Charles Perrault's "Donkeyskin," included in his 1697 collection Histoires et contes du temps passe (Histories and Tales of Past Times), is unlikely to be made into a Disney movie anytime soon. This story of a girl who is raped by her father is seldom retold unedited. McKinley takes on this story in her moving depiction of Princess Lissla Lissar's journey to heal herself, body and soul. Although much has been made of the incest theme, the actual pursuit and assault take up little space in the novel. Deerskin is concerned primarily with the process of recovery, with taking back one's body and owning one's memories and emotions. Lissar is never truly alone. Her fleethound, Ash, is her constant companion and protector. She is also helped by the Moonwoman, a kind of fairy godmother who gives her healing gifts and watches over her. And at last, she finds friendship and love with Lilac and Ossin. The fairytale framework serves as a useful distancing device to discuss issues of relevance today. Although a painful read in places, Deerskin is ultimately a hopeful book, showing that one can not only survive but also heal grievous wounds of body and spirit.
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