4 Quotes by Helen Oyeyemi on Anti-heroines

Helen Oyeyemi Photo by Saneesh Sukumaran

Helen Oyeyemi is the author of the magical Mr. Fox, a book about a writer who can’t stop killing the women in his books. Until, that is, one of them shows up and turns him into the subject of the story.

Mr. Fox is strange and wonderful and probably not to everyones taste. It is, if anything, a perfect example of a “writer’s novel”, a book where other writers will marvel at Oyeyemi’s skill and enjoy the book for the sake of the craft that went into it.

Helen Oyeyemi
Photo by Saneesh Sukumaran

But that’s not what you want to hear. You came here for the anti-heroines. In an accompanying essay with my copy of Mr. Fox (from one of Book Riot’s unmissable Quarterly boxes).

In it, Oyeyemi muses about the nature of anti-heroines, and their porpose in a story.

An anti-heroine has her own purity, a singleness of intention.


I sometimes consider a story’s anti-heroine to be an embodied protest against the set of ideals the narrative upholds in the form of the perfect heroine.

Without further ado I give you my number one [anti-heroine]: Carabosse, the fairy who goes where she is not invited expressly in order to curse a princess whose life was all set up to be a bright and gracious path from birth to death.

Sleeping Beauty is not herself, and doesn’t become so until the isolation of her hundred-year sleep, during which she must dream her own dreams. Carabosse’s curse is the most meaningful gift the girl could have been given.