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Patrick W. Crabtree
- Publié sur Amazon.com
In a word, that's my feeling about Puck of Pook's Hill (Dover Value Editions). I'll get into the actual story in just a moment but I first wanted to make some general observations about this terrific work of fantasy.
Kipling harbored a kid's imagination for fantasy stories and a sociology professor's knowledge of history, especially concerning 19th Century England and its colonies. Kipling lived from 1865-1936 and, of course, he generated a plethora of superb period literature including The Jungle Books (Oxford World's Classics), The Man Who Would Be King (Dodo Press), and Kim. The thread so common to the bulk of Kipling's work seems to be ADVENTURE, a theme in which he excelled beyond most other authors, either then or now.
In "Puck" he achieved a level of historical imperative and nostalgic fantasy that was only ever paralleled by Lewis Carroll and J.R.R. Tolkien. This book is (for reasons unknown to me) a real sleeper -- you don't hear much about it either in academia or in bookstores, which is a tremendous shame given its refreshing effervescence and rainy-day appeal. I feel compelled to say that it would be infinitely helpful in digesting "Puck" if you're already somewhat tutored in the history of England and, if you're accustomed to reading the vernacular of other works of Kipling's era. I luckily have the 1987 Penguin softcover edition of this book (Goodwill Store, 50 cents) which is heavily footnoted and which also includes a lengthy, informative introduction to the book written by Sarah Wintle. There even a nice little "Map of the Weald" (Kipling's Sussex) which provides added perspective.
The ten "stories" from this book first appeared in "The Strand" in 1906 which were then illustrated by Claude A. Shepperson. Additionally, some of these entries were published in "Ladies Home Journal" and in "McClure's Magazine". The lion's share of the book is prose but most stories either begin or end with a poem such as "The Runes on Weyland's Sword," a title which reveals much of the flavour of the overall work.
THE STORY: On Midsummer Eve in a secluded meadow just below "Pook's Hill," a boy and his sister (Dan and Una, respectively) acted out their children's version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," coincidentally, inside a fairy ring (of mushrooms). Such an act on the part of these two kids was surely bound to give rise to something very magical (although they never anticipated this possibility) and, in fact, it did. Shortly after their little theater, Puck appeared to them!
Puck is enigmatic, for human adults at least. While he's referred to at one point as a "faun," he seems to be part Leprechaun, part fairy, and part sorcerer. He purposefully engages in shrewd indirect speech which he knows will give rise to endless questions from Dan and Una, thus allowing him to spin his yarns and to bring forth historic figures of The Weald, one after another, over a period of days. He's also capable of conjuring a little spell which has the net effect of eliminating his actuality from the minds of the children after each day's storytelling.
Puck brings on a Roman Centurion (who guarded England), a Norman Knight, a Renaissance artisan, Saxons, Picts, Norsemen (Vikings), a Chinese slave-master and many others, each of whom imparts his respective piece of England's history. There's even a dark adventure tale about a maritime journey along the African coast in search of gold where, of course, devilish monsters were encountered and a horrific battle ensued. Dan and Una are shrewdly drawn into each of these sojourns by Puck as if they had themselves been there.
In summary, if you have so far missed this most excellent proto-Hobbitish legend of ancient England and beyond, my personal opinion is that you cannot order this book fast enough. I give it my highest recommendation, especially for fans of either Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Signet Classics) or The Lord of the Rings. 3 Vol. Set.