I\’m glad I tried another Peter S. Beagle book. I really enjoyed most of these eleven short stories. There\’s a mouse who goes to cat school to learn to act like the best of felines, an octopus who writes a book in a fable, a sailor who saves a merman- hideous creature- and in return receives recipe for salt wine which most find innocuous but occasionally does terrible things to those who drink it. Several fables, wherein a foolish ostrich tries to learn a better way to evade their natural enemies, and a tyrannosaurus rex has a ridiculous conversation with a small mammal. In \”El Regalo\” a young boy does strange things with magic- reminiscent to me of some stories in Witches and Warlocks
. Less great for me were \”Mr. Sigerson\”- wherein Sherlock Holmes joins a group of fine musicians in a small town- disliked by the one who tells the story- and \”A Dance for Emilia\” which I feel bad to dismiss as it sounds the most personal of Beagle\’s stories- but I just can\’t do
ghosts or tales of possession (even though this one snuck in at the end, I didn\’t really see it coming). I found \”Quarry\” interesting- two characters- one a shapeshifting fox- fleeing assassins for different reasons reluctantly join paths- but this was an addition to his book The Innkeeper\’s Song
which I haven\’t read (maybe I will now) so I felt I was missing something.
My favorite of the lot was \”Two Hearts\” which is a sequel to The Last Unicorn.
There\’s a griffin ravaging the countryside and the narrator, a bold young girl called Sooz- sneaks out of her village to seek help from the king- who happens to be the same Lir that once loved a unicorn, now a very old man. Against the protests of the king\’s attendants, Sooz with the help of Schmendrick the magician and Molly Grue whom she fortuitously meets on the road, brings the old king back to face the griffin- he is a hero to the end- but the results of that encounter are unexpected. So sad, and so lovely. I recognized these dear characters at once, and they were the same people I felt I knew before. The book is worth the read for this one alone.
Borrowed from the public library.