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The Gnole Hardcover – December 1, 1999
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I have just ordered a copy since I now have a child that is at the right age for this book and I want to read it to her. Hopefully is sparks her imagination the same way it did mine all those years ago.
Fungle the Gnole is the ultimate new age environmental Dalai Lama. He's a laughing rustic who benignly cuts through pretensions. Almost (but not quite) cloying sentimentality in presenting the beatific integration with nature, various spirits of the wood, and with the simple community. Also a background something akin to the sadness of the Elves gradually giving over to the teaming nature-despoiling chaotic spread of humanity.
Starts setting up a standard fantasy baddie-goodie sorcery story (although the baddie is more from the horror genre, being a demon and all - a strength of the book is its underlying pantheon), then cuts to a million pop-culture references as Fungle encounters TV personalities and evil covert Govt. departments. Some OK playing with the innocent's alternative perspective on our everyday, but it's basically pretty self-indulgent.
But finally Aldridge lost me with his rough-diamond underground gangsters: we're supposed to enjoy their high spirits, but the fact that they enjoy throwing defenceless people to be torn to pieces by crocodiles as an afternoon's amusement made me unclear on the difference between them and the villain. Moreover one minute our hero can effortlessly use telepathy, astral travelling, levitation and sorcery, the next he's inexplicably running scared from any old security guard or mugger.
Some original ideas, generally capably presented, an OK overall plot/world, and some likeable central characters - but the book is inconsistent thematically and qualitatively. A bit lax in bothering for coherency: characters are added fairly randomly as we go on.
the philosophy of the book is one of respecting and cherishing nature. take only what you need and use what you take. be kind to all living things. respect others, show courtesy even when it is not shown to you.
briefly it is about a creature whose ancestors once populated the applachian mountains in the south-eastern us. they guarded knowledge until the time came for it to be used. now there are only two gnoles left there and they must stop some evil creatures from making use of the sacred knowledge to do harm.
a wonderful story for children of all ages. also the illustrations must be seen. i have seldom been so captivated. i heartily recommend this book to anyone, any age, any time, any place.
Aided by fellow gnole Neema Cleverbread and his loyal Gnome friend, Karbolic Earthcreep (Ka for short), as well as a host of other memorable characters, Fungle's journey into human civilization finds him undiscovered by man but, unxpectedly, becoming an instant global phenomenon beloved by the very species Gnoles are so wary of. Meanwhile Theverat, and his personal assasin Thorn, loom...
There's way more to the book than this, and I've said enough already. Suffice it to conclude by saying that this is one of the most magical, hilarious, spiritual, tragic, victorious and fantastical (yet eerily believable) books ever written. I pray there's a sequel someday.
Also recommended: the novel "Duncton Wood" by William Horwood (though I should point out it's pretty graphically traumatic in places; probably not for younger readers), the movies "Fairy Tale: A True Story", "Castle In The Sky" and "My Neighbor Totoro", and the video game "Ecco The Dolphin: Defender Of The Future".