IRON JOHN by Marianna Mayer


Age Range: 5 - 9
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PLB 0-688-11555-1 The Iron John legend, probably best known in its incarnation as the Grimms’ tale of Iron Hans, is handed a significant tinkering by Mayer, to give it new ethical dimensions. The bones of the tale remain, still ripe for Freudian interpretation, of the King’s son who frees the wildman from imprisonment and goes to live with him in the wildwood; he is sent away days later, only to learn that years have passed, finds work at a castle, becomes a mysterious knight, marries the princess, and lives happily ever after. To make him a thoroughly modern man (in this story, the boy’s name is Hans), Mayer has him ask for the protection of the wildwood, thus demonstrating his environmental awareness. And when Iron John appears at the end of the story, it is not simply to bestow great wealth upon Hans—“Riches mean little to me”—but to praise his adopted son as an exemplar of generosity and kindness. The story is energized by good pacing and unadorned language, while the artwork is as robust as the wildman himself. For young feminists, Hans’s proposal will please: “I wish for your daughter’s love, but this cannot be given as a prize. It is hers to give freely or not at all.” The message of the peaceable kingdom is not subtle, but it is worthy. (Picture book/folklore. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1999
ISBN: 0-688-11554-3
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1999