Rachel S. Heslin
Thoughts, insights, and mindless blather

Books From My Childhood
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I've been recently revisiting books that I loved to read when I was young: Edward Eager's "Half Magic," about a magic coin that will only grant half of your wish, and Elizabeth Speare's "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," which, along with George MacDonald's "The Princess and the Goblin" and "The Princess and Curdie," I checked out from the San Carlos library every summer between the ages of 7 and 12 or 13.

I was thrilled to find a copy of the MacDonald books a few years ago bound with another of his stories through http://www.bookfinder.com. I bought it from a bookstore in Australia -- I really do love the internet! I didn't have the money for the Jessie Wilcox Smith illustrated version (I'm a big fan of the Brandywine school of illustration, which included Howard Pyle, JWS, Maxfield Parrish and the Wyeths), which would have been nice, but I'm still happy.

My favorite part is in the second book, "The Princess and Curdie," (spoiler ahead -- sorry)
where the princess' grandmother puts Curdie's hands into a fire of burning white roses. Afterwards, whenever he shakes someone's hand, he can feel what type of animal they are inside. Sometimes he feels a writhing snake, sometimes a pig's cloven hoof, and once in a very great while, he'll feel a real, human hand.

I discovered last week, however, that I can't read McKillip's Riddlemaster trilogy. I know it too well; it's a part of me. It's been years since I read it, and I can still vividly see Rood sitting across the table from Raederle in the tavern, warm and shadowy light from the lamps and fire moving across their faces as he distractedly picks at a flaw in his goblet with his thumbnail.

I can't listen to Deth playing the song he wrote for the Morgol without knowing what it will come to mean. I know the great hall of the wolf-king with the trunks of trees as wood for its fire as though I had visited last winter, and my eyes sting with the sweat of my sojourn in his round, stone shed.

I bear V-shaped scars on my hands, and I found myself become myself, awkwardly struggling to keep my balance in a tree on the way to Lungold. I know the betrayals and the truths, and these people are so real to me that I was startled to find Deth as an actor in Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V."

But, after all, isn't that what a good story is supposed to do?

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