Subtitle: The Thing Beneath the Bed
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Release date: July 2010
This is not a book for children. It looks like a children's book. It has pictures. It has a saccharine-sweet title. The main characters are a little girl and her teddy bear. But all of that is just protective coloration. The truth is, this is a book for adults with a dark sense of humor and an appreciation of old-school faerie tales. There are three separate endings to the book. Depending on where you stop, you are left with an entirely different story. One ending is sweet, another is horrible. The last one is the true ending, the one with teeth in it. "The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle" is a dark twist on the classic children's picture-book. I think of it as Calvin and Hobbes meets Coraline, with some Edward Gorey mixed in. Simply said: This is not a book for children.
Take it from the original fairy tales, where toes were cut off and hearts ripped out without mercy - there are fairy tales, and then there are children’s books. Some are both these things, but some are not. This is forgotten all too often, especially if the tale in question is illustrated. For some reason, both illustration and animation are deemed childish and safe-for-work more often than they should. Maybe it’s the years of children cartoons, maybe it’s Disney’s influence. Well, no matter. Both these facts stand true: that picture books tend to be regarded as children’s books – and that Rothfuss’s take on them should not be left about for children to find. Such is the nature of this one.
Oh, yes, it starts well. A child princess, a teddy bear, and their imaginary adventures. Stuffed animal wars, cakes and tea, building forts... a kid's way of living. Who didn't have both friends and foes made out of fur and wild imagination when they were little? Who didn't have to check under the bed for some kind of boogie man of their own? However, do not be tricked into sharing your nostalgia with the younger members of the family. A dark-tinged tale, "The Adventures of the Princess and Mr Whiffles" is home to the proverbial thing beneath the bed, and as it turns out, there might be more creatures with teeth along the way. The child princess can end up being much more than you imagine. A heroine. A scared child. Well... it’s the reader’s pick really. In other words, yours. There are three stories in one, after all. I advise you to read each of the endings at a different occasion, every time reading through the book until that point where you want to stop.
Additionally, this book is a work of art in itself. Not only the writing - though it’s well known that every word coming out of Patrick Rothfuss’s mind is art - but also visually. Nate Taylor’s concept was an incredible addition to the story, not only because it’s adorable but also because everything, from the post-bed to Mr. Whiffles’s vacant expression, is remarkably fitting. I would risk to say even more - I’d say the art is flattering to a point where this work could not exist without it. If Rothfuss’s words are the soul of the story, Taylor’s drawings are the perfect body, which shape grants the words freedom to grow bigger, louder. It makes them more meaningful, precisely because you can see the contrast between seemingly innocent details and the words next to them. Go on, try it then. Flip the book to look at the drawings. Just the drawings. It’s pretty, It’s witty. Probably not all that dark, actually. Read the book. Now look closer. Does the princess look all that naive to you? Is the idea of a thing beneath the bed that scary, or is the fact that that long arm with more joints than it should have, stretching, stretching, in drawn form, that makes it worse, in the end?
You can go on this adventure however you like. Envision the story, change it, turn it upside down. It will bemuse and amuse you. With a deliciously dark story and art to match, this is a book all adults with a wicked sense of humour should want on their shelves.
Now, how would you rather have it? A happy ending? A terrifying one? Or would you rather end it with a twist after all?
The book in a quote
"Its skin was greenish-greyish-brownish. The princess thought it was prickly like a nettle, or scaly like a fish, or slimy like a frog. But it was actually soft, like velvet, so the Thing never made any noise at all when it moved."