Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Once on a Time

A.A. Milne
New American Library, 1988.
255 pages.

A.A. Milne is the very famous author of the Winnie the Pooh stories, known and loved by children and popularized by Disney. However, Milne wrote more than just stories of a loveable bear and not all of those stories are aimed primarily at children.

Once on a Time can be described as a fairy tale for adults. It is the story of King Merriwig of Euralia who finds he has to go to war, and his daughter, Hyancinth, who tries to manage the kingdom while her father is off doing brave deeds. There is courtship, romance, disillusionment and the full range of wonderful highs and lows that can be found in any masterful fairy tale.

But Once on a Time is not truly a masterful fairy tale. It is a work of sheer silliness. It is a comedy of manners and is about people pretending to be things they are not and learning to be the things at which they really are quite good. In that sense the story is a typical fairy tale for it does have a "truth" for us to learn.

Once on a Time, however, pokes fun of the stereotypical fairy tale format. It is an enjoyable book for someone who likes to read something entirely tough in cheek where almost everything can be understood two ways. As the King of Euralia recounts to his daughter: "The extraordinary things one encountered [in the forest]! Witches, giants, dwarfs...It was there that I met your mother." Did the king really mean what he said?

If you don't like tongue in cheek silliness, this is not a book for you. You'll think it's a waste of time. But if you like plain old goofy entertainment that so often has a double meaning, this is a great story.

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