“She felt like one exiled from fairyland – a stranger in a world she didn’t know. It was all sliding away, going faster and faster as she tried to pursue it, to recover the lovely feeling of utter rightness, of unutterable, quiet joy that said without words all is well, everything is in place, this is how it is supposed to be. And then it was all gone beyond recall and the loss and the emptiness were more than she could bear.”
Pig Tale by Verlyn Flieger is a pretty intense GU story, unflinchingly showing the consequences of not belonging in a close-knit society, as well as recognizing the inexorable hand of fate even when it seems incredibly unfair. There are also some wonderful mythological undertones that are never fully explained, which actually gives it a more authentic and ancient feeling.
Mokie (meaning “pig girl” – she was never given a real name) was abandoned in a field as a baby, and is brought up reluctantly by villagers who think nothing of her. She is put to work by the village pig-keeper, who becomes more and more threatening as she transforms from girl into young woman. Her only friend is an unwanted piglet she names Apple and raises herself.
One day Mokie is attacked in the most brutal way and flees the village. She takes up with a group of gypsies performing at the local harvest festival, but she has seen that they are not actually what they seem, but rather come from the Crystal Country, a sort of fairyland. It has been a bad year agriculturally, and there are hints that a sacrifice must be made in order to ensure better farming, but Mokie is mostly unaware of this. She slowly lets herself become part of the strange folk who take her in, finding a place for herself after never belonging. After an arrest and daring escape, the group wanders for awhile, eventually coming back to the scene of Mokie’s attack, where she recovers her repressed memories. Apple is captured, possibly as the needed sacrifice, and Mokie risks everything to rescue her, but it may be too late for both of them. (Her companions all know more than they can tell her – which from one perspective is a sort of betrayal.) In the end, Mokie’s true origins and nature are revealed.
There is no clear adversary here except perhaps the horrible pig-keeper, unless one looks at the entire village together as the adversary, since they all collude against her. Considering the final act of sacrifice, that might actually be appropriate.
“Anywhere there’s an edge, the worlds meet – if you’re in a doorway, or between sleep and waking, or going into a wood or coming out of it – you can touch both worlds….Some people – not many, but some – live their lives right on the edge. They don’t belong to either, but they can see both.”