When I was little, my favorite part of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was always the “Fractured Fairytales” segment. I loved how they took classic fairy tales and gave them a humorous twist. Lately, this same idea has become increasingly popular as TV shows like Once upon a Time and movies like Shrek put their own spin on the folk stories of long ago.
The Woodcutter, by Kate Danley is a novel that draws from a wealth of fairy tale lore. A horrifying beast has been prowling the forest, terrifying innocent girls like Cinderella to death, and it is up to the Woodcutter, the guardian of the forest, to put things to rights. But when the Woodcutter begins his quest, he discovers that deeper doings are afoot. The Twelve Kingdoms themselves are under threat from a nefarious Queen and her consort the Gentleman. Stolen pixie dust, moving palaces, Rumpelstiltskin, twelve dancing princesses, and a boy named Jack all find their place in an epic adventure that takes the reader to fairyland and beyond.
Danley weaves together fairy tales in a fascinating web, creating a whole new story with great depth and emotion. In many ways, her book is the opposite of Jasper Fforde’s Nursery Crime series. For Fforde, the nursery rhyme and fairy tale allusions are all there to provide tongue in cheek humor. For Danley, the shards of story are there to craft her own beautiful mosaic. She skillfully paints the character of the Woodcutter, a man whose greatest desire is to go home to his ordinary Wife, but who must instead shoulder his duty to guard the Wood as did his father before him. His pain at being childless and his pity for the helpless create a multi-dimensional protagonist easy to empathize with.
Kate Danley’s book is self-published and may be difficult to get a hold of through the library. It is certainly worth the extra effort to find it, however, and I enthusiastically recommend it to all aficionados of fairy tales, fables, and mythology.