She: A century-old mirror

She by H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard published She in 1887. 130 years later, She is a memorable, if strange, read. It is a romantic action-adventure seen in a fun-house mirror; almost offensive at times to modern sensibilities, but still intriguing.

The two main characters are Leo Vincey and our narrator, his adoptive father L. Horace Holly. Holly describes himself as ugly — ape-like, with bandy legs, over-long arms and thick black hair that grows low on his forehead. He is a committed misanthrope and misogynist. Leo is a golden Apollo with a cap of blond curls. With Leo came a strange iron-bound chest, to be opened when Leo turns 25.

On Leo’s twenty-fifth birthday, they open the chest, to find a pot-shard inscribed in Greek and several translated documents. The shard and documents tell the story of an Egyptian princess, Amenartas, who fell in love... Read More

Five Children and It: Charming children’s fantasy in the public domain

Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit

Five Children and It combines eleven stories that Edith Nesbit wrote about five siblings who discovered a wish-granting fairy called The Psammead in the sandlot of the house they recently moved into. The stories were originally serialized in shorter form in Strand Magazine in 1900. The first story (the first chapter of the novel) tells how the children moved from London to Kent, explored their new house and yard, and found the Psammead. He grumpily agrees to grant the children a daily wish that will end at sundown.

Each chapter tells the story of a single day, how the children wish for something, and how it goes wrong. Usually they wish for something obvious like beauty or money, but sometimes they accidentally wish for something they didn’t really want granted, such as when Cyril carelessly wishes that his baby brother would grow up. The consequences are always unexpected and usuall... Read More

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The movie leaves out so much

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

In his introduction to the first American fairytale that went on to become one of the most famous and beloved movies of all time, author L. Frank Baum says a rather extraordinary thing. Discussing the purpose of the old fairytales by Grimm and Andersen, Baum tells us that such tales existed both to entertain children and provide a moral by means of “horrible and blood-curdling” incident. True enough, but Baum goes on to say that his book falls outside this typical definition of a fairytale, telling us that: “the story of the Wizard of Oz was written solely to pleasure children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairytale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.”

Reading The Wizard of Oz for the first time made me wonder if Baum was even aware of what he’d written, or if perha... Read More