Wish, by Michael Tolkien
Farmers in their alpine valley are haunted by Fængler, a cunning old enchanter, who ruins their lives by using an ancient wishing chain of powerful stones to spoil crops and steal children, cows and goats.
Young Berwald and his sister Clara set out, without their parents knowing, to climb into the next valley, seize the chain, free their neighbourhood of fear, and wish for whatever they want. But they soon learn that the wild world beyond their home is full of strange forces – some good, some dark and twisted – and almost every wish they make adds new complications and disagreements.
Who can rescue them from this fearful and dangerous adventure? Before Adam, their angry and worried father, can reach them, he must learn to follow seemingly useless leads, and to listen carefully to the tale that lies behind the villain’s bitterness.
A timeless fantasy tale given new life and enchantment in this vivid retelling in verse.
Age Level: 9 and up
Hardcover: 124 pages
Publisher: Thames River Press (March 1, 2013)
Wish is similar in many ways to Michael Tolkien’s other book, Rainbow. The children can speak to flowers, birds, and insects through a language they forget as they grow up. It is also similar to Tolkien’s grandfather’s series, The Lord of the Rings in a few ways. The children embark on a journey to recover a magical piece of jewelry (in this case, a necklace) that will give the owner power and wealth. This necklace was discovered at the bottom of a pond by Faengler, a miserable, ugly old man. It reminds me of Gollum and the Ring.
In spite of these similarities, Wish is a unique fairy tale of the heart. Through the children’s journey, we learn that only true kindness and selfless desires will bring about the defeat of their enemy. Their father eventually comes after them and learns this lesson quickly. He must relearn the language of the forest and follow the guidance given to him by seemingly less than reliable sources.
Since I read both Rainbow and Wish, I can’t help but compare the two a little bit. They are both retellings of Florence Bone’s old stories and both written in narrative verse, but I must admit that I enjoyed Wish a bit more. There is more adventure and action, and Tolkien’s writing shines through. While Rainbow seemed to be directed at an older audience, I think Wish appeals to a broader audience.
About the Author:
Born in Birmingham in 1943, Michael Tolkien grew up in South Oxfordshire and North Yorkshire. He studied classics and English at St Andrews and Oxford. He has lived in Rutland since 1968 and was a secondary school teacher until early retirement in 1994. Since 1998 his verse has been published in two booklets and five full collections, most recently in 2012. His work has been widely and favourably reviewed. Two of his major themes are deceptive appearances and the conflict of active and contemplative approaches to life. This is also apparent in his recent narrative verse adaptations of Florence Bone’s now largely forgotten fantasy fiction for children.