Fairy tales, Romanian folklore, and enchanted frogs come together in Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier which was published by Knopf in 2007. In this retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” a young woman must accept change in her life as she travels from her world to the fairies’ Dancing Glade in the Other Kingdom.
For many years now, Jena has traveled to another world at every full moon with her four sisters and her enchanted frog, Gogu. They dance in the Other Kingdom with the strange, beautiful fairy folk and return to their own world every morning. But things begin to change when the Night People join the Dancing Glade and when Jena’s father leaves her in charge of their home and business.
“I’ve always believed we should try to put bad things behind us—not to forget them, but to learn from them and make the best use of that learning in our lives. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t blame Draguta or the folk of the forest. It’s your life—the only one who can live it is you.”
Jena’s perfectly ordered world spirals out of control when her older sister falls in love with one of the Night People, when her cousin takes control of her home, and when tensions rise between the people of the valley and the wildwood folk. As Jena tries to help those she loves, she finds that she may have to seek aid from the wildwood witch, Draguta.
“What we ask of you is simply the recognition of change, Jena. Yours is a world of constant change. You must learn to change, too. You spend a great deal of time worrying about others: trying to put their lives right, trying to shape your world as you believe it should be. You must learn to trust your instincts, or you are doomed to spend your life blinding by duty while beside you a wondrous tree sprouts and springs up and buds and blooms, and your heart takes no comfort from it, for you cannot raise your eyes to see it.”
Book Group Questions
- Jena struggles to control all of the changes that occur in her life and that of her sisters’. How does her need for control dissipate by the end of the book? How does she learn to let go and change?
- Looking back on the book, what were some of the clues given that showed that Gogu was actually Costi?
- How much of Cezar’s anger do you believe was fueled at himself?
- Examine the tenuous relationship of the villagers from the “real” world and the folk of the wildwood. How is this relationship balanced, and how does it get unbalanced?