to explore anorexia – one of the most radical and brutal of physical transformations – as a kind of tragic spell (or ‘glamour’, in the traditional sense), which The Girl feels compelled to invoke as a kind of defense against corporeal change, sadness and loss of innocence. My starting point was fur, in the form of excessive body hair, being both one of the more unusual side-effects of anorexia nervosa and an oft-used symbol of sexual awakening or sexual danger in folklore. (The original French language Cinderella featured a distinctly vaginal fur slipper – the more clinical glass is a mistranslation – and the fur-covered wolves young girls encounter lurking in woods can be easily interpreted as a manifestation of the fear and danger of the onset of sexual maturity). The sudden sprouting of excessive body hair in anorexic sufferers has the effect of lending an animal-like sadness to the individual who emerges from the transformation – the Beast in pursuit of her Beauty – and consequently, to some extent, is an ironic counterpoint to the sexual ramifications of fur in folklore as the hair becomes a morbid suit of armour, protecting its wearer against physical maturity and its ramifications.
I like to take archetypal, universal folkloric elements and interweave them with the mundane, the urban and the everyday, allowing the former to bring out some of the magical or sublime qualities in the latter, and the latter to underpin and weight the former. This hopefully allows the language of fairytale to speak in a contemporary voice. A tower becomes the fortress of childhood against the sexual and bodily slings and arrows of adolescence. A packet of Space Raiders becomes a token of love and simple nourishment – a kind of fetish imbued with the power of kindness and empty calories. And the most vivid signs of urban peril – sirens – borrow some of the sexually dangerous symbolism of their mythological counterparts.