The anthology contains ten stories, first published in the United Kingdom in 1979 and won the Cheltenham Festival Literary Prize. The stories share a theme of being closely based upon fairy tales or folk tales. However, Carter has stated:
My intention was not to do ‘versions’ or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories. Quarter-bound in buckram with Modigliani paper sides, Frontispiece and 6 colour illustrations and a red slipcase.
Folio Society Editions