May 26, 2008

The Green Man edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

“Forest have provided the setting for some of the most enchanted tales in world literature, from the perilous woods of medieval Romance and the faery-haunted glades of Shakespeare and Yeats to the talking trees of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the archetypal wilderness of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood. In this book, we’ve asked the writers to journey deep into the Mythic Forest, to bring back tales of those wild lands and the creatures that dwell within them.”

From the Preface

The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest is an anthology of short stories inspired by forest and trees, the grip they have on our imagination, and the mythology of the green man. In the introduction, Terri Windling writes about Green Man mythology and iconography and other types of forest lore that can be found across different cultures and different ages.

The authors that contributed with stories and poems to this anthology include Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint, Delia Sherman, Emma Bull, Gregory Maguire, Midori Snyder, Tanith Lee, Patricia A. Mckillip, among others.

You’d think that an anthology of this kind would run the risk of being samey, but this is completely avoided by the fact that the authors picked different angles from which to approach the theme. The inevitable result of this was that some approaches worked better for me than other, but I undoubtedly prefer this to a group of repetitive stories.

Some writers, like Delia Sherman, explore how the magic of the forest remains present in contemporary urban settings. Others, like Michael Cadnum and Carolyn Dunn, use a mythological approach, retelling the myth of Daphne and Apollo and including aspects of Native American mythology in their stories, respectively. Gregory Maguire retells a fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk, in a humorous and original way. Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Midori Snyder both write about the healing potential of forests, but they each do so in their own way. Tanith Lee’s approach is more reminiscent of high fantasy, while some other stories could be labelled urban fantasy.

Let me now tell you about my favourite stories in some more detail:First, there’s Charles de Lint "Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box", which was a favourite of mine in Waifs and Strays and remains a favourite here. I wrote about this story recently so I won’t do it again, other than to repeat that it’s very good.

Emma Bull’s "Joshua Tree" was my absolute favourite. It’s about a young girl named Tab growing up in a small town in the desert, and what drew me in right away was her voice: an authentic teenage voice, with no exaggerations. Joshua Tree is a story about longing, loneliness, growing up and making friends. This story, combined with Valentina’s recent glowing review of War of the Oaks, strongly suggests that I need to read more Emma Bull.

Jeffrey Ford’s "The Green Word" is another story that uses a high fantasy approach, and it tell what happens with King Pious tries to defeat the forest people. The result is a very gripping and beautifully written story that is in some ways reminiscent of the tale of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight.

Finally, "The Pagodas of Ciboure" by M. Shayne Bell is another story I had read before – in the 2003 edition of Year’s Best Fantasy, edited by David G. Hartwell, and I think that the fact that five years later I remembered it perfectly says a lot. This story beautifully reimagines the childhood of early 20th century French composer Maurice Ravel. And of course, it features pagodas – not the oriental-style buildings, but “creatures of crystal, porcelain and jewels that inhabit the forests of France.” I’d come across them before in the works of Madame D’Aulnoy (in my favourite of her fairy tales, actually – The Green Serpent) and they charm me every time.

I’ll just add that, like with all the Datlow/Windling anthologies I’ve read to date, I love the way this one is organized: each story is followed by some information about the author combined with what they have to say about the story they wrote for the anthology. Plus, Charles Vess’ inside decorations, along the cover, go a long way to make this book a thing of beauty.

Other Blog Reviews:
Confessions of a Book Addict
Purply Cookie


  1. Wow, you totally made me want to read this! Wherever did you hear about it? It sounds so cool. :)

  2. Great review, Nymeth!
    Just the mention of Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint is enough to set me running towards the bookstore, LOL.

  3. I have this and am really really really looking forward to reading it. The authors look great and I love the anthologies I have previosuly read by Datlow and Windling. Have you read Mythago Wood yet? I think it was the first book I reviewed here in 2007.

  4. Em: I think I first heard of this one at Endicott Redux. I hope you enjoy it!

    Melody: lol! That would be true of a lot of us :P

    Rhinoa: I think you'll really enjoy this one. I haven't read Mythago Wood yet, but I remember your review, and I do plan on reading it.

  5. Great review - the part about what you wish for reminds me of Midas's golden touch. I hope you kicked the person who said they thought you were smart when you mentioned you loved fantasy. :) My struggle with fantasy is that my mind won't wrap around some of the elements--I have to work really hard at it. But, I've been trying to stretch myself this year into reading more science fiction and fantasy books. And I'm enjoying them! This sounds like such a wonderful couple of books--is there a third?

  6. Great review, Nymeth! I prefer it when short stories don't come across as all the same, especially when written by a variety of authors.

  7. That is a great bunch of authors in that anthology. "Joshua Tree" sounds very good as well as the other stories you mentioned. Thanks for the review!

  8. This sounds like a "must-read." I'll add it to my list! The thing I really like about Datlow and Windling's collections is being introduced to new authors. I've never heard of Emma Bull, but the story sounds really good, so I look forward to reading some of her work. Thanks!

  9. Hey Nymeth - I'm behind in my blogging and meant my comments for your last post! You're probably thinking I'm batty, which I am...but hopefully now they will make more sense. :P I kept wondering why I was getting email notifications for this post!

  10. I think I'd love this for the introduction alone! (Likely this one will earn you a point. lol) And the cover is absolutely gorgeous!

  11. I think I already have this. Hahaha! Now if only I can find it :P

  12. This sounds like a wonderful collection - I hadn't heard of it before - thanks once again for adding to my list!

  13. Yay, I'm happy you liked Emma Bull! I haven't read any other stuff by her but this one sounds really good!
    Somehow I know that I will read this book one day, i just don't know how soon that will be:P

  14. One of these days you are going to read a bad book. Please. Because you are KILLING my TBR pile. I've said it before, but man. Everything you pick up and review makes me want to read it!!

  15. This really sounds like a wonderful collection! Thanks for the great review!

  16. Trish: lol, don't worry, the same has happened to me. I've done something worse, in fact. I've left a comment in the wrong blog :P I was so embarrassed, lol. Anyway, I didn't kick the person but I did give them a piece of my mind. I do understand some people responding to fantasy more easily than others, though. I'm the same with sci-fi, I have to make a bit of an effort to get into the world of the stories. But once I do that, I do enjoy them. And yes, there is a third book. It's called Yvgenie and I really look forward to reading it.

    Literary Feline: Yes, if a collection or anthology was samey, even if I enjoyed all the stories individually, by the end I would be tired and I wouldn't like the book as a whole all that much.

    Jaimie, you're welcome :) I hope you enjoy this book when and if you read it.

    Robin: Yes, I love that about them too!

    Debi: The introduction alone makes this book worth it, it's true! I wish Terri Windling would publish a non-fiction book with all her essays on folklore, mythology and fairy tales. I'd be first in line to buy a copy!

    Lightheaded, I hope you find it. I think you'd enjoy it!

    Ken: You're welcome :P You've been adding to mine, too.

    Valentina: It's a great story. I really need to read War of the Oaks!

    Stephanie: lol, I do read bad books sometimes :P There were a few this year. But I hope my luck continues :P

    Alessandra: You're welcome :) I hope you enjoy it!

  17. Considering how much I love forests/trees it is unfathomable that I do not own this book. I mean, what is wrong with me?!?!? Time to get off my butt!

  18. Carl: yeah, what is wrong with you? :P You'll love this book for sure!


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