Muffler, found in a hen's nest and given to two childless villagers to raise, is expected to tend the goats, but his claims to understand the language of animals arouse derisive doubts from his neighbors as well as contemptuous charges of being dreamy or poetic. Via Grimbold the cat. Muffler finds a place in the other world, the night world, peopled by animals who doubt his capacities until he proves himself; the boy grows more confident as he notices how to pass through the ""gap"" between one world and the other. He also finds a friend in Gareth, a sorcerer's son usually under his father's spell. His adventures take him on a search for an invisible canary, to dragons and dwarfs who believe men are fantastic creatures, to a unicorn, and also to the palace of a Queen mourning these 500 years for her lost son. Muffler and Gareth (and the reader) know about Jeffrey, the missing prince, because Sable the sorcerer imprisoned him in the night world for his lute-playing talents; magic enables Jeffrey to return to his royal mother, and Muffler responds to his goats' plea to return to them. At times overt enunciation of the fantasy obviates the sense of mystery (the night world is where ""you are what you seem to yourself"") and the transition often happens without ease; the Other World's imaginative but familiar and Muffler lacks quiet finesse.