Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Stolen Child

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal-chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand.

-W. B. Yeats

I have just finished reading The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue, which is based on the above W.B. Yeats poem. It is the story of seven-year-old Henry Day and the changeling who took his place in the 'real' world. The story is told in alternating chapters with the changeling telling his story:

...I am a changeling-a word that describes within its own name what we are bound and intended to do. We kidnap a human child and replace him or her with one of our own. The hobgoblin becomes the child, and the child becomes a hobgoblin. Not any boy or girl will do, but only those rare souls baffled by their young lives or attuned to the weeping troubles of this world. The changelings select carefully, for such opportunities might come along only once a decade or so. A child who becomes part of our society might have to wait a century before his turn in the cycle arrives, when he can become a changeling, and reenter the human world.

Then Henry Day's his:

I am gone.

This is not a fairy tale, but the true history of my double life, left behind where it all began, in case I may be found again.

My own story begins when I was a boy of seven, free of my current desires. Nearly thirty years ago, on an August afternoon, I ran away from home and never made it back.

Keith Donohue has created a fantasy world that is believably real and easily fallen into by the reader. By the end of the book, when Henry Day and the changeling come to terms with what has happened to them, these characters were so real to me that I cried for them both.

I highly recommend this book.

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