Our narrator and protagonist, Barq, is a successful young man who has inherited a very prosperous farm from his uncle . . . and who has been tricked into marrying an evil shrew of a witch. As honest and hard-working as he is, his life is a difficult one, and toiling late into the evening is preferable to facing the endless scorn and abuse at home.
Located on the edge of the Enchanted Forest (a few delightful asides explain that the forest separates his medieval world from our modern one), his farm is also home to a hidden meadow of magic and mystery. It is there that he retires most nights, longing for one more glimpse of the mystical unicorn who wanders its green expanse.
When he discovers his wife and her mother casting a spell that will turn him into the first animal he sees, he cleverly navigates the farm with eyes closed until he can slip into the barn. Better a horse, he figures, than the snake his wife imagined, the beetle he felt crawling across his hand, or whatever else he might accidentally stumble upon first.
As is often the case in fairy tales, he is unable to convince the townspeople of his plight, so he finds his way back to the comfort of the secret meadow. There, with the unicorn as a distant companion, he enjoys a return to nature that is enviable in its simplicity. The gentle, almost timid relationship that develops between them is so very sweet and so wonderfully tender. It’s quite remarkable just how much emotion is conveyed without the two of them ever speaking a single word.
Some readers may feel a little uncomfortable with realisation of a romantic encounter between them, but it’s handled very discreetly. The language is subtle, and carefully chosen, and the details are kept to a minimum. More importantly, it’s presented very naturally as an encounter between two beautiful animals, with a minimum of ‘human’ reflection.
As much as I would love to share what follows, that would be to deny readers of the joy of the mystery. Suffice to say, there are still a few magical surprises to come, and a very happy ending to look forward to.
In the wrong hands, this is a story that could easily have been mismanaged, resulting in something bordering on the vulgar or the obscene. Instead, D.B. shows a great deal of respect and restraint, choosing his words carefully, and always keeping the focus on the magic, and on the simplicity of love.
For the second day in a row, I’ve had a wonderful fairy-tale like story to leave a smile on my face all afternoon long.