Monday, 3 March 2014

Review. The sailor-boy's tale

     Isak Dinesen’s “The Sailor-Boy’s Tale” was first published in 1942 in Winter’s Tales, a collection of short stories. It is narrated in the style of a fairy tale, a fact that is marked both by the word “tale” used in the title, enlightening the reader as to accept the possibility of strange and unlikely events, and by the ending line “ Simon lived to tell the story”.

     Simon, a young sailor boy, rescues a falcon which was tangled in the ropes of the main mast of a ship. Two years later, Simon is working in a different ship and he goes ashore at a port town on the northern coast of Norway. There he meets Nora, a very young girl who promises to give him a kiss if he comes back the next day. Unfortunately the next day he accidentally kills Ivan, a Russian sailor who he had known some days before. Simon runs to Nora, who gives him the promised kiss. When he is being pursued by some men, Sunniva appears to help him. She is an old woman who explains Simon that she herself was the falcon he had rescued and that now she is rescuing him in return. One particular strength of the book is the supernatural element that appears in the teenager’s life, struggling in the dangerous and unpredictable world of sailors.

     However, if you are not a devoted reader of sailors’ tales, don’t be put off by the title. The story does more than simply trace the story of a young sailor: it provides a fascinating insight into the coming of age of a teenager who goes through a rite of passage to make the transition from boyhood to manhood.

     “The Sailor-Boy Tale’s” is an excellent read. It is both beautifully written and entertaining and I would highly recommend the story to anyone interested in fantastic tales.

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