Author: Malve von Hassell (translation)
Tamara Ramsay (German original)
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
ISBN: 978-1938690389

Folk tales and myths have always had an irresistible draw for me and this book explores the folklore, myths and history of early Germany and Poland.  The tale begins with Dott, a disobedient young girl, who decides to slip out of the house to see a midsummer night bonfire instead of staying in to take care of her younger brother and sister.

First Dott decides she will be able to see it from the porch, then from the road, and then from the hill. Next she is drawn farther away from the house but she is feeling uneasy about her disobedience so instead of following the road, she sneaks through the woods, brush and fields.  She is drawn farther and farther along until finally she is right at the bonfire and sees her younger brother there with her infant sister in his arms.  She is worried about being punished and thinks that her parents and neighbors are ignoring her as a punishment.  She begins to cry and Father Gnilica hears her and talks with her about her plight.  Soon she realizes that she has a rennefarre in her shoe and it has made her invisible to everyone.

The first mythical creature Dott meets is the Red Boy, a full of mischief fire sprite.  He tries to entice her with power or riches.  She resists his enticements so he then speaks of the enchantment of the water, fire and air sprites and how they yearn for deliverance.

The next morning, Dott hides near her home and listens in but soon realizes that she cannot stay.  Dott will have to search for a cure for her situation and until she finds one, she must leave home in order not to frighten her family or the villagers.    She is still audible and she is able to understand the speech of the animals.

Dott  befriends some animals by rescuing a young stork and by helping to rescue an owl imprisoned by other humans.  Other creatures (for instance the magpies) either don’t trust Dott or would like to seek revenge for past harms humans have caused them.

Dott’s travels take her across the countryside in the company of various animals some caring and some hostile, where she meets magical creatures, and she slips back and forth in time to witness events at key places and times in history and in mythology.   She also meets another human, who has made a bargain with the fire sprite to trade his face for the ability to play music that others can’t hear.  He  regretted his bargain soon after when his family reacts to his new terrifyingly ugly appearance.  

This wondrous tale weaves history with mythology and creates an enchanting story.  I loved the historical details and the parallels drawn between the various clashes in history and man’s struggle to build a place for himself and his family in strange, beautiful and sometimes harsh places.  The relationships between man, nature and other tribes of men are explored in a tender way through the eyes of a young girl on the edge of adulthood.

The artwork is beautiful and this intriguing tale reminds me of the Oz books.

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