I found another book by Errol le Cain, an illustrator I’ve loved since I was a little girl. It is mine for only a week or two, as I found it in the children’s library in Wynberg. I will be sad to let it go, but took the chance to scan it:
“The Enchanter’s Daughter” was written by Antonia Barber. The story is quite unusual, as fairy tales go. It is a story of a princess searching – not for the love of a prince, but for her mother. Here is the nameless princess – who is quite unaware that she is beautiful:
The print quality of the book is not very good, but notice the detail of patterning. Flowers, trees, small animals are worked into the golden frame.
The princess believes that she is the daughter of the Enchanter with whom she lives in an isolated castle. She has no name other than “Daughter”, and she has vague dreams in which she can remember another life, in which she has a name.
She grows lonely and frustrated, and the Enchanter gives her books to read, in an attempt to distract her. This was a mistake, because in these books she learns about all kinds places and things, and especially about brothers, sisters, and mothers.
She is especially curious about the mothers in the stories, and she asks the Enchanter who her own mother was. He tells her that she never had a mother. She had been a rose, and he had turned her into a girl by magic. She asks him to turn her back into a rose so that she can see if this could be true – and he agrees to let her be a rose for a day:
A quote from the story:
“She felt the morning dew on her petals as the sun rose through the early mists. She felt the rich perfume drawn out of her by the warm rays as the day went on. She felt the many small feet of a caterpillar which passed over her in the early afternoon, and the gentle breeze which sprang up at sunset. But deep within her petals there was a strange longing which told her that she was not a rose”
Again, she asks the Enchanter who her mother was. He tells her that she was a fish, and a baby deer, and once again, she spends the day as a little fish, and as a deer. But each time, she knew that this was not the answer, and that the Enchanter was trying to hide something from her.
She convinces the Enchanter to turn her into a bird as well – and tries to escape from his castle over the icy mountains that surround it.
But she is only a little bird, and not used to hardship, and soon she collapsed in the snow – where, by luck, a young man found her:
When she wakes up she is safe. She is in the home of an old woman and her son. She hears that the woman used to have a daughter as well, but the little girl was lost many years ago. The Enchanter had offered to buy her daughter from her, promising to that the little girl would have the life of a princess. But the woman had refused to sell her daughter.
And the next day, her daughter had disappeared, and she had never seen her again. The Enchanter’s daughter asked the name of the lost little girl – and the old woman told her that it was Thi Phi Yen.
The Enchanter’s daughter finally remembers her name that she had so nearly remembered in her dreams – because, of course, she was that same little girl who had been stolen so long ago. She was overjoyed to be back with her mother and her brother.
Her mother warned her that they were poor, and life would be hard but she still chose to stay with her family.
I’ve written some other posts about Errol Le Cain’s books here:
- Errol Le Cain’s Sleeping Beauty: Rich and Magical
- Errol Le Cain’s Cinderella: A World of Beauty in the Detail
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