Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Wily Wizard and the Wicked Witch

The title story in this collection has a witch who lures people into her treehouse to eat them, and warns each traveler, all smiling, that she's going to eat them after she fattens them up.  They never believe her, and so they come in and are eaten.  The townspeople complain about it in the best way:
"If only she didn't tell them herself," said the mayor, "then I could forbid the whole thing.  But she makes it all quite clear beforehand and the people go in willingly."
"Just so," agreed the clergyman.  "That is the awful thing about it.  Look here: I can understand her enticing strangers in to make them fat and then baking them in her oven.  I don't approve, but I can put myself in her place, and we all have our faults.  But the fact that she speaks the truth about it is too much for me."
Tourism to the village is falling off, so they hire a wizard to deal with her.  As one does.

The Wily Wizard and the Wicked Witch is one of those books that makes me deeply grateful for small libraries with small budgets that don't weed their collections regularly.  I first read it in the tiny one room library in Pawlet, Vermont.  The library has since moved to what used to be the K-2nd grade school across the street (where I went to 2nd grade).  At the time I went there, the library was in one room of an old white wooden-sided building and the town hall was in the other room, and the whole thing perched above a steep bank that rolled down to the river below.  There were sheep nearby.  And there were old and odd and unusual books on the shelves, and the Wily Wizard and the Wicked Witch was one of them. Lovely stories with dark humor, twisted logic, and a gentle heart.