‘Jim Henson’s Storyteller: Witches’ #2 plays with form in order to haunt readers

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The Storyteller: Witches #2 “The Snow Witch”
Written and Illustrated by Kyla Vanderklugt
Published by Archaia/Boom! Studios

The Jim Henson Company is no stranger to incredible storytelling, and this year they’ve revived  The Storyteller. Originally an American/ British mini-series from the late 1980’s, The Storyteller featured an old storyteller who  retold European folk tales to his rather sarcastic dog. This year The Storyteller seeks out folk tales that center on witches from the world over.

In the second issue of the four part series, The Storyteller:Witches, Kyla Vanderklugt promises to make your blood run cold with her own spin on the Japanese folk tale “Snow Woman.”

The “Snow Witch” begins with a woodcutter, Old Mosaku, and his young apprentice, Minokichi, who get caught in a snow storm. As they hunker down in an abandoned shelter for the night, Old Mosaku tells Minokichi about the dreaded Snow Witch that lives in the mountains. Later that night, the Snow Witch appears and steals Mosaku’s soul. She spares Minokichi on one condition, he never tells anyone what happened that night. Minokichi keeps his promise despite the avalanche of questions that greet him upon his return to the village.

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The following year Minokichi meets a beautiful young woman named Oyuki, who is looking for a place to stay the night. Since there are no inn’s in the village,Minokichi offers his home  to Oyuki, and in no time at all, the two become lovers. Life is wonderful. But then… the winters begin to grow longer, and Minokichi’s health declines. Everyone blames the cruel Snow Witch for the cursing the village. However, Minokichi continues to see the Snow Witch as a being capable of mercy.

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 “Snow Witch” is unique in that it is printed horizontally across the page rather than the standard vertical layout. By flipping the book on its side, Vanderklugt alters the way panels shape the page, effectively generating toe curling fear in a tale that, in the end, is not entirely terrifying. However, since parts of the action is withheld from the reader, suspense continues to build until the page is turned. Only then are readers allowed to breathe a brief sigh of relief.

Those reading a digital copy of the story will definitely get a cinematic vibe as they scroll down the page. Vanderklugt’s illustrations add an animated feel of the tale, and creates a layer of foreboding as readers speculate Minokichi’s fate.

I encourage those of  you interested in The Storyteller series to buy the physical copy, because there is nothing quite like holding the book and feeling the weight of the story in your hands.

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