Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest

Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest

Book - 2010
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"In a village far away, deep in a valley, all the animals and birds disappeared some years ago. Only the rebellious young teacher and an old man talk about animals to the children, who have never seen such (mythical) creatures. Otherwise there s a strange silence round the whole subject. One wretched, unhappy little boy has dreams of animals, begins to whoop like an owl, is regarded as an outcast, and eventually disappears. stubborn, brave little girl called Maya and her friend Matti, are drawn to explore in the woods round the village. They know there are dangers beyond and that at night, Nehi the Mountain Demon comes down to the village. But as they explore further, they start to see or imagine flying shadows and noises. In a far-off cave, they find the vanished boy, content and self-sufficient. Eventually they find themselves in a beautiful garden paradise full of all kinds of animals, birds and fish - the home of Nehi the Mountain Demon. The Demon is a pied piper figure who stole the animals from the village. He, too, was once a boy in the village, but he was different, mocked and reviled, treated as an outsider and outcast. his is his terrible revenge, one which has p
Publisher: London : Chatto & Windus, 2010.
ISBN: 9780701182274
070118227X
9780701181174
Branch Call Number: OZ
Characteristics: 137 p. ; 21 cm.

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Algonquin_Lisa May 12, 2011

Fairy tales appear deceptively simple, when, in fact, the reverse is true. They must work on more than one level: they must include interesting characters and a fast-paced plot to keep children interested; a moral a child can identify, and often there is a third layer - a moral lesson for adults to dig into in more detail, a take-away life lesson, for lack of a better term, to keep the story compelling enough to keep the adult reader reading.

Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest is an intricate story with many plotlines interlaced. There is the primary, surface story about an isolated mountain town in which there are no animals, insects or life forms other than plants and humans, and along with that the bullying and ridicule suffered by anyone either outside the mainstream, or anyone who does not fall in line with those who've conveniently "forgotten" how the animals went missing in the first place. At this level there is significant tension within the community as those who remember are treated as though they are defective in some basic way. And, in fact, a few of them are eccentric to the point of being grotesque, such as the wife who pushes her husband around in a baby carriage as he makes sheep sounds, remembering but not quite remembering a time when there were animals on the farms.

Next, there's the relationship between Matti and Maya, two school children who care enough to pursue the question of what happened to the animals, despite vague warnings of the evil that lurks "out there," in the forest, and the legend of a creature so evil it wisks off every life form in its path. While Matti is by far the more cautious and afraid, his friend Maya takes the lead role when a decision must be made, becoming a strong female character when it's necessary for her to lead.

And, finally, the stories of both Nimi and Nehi, the two people farthest outside the mainstream, who chose to shun the villagers altogether rather than deal with being ostracized and ridiculed. Both of them are very close to the earth, perhaps pagan, and in touch with the pulse of nature. They are, as a result, the most feared characters.

The complexity of Oz's book is impressive, the world he's created authentic to the last detail. He's managed to be concise without skimping on either plot or character. His prose, as translated by Sondra Silverston, blends well with this sort of created folklore. It is lyrical in every positive way, never slowing down the pace of the story while creating a romantic, somewhat surreal world in which the impossible is possible.

The story also comes full circle, while leaving the ending ambiguous. Do Maya and Matti find a way to bring the animals home and restore their community, or are the forces of social pressure, and denial of culpability, too strong to overcome? It is an enjoyable, deep read, satisfying for a wide age range. Very highly recommended, especially to those interested in the fairy tale or fantasy genres.

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