________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 18. . . . January 12, 2017


Spirited Away.

Tom Dawe. Illustrated by Veselina Tomova.
Tors Cove, NL: Running the Goat Books, 2017.
60 pp., hardcover, $22.99.
ISBN 978-1-927917-13-8.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4



Solomon used to say that it was hard sometimes to tell the difference between the fairies and spirits of the dead. They were all on the same track, he said. Once he told us of a cove, an abandoned community on a foggy coast, where ghosts of the people who had once lived there still roamed the lanes and roads, and woe to anyone who pitched a tent there on a spirit path.

Solomon liked to tell about his first experience with a fairy path, when he and his brother were youngsters on a trouting trip. When evening fell, they were comfortable in their canvas tent on a meadow above the river. Later in the night, however, strange noises started, sharp lashes on the sides of the tent, one after the other like whispering crowds going by striking out as they went. The boys huddled in their blankets, too terrified to look outside. On and off, all night long, the noises continued, but they clung to each other, until the first sign of daylight. These were the fairies for sure, he said, lashing out with their gaddy whips, angry that someone had camped on their path.


Just yesterday, in calm October sunshine, I was surprised by a small, sudden gust of wind. It whirled from the edge of a clearing, spinning sticks, dead leaves, and grass, disappearing across a meadow.

"A fairy squall," Solomon would say, "the fairies are dancing."


The fairies of Newfoundland are none of your Tinkerbells, Barbie dolls with wings, or even stern fairy godmothers with their gifts tied to deadlines and consequences. No leprachauns with hidden pots of gold make their way into these tales. These spirits are strictly malevolent, leading people where they would not wish to go, and then abandoning them, dazed, confused, and forever changed in some indefinable way.

     The nine stories have no collective theme other than being encounters with fairies. They are all told as tales heard by someone, but that "someone" changes from tale to tale. In "Spirited Away", the narrator is telling what happened to her grandmother when she was led/pushed along a fairy pathway until she came to herself on the shore of the next cove to where she lived, having unknowingly crossed two largish rivers! In "Fairy Funeral", a woman encounters a funeral procession as she is passing the graveyard at night. It is not certain if she died soon after, but the received wisdom was that she was lucky to have seen the tail end of the procession rather than the front; if she'd seen herself in the open coffin it would be a death knell for certain!

     Mostly the listeners are children who hear and believe what their elders dismiss so they say as delusions of one who has "a drop taken". The children love the thrill and the horror of the unknown, but they learn through the stories to fear it as well. So in this way these fairy tales are like the familiar ones we were brought up on: Red Riding Hood beware of strangers; Hansel and Gretel don't go wandering in the woods alone (and, less reasonably to our minds, not to trust your father's second wife!).

     The stories are illustrated by dark woodcuts, very spooky and atmospheric, that add greatly to the text as you read. In fact, the whole book is based on atmosphere character development and plot are not big players. Spirited Away is a book to be enjoyed in front of a cozy fire or tucked up on the sofa with a hot water bottle, somewhere very safe and far from the spirits depicted and described so that the horrors are far away though there is always the possibility that one is lurking under the bed... a deliciously scary thought.

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas lives and works occasionally in Winnipeg, MB, and has visited Newfoundland, but never encountered a ghost. Just more and harder rain than anywhere else ever!

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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