Review: “The King of the Hermits and Other Stories” by Jack Sendak

The last notable storybook of modern fairy tales is The King of the Hermits and Other Stories by Jack Sendak. Very hard to find, this compilation has only three short stories, each unattached to any precursor in the fairy tale genre.

The King of the Hermits follows the involuntary effects a lonely old hermit (a self-named king of the hermits) and his parrot have on the inhabitants of a neighboring village.  While small Mrs. Perles claims that the hermit is a helpful prophet, a boy named Jack simply wants friendship and finds it with the most unexpected people.  Without wishing it to happen, the hermit brings harmony and prosperity to a community that was basically unhappy.

The Signal was also included in The Outspoken Princess and The Gentle Knight, being the best story in Sendak’s “trilogy.”  The plot surrounds two main characters, a girl seeking help and a genius who does not want to be king in the midst of war and unhappiness.  The same happens in The Two Sides of the Forest, the third tale in The King of the Hermits and Other Stories.  A necromancer permanently turns himself into a dragon-like monster by accident, dividing a forest into two sides in the process.  Each side has a village, one of which is inhabited by a frightened, curious boy named Gaisa.  Gaisa does not know it himself, but he is the key to the village’s and the necromancer’s salvation, because only a numerical combination and the power of knowledge will be able to unlock the monstrous spell that has caused ignorance and fear.

Humorous and inventive, Sendak’s storybook is one of the few modern fairy tale anthologies that truly deserves renewed recognition and appreciation from modern readers.

Original review: Part 11: Modern fairy tales by forgotten authors,


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