Saturday, April 26, 2014

Melisande (1901)

Melisande. E. Nesbit. Illustrated by P.J. Lynch. 1901/1988/1999. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

When the Princess Melisande was born, her mother, the Queen, wished to have a christening party, but the King put his foot down and said he would not have it. 
"I've seen too much trouble come of christening parties," said he. "However carefully you keep your visiting book, some fairy or other is sure to get let out, and you know what that leads to. Why, even in my own family the most shocking things have occurred. The Fairy Malevola was not asked to my great-grandmother's christening, and you know all about the spindle and the hundred years' sleep."
"Perhaps you're right," said the Queen. "My own cousin by marriage forgot a stuffy old fairy when she sent out the cards for her daughter's christening, and the old wretch turned up at the last moment. The girl drops toads out of her mouth to this day."

 Don't you just love stories that start out like this?! I know I do! E. Nesbit's Melisande is practically perfect in every way. It's pure delight through and through. The premise is simple: a king and queen are so sure that a christening party is a bad idea that they decide to skip it all together. But in their eagerness to escape everything-you'd-expect, they didn't take into account every possible scenario. Seven hundred not-so-happy fairies turn up! All thinking that there had been a christening without them! Malevola is the loudest and boldest. She declares that the new princess will be bald. The king shows his cleverness and the remaining fairies are dismissed; he asserts, only ever ONE fairy is forgotten and since that ONE fairy has already given her ill-wishing gift, the others can all go back home.The King lessens his wife's sorrow, to a certain extent, by promising to give Melisande, his daughter, a wish he never used himself. (His fairy godmother gave him a wish for his wedding.) He wants to WAIT until Melisande is all grown up and can decide her own wish.

The Queen strongly influences Melisande's wish when the time comes. Melisande's wish has consequences!
I wish I had golden hair a yard long, and that it would grow an inch every day, and grow twice as fast every time it was cut...
Poor Melisande! Within a few weeks, she has realized how HORRIBLE and TERRIBLE this wish of hers was.
When it was three yards long, the Princess could not bear it any longer, it was so heavy and so hot, so she borrowed Nurse's scissors and cut it all off, and then for a few hours she was comfortable. But the hair went on growing, and now it grew twice as fast as before so that in thirty-six days it was as long as ever. The poor Princess cried with tiredness, and when she couldn't bear it any more she cut her hair and was comfortable for a very little time. The hair now grew four times as fast as at first, and in eighteen days it was as long as before, and she had to have it cut. Then it grew eight inches a day, and the next time it was cut it grew sixteen inches a day, and then thirty-two inches and sixty-four inches and a hundred and twenty eight inches a day and son, growing twice as fast after each cutting.
Soon Melisande and her parents are desperate for help! Is there a way to stop the madness?! Will she ever be happy again?!

I definitely recommend getting an illustrated edition of Melisande. The illustrations by P.J. Lynch are WONDERFUL.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous 10:05 PM  

I love all the fun ways wishes go wrong in this story! Nesbit was so good at poking fun at the fairy tale tropes (long before that was such a common thing too!)

Lynn 6:07 PM  

What a great story - I have to know how it finishes now!
And, lovely cover :D

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