Faerielands: The Wood Wife

Terri Windling is a writer, artist, editor and co-director of The Endicott Studio For Mythic Arts. She is also one of the four writers invited by Brian Froud to participate in a special project based on his artwork called Faerielands. Her contribution to this very creative project was The Wood Wife, which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in 1997.

The Wood Wife is a story of a poet who is bequeathed the home and works of a fellow poet she has long admired, but never met. After his mysterious death, and this strange bequest, she moves to his home in the desert near Tucson, Arizona, and begins to read his papers and learn more about his life, and death. She soon discovers that the desert is rich with magical beings and mysteries, and that, as Goethe said:

“Who wants to understand the poem
Must go to the land of poetry.”

I really liked this book and enjoyed how the story, filled with the mythology and folklore of the southwestern desert cultures, and infused with art and poetry, tied in with Froud’s Faerielands project:

“…that Faerie, inextricably bound as it is to nature and natural forces, is gravely threatened by the ecological crises that human beings have brought to our world.”

Terri Windling included lots of wonderful poetry in this book (poems written by Borges, Rilke, and Neruda!), and wrote beautiful descriptions of the artwork of both real and fictional painters. And her descriptions of the desert itself were lovely. She is an exceptional scholar and artist herself, so I was as fascinated by the author as by the story she told.

Once again, this Faerielands series is a wonderful exploration of art, nature, myth, and the need for all of us to become better caretakers of the environment in which we live. It all reminds me of a wise statement I read recently from a Crow elder:

You know, I think if people stay somewhere long enough – even white people – the spirits will begin to speak to them. It’s the power of the spirits coming from the land. The spirits and the old powers aren’t lost, they just need people to be around long enough and the spirits will begin to influence them.
— a Crow elder 

I read this book for Carl V’s Once Upon a Time 2 reading challenge. He has also just read The Wood Wife and posted an excellent review, full of information about Terri Windling, and with lots of detail about the story, so I urge you to visit his blog and read his excellent post.

“Creativity is an expression of gratitude and a celebration of a place.”
–Gary Snyder
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9 thoughts on “Faerielands: The Wood Wife

  1. heather (errantdreams)

    How utterly lovely—Windling’s book is going straight onto my wishlist. Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve always loved Froud’s work.

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  2. Nymeth

    Ohh, Borges and Neruda! You all have me itching to read this one. I have it on my Mythopoeic Award Challenge list and hope to get to it sooner rather than later.

    Thank you for the lovely review 🙂

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  3. DesLily

    hmmmm I sent for this book thinking it had much to do with indian lore… but now you say there’s a lot of poetry which is nothing I like… bummer… well I should have waited for a few more reviews before sending for it! darn! ah well.. thankfully disappointments are few and far between!!

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  4. Robin

    Thanks, Heather. I’ve read some of Terri Windling’s essays on The Endicott Studio web site, and liked them very much, but I hadn’t read any of her fiction. It was an enjoyable read.

    Nymeth, I can understand why it won the Mythopoeic Award. It was a very enjoyable read.

    Don’t let the poetry put you off, Deslily. It has a lot of Indian lore in it, so I think you would actually enjoy it. The main character is a poet, so the poetry is there, but the selections are very short and really add to the story.

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  5. Carl V.

    I second what Robin says about the poetry, Deslily. The book doesn’t have long stretches of poetry, it just references poets, poems, artists, and art in lovely, lyrical ways. There is a much heavier emphasis on Native American culture/folklore/mythology by comparison. If you are interested in that I cannot help but think you will enjoy this book.

    Great review Robin, I’m so glad you enjoyed it as well. I am posting links to all the Once Upon a Time II reviews of this book in my review post and I’ve just added yours.

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  6. Dark Orpheus

    Oh, I’m about 240 pages into the Wood Wife this morning. I love how the story just ties in with art and magic. I find myself enjoying the book very much.

    In fact it makes me want to go pick up Neruda and Brian Froud’s artbooks. Isn’t it wonderful when books can do that to you?

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  7. Rhinoa

    I have this on my OUAT Challenge list too and am really looking forward to reading it. I haven’t read any of her writing before, but love the anthologies I have read that her and Ellen Datlow have edited.

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  8. Robin

    Thanks, Carl. What a nice idea to include a link to all the different reviews of this book. I’m looking forward to reading all those reviews.

    Dark Orpheus, I’m looking forward to reading your review of it. I went to the library in search of some of Froud’s books and am enjoying looking at his artwork this week.

    Rhinoa, I’m looking forward to your review of this book, too! I’ve been very impressed with Terri Windling’s essays on the Endicott web site. I particularly liked her essay on J.M. Barrie and Peter Pan. I haven’t read any of the anthologies, but I’m putting them on the list!

    Danielle, you should check out the illustrations included in Carl’s Friday Favorites post this week, if you haven’t already seen it. There are some beautiful ones there, and big enough to really look at them closely.

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