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The Witch's Boy is a fantasy
novel for young people about a goblin boy who is adopted by a witch and nursed
by a bear. He is given the name Lump, and for much of his early childhood, he
never sees his adoptive mother. He plays with the other bears and his adventurous spirit gets him into
trouble quite often. He comes to realize that he is very different from his playmates, both physically and mentally.
One day he encounters human children, who are extremely cruel to him, and this
affects him greatly. Lump becomes a bitter and calculating boy, and he tries to
hurt those who are close to him. This short epic (the unabridged audiobook
takes only eight hours) shows how he eventually becomes a mature adult capable
of love, and serves as traditional tale of morality and growth. It is the
darker side of the story that makes it more memorable though, because it is
rare to have a central character in a young adult book who is so malevolent.
The book is balanced by a whimsical
thread: many of the characters tell of stories featuring people like Goldilocks
and the three bears, Jack and the beanstalk, Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty,
but the stories are very different from the fairy tales that most people will
be familiar with. Some of the characters of the book themselves turn out to be
characters we know from fairy tales, again, with very different personalities
and histories from what we previously believed. It is funny to think of our
fairy tales as very distorted versions of what actually happened, and young
people might even learn something about how truth can be twisted from the idea.
Many of the characters of the book
are very likable -- especially Falance, a man who used to be a cat, and retains
many catlike abilities. The book has many of the traditional features of
fantasy: there are princesses and evil kings, magic kingdoms, talking animals
and circuses. It is well written and enjoyable, and one even comes to care for
the miserable Lump, whose spite and grudgefulness is at least partially
explained by the painful experiences he has suffered, as well as his goblin
nature. The heart of the book lies in the great sacrifices that some people
make and the damage that cruelty causes. These grant The Witch's Boy a
seriousness that many fantasy books lack, and make it far more memorable.
Personally, I am not normally very
enthusiastic about the genre of fantasy, and I am sure that it was the
performance by Denis O'Hare in the unabridged audiobook that made it appealing
to me. His use of different voices and his lively reading keep the listener
interested and engaged with the story when reading the words of the page and
trying to remember the multitude of characters would be far more of a trial for
many readers. This is one of the best audiobook performances that I have
© 2005 Christian Perring. All
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also
editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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