Thursday, March 24, 2011

Robin McKinley's The Door in the Hedge

In my opinion, Robin McKinley's earliest works are her best, and The Door in the Hedge, from 1981 (shortly after her first published work and my absolute favorite, Beauty,) is no exception. This book is a collection of short stories, including:

The Stolen Princess-An original story (as far as I know) that sort of has a changeling element to it (although the narration distinctly claims it is NOT to be confused with changelings, those who are interested in changeling stories would probably also be interested in this).

The Princess and the Frog-A retelling of "The Frog Prince." After rereading it I realized how much my short story was influenced by this version...

The Hunting of the Hind-another original story, but it fits in well with traditional princess fairy tales and is very enjoyable.

The Twelve Dancing Princess-As can be guessed, a retelling of the fairy tale by the same name. One of the most natural questions that arises when reading the Grimm version (at least for me) is, why did the underground kindgom need to be destroyed? Was it actually evil, other than the fact that replacing twelve pairs of shoes daily can get very costly? McKinley adds her own touch to the tale by explaining why the underground kingdom is evil, and the toll that the curse takes on the princesses, which I find very satisfying.

This book was intended for a young adult audience and the stories are appropriate for children. While reading I was mindful of things such as-the fairies portrayed in the first story are essentially good and unlike historical fairies at all; and the stereotype of the innate goodness of royalty is definitely enforced. But considering the audience I don't think anything is inappropriate. Yes, real life is not like these stories, but there's nothing wrong with a little escapism now and then. McKinley's writing is truly enjoyable and this is perfect for a bit of light reading.

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