Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

I didn't know what I was actually picking up when I checked out Neil Gaiman's fairy tale, The Sleeper and the Spindle. Earlier this week, I mentioned his quote, "I like stories where women save themselves", and he was talking about fairy tales. The Sleeper and the Spindle, illustrated by Chris Riddell, has a couple unexpected twists, which I will not cover in this review.

Three dwarfs, who had once lived with a queen, set out on a journey to buy silk for the young woman who was about to marry. But, the day before her wedding, the dwarfs returned to tell her that that world was falling asleep. It all seemed to stem from an old enchantment. Now, people throughout the neighboring kingdoms were falling under that enchantment, or plague, or whatever you wanted to call it. Only the spiders seem unaffected. They continued to spin webs, which now covered the people.

The young queen, who was worried she would no longer have choices once she married, made a couple decisions. She postponed her wedding; sent her people out of her kingdom to avoid the enchantment; donned her mail shirt, and along with her horse and the three dwarves, set out to break the enchantment.

The illustrations are beautiful, accompanying an account of a quest. There are creepy pictures of people covered in cobwebs, dead people walking with the queen, and sleeping people, almost zombies, following the small group to the castle.

I'll end there. The queen and her companions find a way through the thorn bushes that have grown up around the castle. Of course, they do. But, Gaiman's story has a couple twists within that castle. And, it wouldn't do justice to the author or the story to relate those twists.

Instead, I'll urge anyone who is looking for an unusual fairy tale, or one in which the adventure belongs to the queen, to pick up The Sleeper and the Spindle. The only caution is that this a young adult story. As with so many fairy tales, it's not really meant for children. It's meant for those of us who understand fairy tales enough to appreciate the odd twists. Beautiful book by an author and illustrator.

Neil Gaiman's website for younger readers is Adult readers can also check out

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman. Harper, 2013. ISBN 9780062398246 (hardcover).

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Kaye Barley said...


Lesa said...

Oh, it's wonderful, Kaye!