A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S FAERY TALE
Author: Dan Simmons
Simon & Schuster / 52 pages / 1st edition October 25, 1999
Remember the delicate creatures of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth? Those almost human beings, somewhat like us, but infinitely more fragile and winsome? Well, after too long a wait, those faeries, pixies, trolls, sylphs, and all the other magical citizens of the magical world, are back in a new faery tale that can only be described as enchanting.
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No doubt you’ve already recognised the name Froud, so chances are you’re familiar with her artistry. Dolls and puppets, unlike any others on Earth, emerge from her workshop. And, yes, she is responsible for Yoda; correct you are.
If you don’t instantly recognise the Windling name, you have not read any fantasy in the last decade or so. Somehow, I think that if her winning the World Fantasy Award five times hasn’t made any impact on you, nothing will.
And now, these two masters of fantasy and magic have joined to create a story with glimpses of the familiar (it is kin to A Midsummer Night’s Dream), but with a legend all it’s own. Consider Shakespeare a jumping-off point and take it from there.
Start with the frantic activity in the Old Oak Woods as the inhabitants scurry about, getting ready for Midsummer Eve. This is the biggest celebration of the year for the faery kingdom, and everyone must be prepared for the festivities. It’s a sight that no one wants to miss.
Or so Sneezle has heard. Actually, being a mere child of 200, he has never managed to stay awake for the ceremonies. This year, though, he is determined to see it through. Good thing, because all is not as it should be this night, and it is up to Sneezle to stop a plan to remove Titania as faery queen.
That’s a tough job for a youngster who finds himself in trouble more often than in demand.
Sounds rather like the daunting challenges that face human children every day, doesn’t it? Sneezle may be a fantastical creature, but the struggle to become an adult and to be taken seriously is a constant challenge for our own children. Watching a magical being tackling his first real responsibility is a situation we all can relate to — child and adult.
A charming story and a message. There is not much more one could ask of a faery tale, but A Midsummer Night’s Faery Tale gives much more. The lush illustrations are striking in that way that only Froud’s creations can be and — even better — the breathtaking scenes are photographs. Offer a child their choice among story books and almost every one will reach for the one with pictures of real people, real animals, real characters. Try it. The chance to study images that they could touch adds an extra dimension to the illusion for a child.
Faery tales are rare in this modern world. With Froud and Windling on the page and your voice bringing the story to life, here is a gift you and your child deserve. A Midsummer Night’s Faery Tale is a splendid opportunity to return that sense of enchantment and wonder to a world that sorely needs an infusion of magic these days.