Short Takes on Two Short Stories…

I don’t read many short stories, but this week, I’ve happened to read two …

The Small Miracleby Paul Gallico

Published in  1951, Gallico’s story is a charming fable of faith and love about an orphan boy Pepino, and his donkey Violette.

Pepino and Violette live in Assisi. They make ends meet by doing donkey work for everyone in the town. One day Violette is taken ill and the vet can’t help. Pepino goes to church to ask the priest if he can take Violette into the basilica of St Francis to pray for a cure. The Supervisor and Bishop forbid it, but Father Damico tells Pepino to ask the Pope, so off he goes to Rome …

Sweet, and with a light touch, this was a delightful tale. Unusually, it was published as a single illustrated story back then, and the charming drawings really help to show the spirit of St Francis alive in the love of Pepino for his donkey.  A charity shop find, it was well worth the 50p I paid.

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The Little Daughter of the Snow from Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome (pub 1916).

One of the books I’m looking forward to reading in the coming weeks is The Snow Childby Eowyn Ivey. It was inspired by this particular fairy tale from Ransome’s collected tellings of Russian fairy tales, (which I previously wrote about here). Before I embark on the new book, which everyone seems to love, and I’ve deliberately steered clear of reading too many details about, I thought I’d re-read the old tale, a mere ten pages, to set the scene for me…

In Ransome’s story, a childless old couple build a snow girl who comes to life. She is an elemental force, spending most of her time outside playing. But one day she gets lost in the forest.  A fox brings her home and think he’ll get a chicken as thanks, but the old couple plan to trick him out of his reward.  The snow girl melts away while telling them that they didn’t love her enough if they wouldn’t give away a chicken.

The cruel moral sting in the tail makes this one of the saddest in the collection.  I’m really looking forward to reading The Snow Child now!

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I bought my copies, to explore further on Amazon UK, click below:
The Small Miracle by Paul Gallico
Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome

12 thoughts on “Short Takes on Two Short Stories…

  1. Margaret @ BooksPlease says:

    After reading this post, Annabel, I just had to find my copy of The Small Miracle, which I’ve had for over 50 years (I can’t believe it’s been that long!). I found it! I loved it way back then (it cost 2s!) and I’m going to re-read it now. My copy is a soft back with a coloured illustration on the front and black and white line drawings inside – drawings by Edgar Norfield. Apparently there was also an edition available illustrated in colour by David Knight which at that time cost 10/6 – is that your copy?

  2. gaskella says:

    Mine has the Norfield drawings in an original hardback (reprint though not 1st ed). The whole thing was touching, and although not a comedy reminded me of my love of the Don Camillo books by Giovanni Guareschi – have you read them?

  3. savidgereads says:

    The Ransome story is in the UK (and probably all actually) edition of The Snow Child. I am so looking forward to your thoughts on Eowyn’s debut. As you like Ali Shaw I think you will love this… in fact why havent I linked the two on my blog? Silly me.

  4. gaskella says:

    Yes he did! A big contrast to all his stories about animals. I did love that film – the bit where Shelley Winters’s character says she was a champion swimmer … and promptly had a heart attack at the other side – *sobs*.

  5. Simon T says:

    I have the Gallico waiting for me – I love donkeys, so I’m hoping I’ll love the little book!

    And I cited Arthur Ransome’s story in my thesis the other day, although I haven’t actually read it!

    • gaskella says:

      Was the donkey sanctuary you visited a few weeks ago the one between Didcot and Wallingford? My daughter likes donkeys and I thought we’d go one weekend.

      Sounds like your thesis will be fascinating stuff! You’ll have to tell me more about it one day soon.

      • Simon T says:

        I’d love to 🙂
        And it might well be there – Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, it’s Island Donkey Farm, or something like that. Not the most glamorous of places, but donkey-filled!

  6. LizF says:

    The Snow Child has been on my list since I first saw it mentioned last year and is on request at the library (unless I see a really good offer on it somewhere of course)and I am now waiting (not very) patiently!
    I have read quite a few Paul Gallico stories but not this one so I will have to search it out as I love donkeys! Should I ever get my dream house in the country with enough land to keep animals, a couple of them will definitely be on my wish list!

    • gaskella says:

      I’ll be reading it next week Liz. I hope you get hold of a copy to read sooner rather than later as it sounds like this is a book that transcends the hype.

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