word craft


Story Behind the Story #34: Perloo the Bold

RedwallNow here is a top­ic for some­one (not me) to write about: Books writ­ten for a spe­cif­ic child. There are quite a few. You can start with Alice in Won­der­land.

My son, Robert, was an avid ski­er and a very fine one. He was also a read­er. There was a time when he was read­ing the Red­wall series by British writer, Bri­an Jacques, and was deeply involved in the books. Good books they are, and Mr. Jacques, whom I met a cou­ple of times, was quite charming.

Now, I liked the Red­wall books, too, but I asked myself this ques­tion: Why do so many of our fan­ta­sy books lean so heav­i­ly on Euro­pean folk tales? The Grimm Broth­ers sto­ries and all that are won­der­ful to be sure, but they are Euro­pean. Noth­ing wrong with that, but could there not be fan­ta­sy based on—so to speak—the Amer­i­can land­scape? Might such a tale be attrac­tive to Robert?

Perloo the BoldThe result was Per­loo the Bold. Here we have, osten­si­bly the Rocky Mountains—snow-covered, of course—along with Mont­mers, rab­bit-like crea­tures, with very long feet—so they can ski. Then there are the Fel­barts, coy­ote-like villains.

(Where did the name Per­loo come from? I have no idea.) There is also the philo­soph­i­cal mus­ings of Mog­wat the Mag­pie, whose teach­ings include such say­ings as, “If you learn to know your ene­my before you hate him, you may learn not to have an ene­my.” And, “Life is giv­en. The rest one gives oneself.”

And Robert was there to pro­vide tech­ni­cal help on aspects of skiing.

Per­loo the Bold is not epic fantasy—nothing to com­pare to such a work as The Fel­low­ship of the Ring. Indeed, the cli­mac­tic scene here revolves around a snow­ball fight. But as some­times hap­pen when a book is writ­ten to give plea­sure to one child—which it did—it attracts others—which it did.

It was also fun to write. Not all books are like that.

9 thoughts on “Story Behind the Story #34: Perloo the Bold”

    • Avi, Per­loo is ALWAYS one of my stu­dents’ favorite books of the year! They beg for a sequel or a movie. 🙂 They’ve reen­act­ed it in a play for­mat, and they’ve quot­ed Mogwat/Perloo for months after read­ing this beloved book. Thank you to Robert for inspir­ing it and to you for writ­ing it!

      • Well, I’m work­ing at about half speed these days due to the time I’m spend­ing help­ing out with the grand­ba­bies. But that is time well spent, and I’m still mov­ing for­ward. Hope all is well with you, my friend!

  1. Just redis­cov­ered this book after quite a few years. I’m 27 now and about to start my clin­i­cal year of vet­eri­nary school. Is it any won­der that I loved sto­ries of anthro­po­mor­phic ani­mals grow­ing up?


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