Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Review: The Magic Circle

Napoli, Donna Jo. The Magic Circle. New York: Puffin, 1993.

Ugly One, Mother, Ugly Sorceress, Witch, Old Woman, Mother.

She'd been called many names in her life. Everything she did, whether good or evil, was for love. She loved her daughter so much. That love caused her to go from being a simple midwife into a sorceress. When the demons stopped obeying her and commanded her to obey them, she agreed only to save her daughter. She remembered the fairy tale land a young boy had told her about. There she fled. For nine years, she lived in solitude. She avoided anything that would tempt her to embrace the demonic side of her nature. Then, Hansel and Gretel found her candy cottage. For a time, she believed they could live together. She became a mother again. But the demons soon ended her believed happiness.

Have you ever wondered why the witch hungered for childish flesh? Why she lived in a candy cottage deep in the wood? What was her life like before Hansel and Gretel came? This book will give you more answers than you can imagine.

What I thought: Donna Jo Napoli is indeed a expert at retelling fairy tales. You read one of her books and say "Why didn't I think of that?" Her elaborations on the simple tales are not just plausible but believable. In this book, Napoli uses a common method for retelling fairy tales. She tells the story from a minor character's point of view. In the original tale of Hansel and Gretel, the witch was secondary to the story of the children's struggle to survive. Napoli's story makes the witch worth your notice.

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