It is no secret that I'm a fan of Amos Oz, so when I picked up this fairy tale, I expected that I would like it. However, I didn't expect that I will love it. I fell in love with this story. As simple as that. Amos Oz is a genius. He managed to create such an amazing fairy tale. It is a masterpiece really. One of the most beautiful fairy tales that I have ever read and I have read quite a few.
One of those rare achievements, a profound work of literature that is accessible to both children and adults.
Like in some classic fairy tale, its protagonists are two brave children, a boy and a girl. They live in a village from which all the animals have disappeared. Adults refuse to talk about this event, but they can’t help to recall it at times. Only two adults, an old man and a spinster school teacher still talk about animals. If other adults won’t admit that there were animals among them, if they don’t approve children learning or inquiring about them, they cannot completely hide a sense of emptiness and sorrow that accompanies the mere mentioning of other creatures. The adults can’t help alluding to animals, mentioning them at least occasionally, thus confusing the children more. The disappearance of animals can have many metaphorical meanings. When you read this book, I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with many interpretations yourself. For the sake of introductions, perhaps it is enough to say that the disappearance of animals is a taboo.
Oz managed to present a society that is ruled by fear, that is unable to face its past or speak of its taboos. A society that won’t admit that there is something wrong. Now, isn’t this often the case with human societies?
I mentioned that our protagonists are brave. As funny as it may seem, the foundation of this bravery seems to be fear. These two children aren’t afraid to admit they are afraid. Both of them are outcasts in a way. What makes them outcasts is nothing extraordinary. The boy, for instance, dreams of animals. He tells his dreams to other children, even if he knows he will be mocked. This boy and this girl are willing to face their fear. They are aware there are things they do not know about but they don’t let that stop them. Their portrayal and character development is wonderful. Little by little, we get to see more, we get to know the souls and hearts of these two children.
There is simplicity in the writing, but the fact that it is written for children doesn’t take anything from the beauty of the writing. Even without using big words, this novel is written in a very lyrical way. Its prose is enchanting and it flows ever so naturally. It invokes strong sensations and emotions, yet it does it so softly and effortlessly. Sinking into this world is so easy and it feels so natural, almost like falling to sleep and dreaming a beautiful dream.
Once you finish reading this novel, you’ll have a feeling that you’ve woken up from a dream. Not just any dream. One of those deeply meaningful dreams that made you realize something you failed to grasp while you were awake. One of those dreams that make your heart full.
I would make this book a mandatory reading in schools everywhere. Its speaks about bullying without bitterness, it speaks about love and friendship without sentimentality, it speaks about the need to overcome our fears without being pretentious. This fairy tale manages to explore so many difficult yet important subject, that I cannot call it anything else but amazing. Moreover, it conveys such a powerful message of hope. I read it in a heartbeat. It warmed my heart. It uplifted my spirit. Read it to your children. If you don’t have any, read it to your baby cuisines or children of your friends. Read it to yourself. Let the message sink in deep.
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