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Iron John
     

Iron John

by Marianna Mayer, Winslow Pels (Illustrator), Winslow Pinney Pels (Illustrator)
 

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When the mysterious and feared creature known as Iron John is captured from an enchanted wood, young Prince Hans is more fascinated than frightened. He sets Iron John free and runs away with him to start a new life filled with heroism, romance, and self-discovery. Drawing on the Grimm tale and on ancient myths, Marianna Mayer weaves a resonant story of friendship

Overview

When the mysterious and feared creature known as Iron John is captured from an enchanted wood, young Prince Hans is more fascinated than frightened. He sets Iron John free and runs away with him to start a new life filled with heroism, romance, and self-discovery. Drawing on the Grimm tale and on ancient myths, Marianna Mayer weaves a resonant story of friendship between a courageous boy and his adoptive father. Lush illustrations and medieval-inspired design create a picture of the wildwood beyond compare.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Adopting a storyteller's voice for the narration of this bewitching tale, Mayer (Pegasus) skillfully weaves together the essence of several Wild Man myths. Here, Merlin takes on the guise of Iron John, who "lived among the animals in the woodland as their protector." Pels's (previously paired with Mayer for Turandot) dense paintings evoke medieval tapestries. The tendriled elegance of the fronds and ferns in the forest where Iron John dwells pulls readers into this mysterious world. Rabbits, squirrels and deer in fur that perfectly camouflages them against the trees reinforce the "mantle of invisibility" cast over the forest. Yet the Wild Man himself is not completely safe. One of the king's trappers captures him, and he is kept in a cage at the castle until the king's young son, Hans, sets him free--in innumerable ways. Mayer subtly works in the drawbacks of Iron John's seemingly idyllic life: "But alas, there are consequences for such profound protection, for the forest ceased to grow and now stood frozen in time." Only through Hans's maturation and example does the Wild Man find balance between seclusion and society. Pels reflects these changes in Iron John's portraits: early on in the book, the Wild Man appears almost unsightly. But as the man's relationship with Hans causes him to soften his own view of the world, his image in the artwork softens, too. By the close of the book, Iron John is restored to his former regal figure, complete with robes and crown the color of his verdant forest. A captivating take on an age-old story. Ages 5-up. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Inspired by numerous literary sources reaching back to the twelfth century Vita Merlini, this tale is equally the story of the young prince Hans, and of the wild man of the forest from whom he learns so much. Pels's lush images lend grace to a narrative that reads well at levels both literal and metaphorical. The proposal scene seems a trifle contrived, but on the whole, Hans is a convincing protagonist, and the kingdoms both wild and royal have a mythic quality appropriate to the story. Story note and sources are included.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4 In this lush retelling of a lesser-known Grimm fairy tale, young Prince Hans leaves his palace home to accompany a gentle savage called Iron John into an enchanted woods. While living with him, Hans learns the importance of all living creatures and begins to think of the man as a second father. Unfortunately, the boy's impulsive behavior costs him his idyllic existence when he disobeys Iron John three times. Forced to leave the woods, the prince makes his own way in the world, eventually coming upon another kingdom. Once there, he falls in love with the king's beautiful daughter and earns her love by proving his bravery. This is a highly enjoyable tale for modern readers and Mayer's masterful narrative abilities are in full evidence here. Pels's dramatic paintings add to the power of the story and accentuate its lyricism, while providing their own elegant charm. Melissa Hudak, Northern Illinois Medical Center, McHenry, IL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780688115555
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/29/1999
Pages:
40
Product dimensions:
9.42(w) x 12.26(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Marianna Mayer lives in Roxbury, Connecticut.

"I see folktales and myths as humankind's first stories," says Marianna Mayer. "They are a kind of collective dreaming, filled with timeless symbols and images we can all relate to, regardless of age or culture. And, much as an oyster must be disturbed by a grain of sand in order for the pearl to be created, I often choose to retell stories in which I find unresolved fragments that are somehow perplexing to me."

Though widely known as a children's book writer, Marianna Mayer's early education focused on visual art. "It seems to me there was never a time when I didn't want to be an artist, " she says. "I liked to tell stories with pictures and compose music. My sister and I put on plays made up from my stories. And then I decided to start writing a book, at the age of nine." She published her first book at the age of nineteen. After college, she studied painting at the Art Students League in New York City. Her experiences as an artist provided many images that she began to incorporate into writing. Gradually, she shifted to the written word as a medium of expression. She explains, "I began to feel more freedom when using words as my paints and plots as my canvases.

"While in the midst of a writing project, I live so much in my mind that what takes place in my imagination becomes quite real to me. I try to become part of the culture of a particular tale as much as possible. While working on Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave, for example, I read all I could about Russia. What I learned about Slavic mythology helped to deepen my understanding of the story. I listened to Russian music, ate Russian food (which I love!), and tried in other small ways to enter into the essence of that culture."

"My writing is deeply personal. First and foremost I write for the child who still lives within me. Then to the child in others, whether that child resides in a young person or an adult. I'm striving to reach out to that spirit of wonder within us all. The stories I was told as a child, those half-remembered folktales and myths, have become the foundation for what I continue to work on in my books. The sense of hope that books instilled in me as a child saw me through many difficult times. Because of this, I choose characters who face overwhelming odds but triumph through courage and perseverance. Similarly, myth allows a child to believe in his or her own dreams and can instill a boundless hope for the future."

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