Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 421
The day when Krabat is taken by his master the miller to the court of the Elector at Dresden is the only time that he sees the miller's sinister power in action on a national scale; mysteriously translated into court dress and speech, the lad discusses the course of the war with others while the Master, by his magic arts, dissuades the Elector from considering peace terms with Sweden. The Thirty Years War serves to date the story, to lend distance and to emphasise the Master's nature, but [The Satanic Mill] is not an historical tale. In its direct idiom and haunting detail and above all in its motifs it derives straight from folk lore. The Master has no Christian name, the Devil is identified by the ironic nickname of 'The Goodman', the Dark Stones and the 'sign' are terrifyingly unspecific. And at bottom is the theme of so much folk lore—love and sincerity and innocence defeating evil after a testing time that brings the good near to destruction. (p. 2075)
It is the essence of folk tale to be anonymous and yet circumstantial. This narrative is compelling in the most literal sense. The hero is threatened by hidden evil; he is innocent, he is brave; the reader is held by the need to know what happens to him, in spite of the assurance that in folk tale, if not in reality, good does in the end prevail. But, all the way along, apprehension and excitement are held within bounds by the sure placing of detail…. [Sharp] concrete description all the time fixes the tale in its own reality while it deepens the feeling of timeless mystery…. The subtlety of the tale is especially evident in the creation of individuals—not the generalised characters of folk tale but journeymen sharply differentiated, from steady, quiet Tondo to Juro, who seems so clumsy and stupid, and smooth Lyshko, who reports the least sign of insubordination to his Master. Above all, the Master is drawn not as a totally black character but as a man whose own servitude to a great power, hinted at but never explained, is more terrible than anything suffered by his servants. To allusions and associations that are strongly traditional the author has added his own commentary on a situation which readers may interpret as they will. They will hardly avoid being stirred by this brilliant reworking of old mystery and magic. (pp. 2075-76)
Margery Fisher, "Special Review: 'The Satanic Mill'," in her Growing Point, Vol. 11, No. 7, January, 1973, pp. 2075-76.