Fairy Tale Friday: La Valse

Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables

by K. W. Jeter

based on H. C. Andersen’s “The Red Shoes”


The title translates as “the waltz” in French, connecting the idea of dancing, steampunk, and the fate of those who wears the red shoes.

I loved how “The Red Shoes” manifested in the story through the gears that forced the aristocracy to keep dancing. Initially, it’s part of a holiday ritual, the Apollosaal. The wealthy and powerful gather to be fitted into articulated body cages that, by their connection to underground gears, propel them across a mechanized ballroom.

It had a very intense, dark mood and was hard to put down. I was quickly drawn into the story and become very concerned for Gisel, the girl who worked for an old dowager.

After she’s fitted into her mechanical suit, the dowager demands that Gisel put her pearl necklace on, which leads to disastrous results.

And because of these results,  the end — that the rich dance until the speeding fury of the gears fling them out windows severed from their feet — makes so much sense. Rebellion! Take that aristocracy! Yeah.

But what’s the most engaging about this short story, is the undercurrent, untold history. There’s an implication that it’s a sort of alternative history, since at the ends the gates protecting/barring the city are opened to invaders. I’d like to know more about this world’s history.

Also, steampunk technology is always awesome to read about.


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