TALES OF THE EARLY WORLD by Ted Hughes

TALES OF THE EARLY WORLD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the tradition of Kipling's Just So Stories – elegantly playful pourquoi tales – Britain's poet laureate offers ten witty stories about the Creation, with God as an industrious, imaginative inventor who sometimes leaves an animal unfinished when he's tired at the end of a day. Leading readers on with engaging details like the uses to which God puts various spare parts (too weary to wash after the effort of making Elephant, he picks the remaining clay from his hands to make another, tiny, trunk, which becomes a worm), Hughes creates a unique genesis-time when potent symbols masquerade as humorous circumstances described in a supple style that would be almost colloquial if it were less adroit. There is no Garden of Eden here, and no snake; but bit by bit the sources of trouble are insinuated: Eel discovers the price of being the sweetest fish; God arms the animals against a threatened invader that turns out to be fleas; and, in the stunning penultimate story, evil is born as a result of God's inattention: he creates "Leftovers" from odds and ends of bad weather, ravenous hunger, flowers, and "even a tiny lump of sun." It's Leo who is later diverted from his greedy depredations with a crown – but only temporarily. Like Pandora's box, the last story offers hope, here in the form of conjugal love between two delicately graceful mice. Resonant, fascinating; to read aloud, again and again.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-374-37377-9
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1991




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