Friday, April 24, 2009

Faye Stories Part 3: A Knitting Hero

essica Day George re-spins the fairy tale "Twelve Dancing Princesses" in her novel "Princess of the Midnight Ball". All aspects of the original Grimm tale are kept in her well written adaptation. The twelve princesses dance every night at midnight and are saved by a native soldier home from war. But unlike the original story, this soldier chooses the eldest daughter instead of the youngest (who has yet to reach puberty). However George's version takes that basic premise and creates a lovely novel full of details missing from the short tale.

The girls dance not for their own sins, but those of their mother who made deals with a devil figure. Sweet and bound by enchantment they hope for rescue, but cannot ask for it, since anyone who tries to help dies horribly. The soldier is a young man, who lost everything to war, save his intelligence and self worth. His kindness leads a special stranger to gift him with an invisibility cloak and two enchanted balls of yarn. He is valiant and makes a great hero.

The most unique aspect of the story is the soldier's unusual talent of knitting, cultivated by a need for warm clothing during the harsh months of war. His knitting is a major plot point. If he is sitting, it is mentioned that his hands are always busy knitting. In giving away a cloak he knitted, he was given the tools, including magic yarn, needed to help him save the princesses. Without being able to knit a strong black chain from the same yarn he would not have been able to save the princesses from their dancing curse. While the characters in the novel view knitting as a feminine activity, the soldier makes it a way of life. This extra detail adds depth to the story.

"Princess of the Midnight Ball" is a lovely, well crafted and intriguing story. Though, it follows the Grimm tale almost exactly, the magic is in the details and embellishments. Overall, I give it a 4.5 out of 5.

Wishing to be saved by a knitting hero,
J.R. West the Raccoon

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