Review: “Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf” by Catherine Storr

For the love of books

Polly is a girl living in modern times, and she thinks very logically for her age.  Being aware of fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, Polly never dreamed she would be in the middle of one when a Wolf takes a fancy to her.  This acquaintance is one of the strangest she has ever had, for the Wolf not only speaks, but he has also decided beyond reason that he will eat Polly up—someday.  Thus both characters unwittingly reprise the roles of hunter and hunted in a humorous story for children called Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf.

Unlike Little Red Riding Hood, the protagonist of Catherine Storr’s book is the master of innocent reasoning, which makes her a formidable opponent against the Wolf’s simple-mindedness during their series of encounters.  However, something Polly cannot ignore about the Wolf is his physical strength in comparison to her own.  In Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf, the author does not really try to retell any particular fairy tale, although there are enough references to Little Red Riding HoodJack and the BeanstalkHansel and Gretel, and others.  The peculiarities within fairy tales are left out of explanations while the two main characters analyze life and make their own uncomplicated observations.  More like fables than fairy tales, the stories in Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf express some unalterable truth regarding modern society and common misconceptions.

For example, no matter how many times Polly kindly corrects the Wolf’s irrational thinking, he never learns from his experiences.  Even when Polly helps the Wolf to escape from a zoo, the Wolf still wants to eat Polly up.  Through this particular chapter in the story, it seems that the author is sharply noting how Christian forgiveness and benevolence does not guarantee any antagonist’s moral transformation afterwards.  Polly’s compassion for her enemy compels her to give him a chance to redeem himself, but in the end unconditional goodness cannot change a bad individual so that there is alteration in his/her temperament.  Stupidity is another theme in Storr’s storybook, for the Wolf is proof that intelligence and common sense are attainable, not innate, qualities.

However, a confusing aspect in Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf is that adults witness either the Wolf talking or walking on his hind legs, but they never notice how extraordinary these circumstances are for a wolf.  Perhaps the author is implying that adults will never believe in the impossible or the improbable, even if they see it themselves.  Nevertheless, Storr portrays Polly and the Wolf amid the recurrent idea that each of their adventures is meant to make a reader laugh and think at the same time.  A barely remembered tale that is half satire, Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf delightfully prods at the concept of common sense and wisely asserts that just because something is published and in print, that does not automatically make it true.

Original review: Part 4: Modern fairy tales by forgotten authorsPart 5: Modern fairy tales by forgotten authors, Examiner.com

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