In 1991, Charles de Lint was one of four writers invited by the artist Brian Froud to participate in a wonderfully creative project. Brian Froud had painted a series of paintings called “Faerielands,” and he invited these four authors to pick a painting and write a book based on it:
“The writers divided the images among them, choosing the ones they were most drawn to, and then they each went away to write the story the pictures whispered to them.”
“They had the freedom to write whatever they chose, just as I’d had the freedom to paint what I chose; yet we’d agreed on a central premise: a recognition that Faerie, inextricably bound as it is to nature and natural forces, is gravely threatened by the ecological crises that human beings have brought to our world.”
The painting above inspired Charles de Lint to write The Wild Wood, a story about a young painter, Eithnie, who is struggling to recover from some painful personal losses in her life, and also regain the inspiration and creative spark missing from her most recent work. She returns to her secluded cabin to paint in the solitude and beauty of the Canadian woods, but finds that strange creatures keep showing up in her sketches and in her dreams. Eithnie is somehow connected to the world of Faerie, and she is needed. Her healing process is tied directly to the needs of the forest, and the survival of the world of Faerie depends on her decisions.
I loved the main character whose emotional landscape was so sensitively and honestly described by Charles de Lint. I have to agree with a quote I found from Canada’s book magazine, Quill and Quire:
De Lint’s greatest skill is his human focus—the mythic elements never overshadow his intimate study of character. To read de Lint is to fall under the spell of a master storyteller, to be reminded of the greatness of life, of the beauty and majesty lurking in shadows and empty doorways.
And I also loved the way he made it so easy to believe completely in the existence of the magical world of Faerie. He blurred the lines between our reality and that world, and in doing so showed the interconnectedness of everything in nature. It was a positive book, with a very simple, but important message:
“Whatever we do makes a difference,” Eithnie said. “Doesn’t matter how small our efforts might seem to us, it’ll still make a difference.”
This book is one of Charles de Lint’s early works, and the first of his books I’ve read. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to read more of his work!