Luis S S من عند Kongkhang, Manipur, الهند
Peronnique (or Peronnik as he is more commonly known) is a poor orphan with no home. But he does have courage, ingenuity and common sense. When he hears that the wicked and powerful sorcerer Rogear has stolen a magical lance and cup from the king, he plans to defeat Rogear and retrieve the king's stolen treasures from Kerglas Castle (although he has been warned that countless knights have failed in this very endeavor). Peronnique (by Monique Michel-Dansac, although I am not entirely sure wether she is both author and illustrator, or just the illustrator, my library copy was translated from the French, I believe, by Roseanna Hoover) is considered to be a Breton grail story, a tale where the hero is a simple, but sensible, clever boy, and not the usual knight of noble birth. According to the brief and rather sparse notes located on the side flaps of the dust cover (and my own independent research on the internet, as the former did not provide nearly enough information to satisfy my own folkloric interest), the story originated amongst the Celtic peoples of Brittany and was first recorded in the early part of the 19th century by Émile Souvestre (it is included in Souvestre's Le Foyer Breton: Contes et Récits Populaires and most other versions of the Peronnik story, including The Castle of Kerglas from Andrew Lang's The Lilac Fairy Book seem to be based on Émile Souvestre's version of the tale). There is actually some doubt wether the story of Peronnik should even be considered an actual folktale, as some critics have speculated wether the tale might have been, in fact, invented by Émile Souvestre. For most scholars however, the story of Peronnik is considered to be a "primitive" Breton version of the Parsifal tale (although Peronnik does not make the same types of mistakes as the latter, he is much less of a "fool" than Parsifal). While in other interpretations of the tale, Peronnique future career as a knight (maybe even a grail knight) is described in detail, this version just alludes to that future at the very end, as most of the story concentrates on Peronnique's quest to retrieve the lance and cup. Peronnique is basically a typical hero's quest story (a grail quest). A simple, but courageous, witty and above all sensible young orphan succeeds in overcoming seven (notice the magic number seven) deadly obstacles on his way to Kerglas Castle, and most of these magical obstacles are surmounted not by the use of magic, but by intelligence, cleverness and just plain common sense. What I have always found rather surprising is that the sorcerer Rogear is quite mundane and for the most part completely inactive. He relies almost entirely on the protection of his magical obstacles and does not even consider that Peronnique (and by extension Lady Pest) might be the instrument(s) of his downfall and demise (which might also be of course related to Rogear's own sense of false superiority). Rogear might thus be a supernatural opponent, but an opponent who fails when faced with and confronted by simple, non magical cleverness (Rogear's magic cannot save him because he cannot fathom that simple common sense, that a young boy and a woman, could defeat him, could be a danger to him). Thus, the ferocious lion with his mane of poisonous serpents is defeated not by magic, but by his own curiosity (he sticks his head into the bag of feathers and glue Peronnique has prepared), and Peronnique overcomes the urge to eat the magical, but deadly food spread out in front of him by filling his nose with the scent of rancid, evil-smelling grease. I had a copy of this (in German translation) when I was a child. Called Florian und der Zauberer in German (Florian and the Magician), it was one of my very favourite picture books (one of my very favourite folktales), mostly because Florian (Peronnique, Peronnik) was able to use his wits and common sense to achieve his goals, that he was able to defeat a powerful sorcerer without making use of hardly any magic. However for me, the figure of Lady Pest (she of the deadly touch, who finally kills the magician Rogear after he has been made mortal by eating the apple of mortality, which is interesting in and of itself, as more often than not, one reads about apples of inmortality) was and is even more special, even more poignant a character. Lady Pest clearly demonstrates a positive female fairy and folktale role, and although her touch is deadly, she is not forbidding, she is not an object or agent of evil. However, I have always felt and even today feel more than a bit sorry for her (it must be painfully difficult to be cursed with and by a deadly touch, she can never receive even a simple handshake); I have always loved the figure of Lady Pest, but she and her role have always saddened me somewhat as well (I often wish that she could have lost her deadly touch, that she might have become Peronnique's foster mother or companion). About the illustrations, I loved these as a child and still find them wonderful and massively appealing (they are both colourful and expressive and look delightfully 70ish, especially the hairdos of Lady Pest and Peronnique). They are a perfect complement to and mirror of the text, although some of the depictions, such as the lion with its snaking hair might be a bit frightening for younger children (who might also be somewhat taken aback by Lady Pest's green countenance). I would probably recommend this book, this story, for children above the age of six or seven. The text is easy enough to understand and the themes of death and potential danger notwithstanding, not all that frightening. There is however, quite a lot of narrative and some of the words and expressions might be a bit advanced for very young children.