The Three Wishes

The Three Wishes
Alan Snow
Pavilion Books

Rooted in a northern folk tale, this is a story of hope and kindness about the origins of Father Christmas. It tells of some nomadic people (Sami perhaps) living in the far north. The adults mostly forage and hunt while the children’s role (alongside playing) is to tend the deer.

One winter as the solstice approaches, in one particular family, the task of feeding the deer falls on the elder boy. A job he does reluctantly on account of his fear of the dark, until one day he discovers that all the deer are gone: without them how will his family survive?

Out into the silent forest runs the boy searching but it’s not long before as the snow falls ever faster, he realises that he’s lost. He struggles on until he’s near exhaustion but as he lays on the snow with sleep coming on him, he hears a sound. It’s a reindeer bell; the boy struggles to his feet and follows the sound until he finds the reindeer clustered around a cave entrance. The boy follows the deer inside the cave and suddenly finds himself in a timeless summer world where he’s confronted by three creatures.

They explain that he can never return to his home as this place must be kept secret. They grant him three wishes. He chooses freedom, happiness, and time. At the end of the year, they offer him a reward for his good work.

He’s then allowed to return to the outer world to visit his family, but only in the dead of winter each year, and on each visit, he leaves them a gift.
After three years, the bird, impressed by the boy’s love for his folks, offers him four feathers from its tail, tying them to the harness of the deer.

Their magic allows the deer to fly and one year, anticipating his visit, the family leaves a special set of new red clothes for their visitor …

The author has cleverly structured his story with the elements of gift giving, flying reindeer and a red suit being gradually interwoven into the enchanting narrative,

until we eventually realise where it’s all going. Snow’s illustrations are superb – beautifully designed and composed be they contained within intricate borders or not. I love the colour palette contrast between the eternal summer world and the chilly winter outside.

This is a delightful book to share over the festive season, perhaps sitting by a fire on a cold evening sipping a favourite hot drink.

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