The Boy Who Plaited Manes by Nancy Springer
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Length: Short Story (11 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender
When a young man mysteriously shows up in the stables of Lord Robley and demonstrates an amazing ability to braid horse manes and tails, the Lord and Lady are quite taken with his abilities and have him stay on. Sure, he doesn’t speak a single word and there’s truly something odd about him, but his talents at braiding are second to none. When the Lady finds herself in need of the man’s skills for her own head of hair, the situation is looked upon as a bit scandalous, but nobody is prepared for the outcome that befalls them as a result.
A dark, little fairy tale, a story with a strange but likeable hero, The Boy Who Plaited Manes has a magical style to the way it’s told.
The setting seems to be Medieval, taking place in a stable and a manor house. The hero is of an indiscriminate age, but young. He doesn’t talk, doesn’t show expression, and doesn’t do much except his job. So what’s the deal with him? He has an unworldly talent to plait the manes of the horses under his care with a beauty that defies belief. The horses rest easy under his talented hands as he works his magic. The groom doesn’t like him. He doesn’t give him the pay owed him or even decent clothes for the winter, but the boy never complains. It’s assumed he’s mute. The groom’s continued bad feelings toward the boy create a sense of foreboding.
The young wife of the manor lord is bored. Her main purpose is to look beautiful. When her maid gets smallpox, the lady is unsatisfied with the way the other maids try to do her hair. So, she gets an idea. She has the talented stable boy work on her hair. Of course, he does a fantastic job, day after day, continuing with the task when the lady’s maid died of her disease.
Then, the story takes a surprising turn. The lady seduces the boy. He’s a good lover but then turns to her and says something shocking. Who even knew he could talk? But his words alarm the lady, coming from such a gentle person.
The whole while, this is all expressed with a beautiful writing style, just like the tales of old that flowed with a sense of underlying magic. This story is so well written and otherworldly. Fans of a very fast, suspenseful read will enjoy this book. I did.