The grim and the moral: the not quite forgotten bits of fairy tales and fables

Wolves on the Beyond: Book 4: Frost Wolf by Kathryn Lasky

Fairy tales and fables are kind of old, classic things. Sure every once in a while someone retells them in a new, accessible way (which I’m totally for) but it’s not like the Brothers Grimm of Aesop is still churning those out. Which is probably okay too. Lots of people forget how grim they can actually be (Remember Cinderella’s sisters cutting parts of their feet off to fit them in the shoes? Yeah, I wish I didn’t) or how boring (the fox is one trait, that is it, that is all. He is crafty and that’s all you’ll ever need to know about him). But I feel like, just because they’re a little longer now, doesn’t mean these elements aren’t still finding their way into kid’s lives.

See Wolves of the Beyond.

As usual, I grabbed what I hoped was the first one (it wasn’t) and read that one. Therefore there are spoilers for the first three books here (I assume, since I haven’t actually read them). The Wolves of the Beyond have a complicated social structure, ancient customs and preform everything with great dignity. They also have the rather depressing practice of abandoning pups that are in any way physically imperfect. Most die, but some, like the heroes of this story, survive and join packs as the lowest members of society. When snowstorms in summer bring famine and fear to the wolves, one wolf seizes the opportunity to start a terrible cult, that ends with wolves dancing themselves to death.

First off, I would just like to say, this book terrified me. The reader had an amazing voice, and was so good at creating atmosphere that the scenes where the wolves killed themselves were truly horrifying. And that comes around to my earlier point. It’s not exactly a fairy tale, but it is dark and grim, doesn’t sugar coat death or pain or survival. I’m not sure why children need that, but it’s so prevalent that there must be something. Children love the grotesque and the horrible, I would guess because it gives them a lens to view their own realities, where gross and scary things to actually happen all the time, but really, I have no idea. I could totally be making that up.

There’s also a heavy moral component to the story. The big baddie (here there be spoilers, although really it was so predictable it hardly counts) is a wolf who inherits his role as leader of the pack, has no natural instinct for leading and quickly falls into despair. Then he abandons the dignity of his clan, his species and leads his people to their deaths. Really, the moral is obvious – don’t let go of who you are when faced the challenges. So we have a story told with a moral, using animals as the mouth piece. That’s a fable right?

I would probably read this whole series, although I expect that it would get pretty repetitive after a while. The coolest bit by far is the amazing complexity of the wolves’ world and social order. If you can get the audiobook, even better. That gentleman can read a book. And that’s about all I’ve got.

Last movie I watched:

3 Ninjas! So cute. So funny.

Last TV episode I watched:

Smallville. Oh yes, that happened.


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