"The Ogress and the Orphans" by Kelly Barnhill, Chapters 37–54

October 24, 2022
After an ogress is accused of abducting the children of Stone-in-the-Glen, a group of orphans try to save her and convince the townspeople of her good nature.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1–8, Chapters 9–16, Chapters 17–24, Chapters 25–36, Chapters 37–54
It is part screech, part ululation, part wild, brave cry. It is the call of war, a call of justice, a call of holy love.
The antidote to anger is tenderness, and the antidote to discord is reconciliation.
In the waning light, some houses in Stone-in-the-Glen heard a knock at the door.
The crows screamed and the dog growled, his hackles up.
Truly, though, his magic was depleting. It was difficult to know how much, exactly, since he hadn’t taken his skin off, and he didn’t know how small his dragon self had gotten. Wearing the skins was a slow, inexorable siphon for one’s magic and power and size.
“No pie," he cried in astonishment, a sudden wave of sorrow crushing him flat. The first day had felt like a fluke, and the second day like an aberration.
The orphans, all fifteen of them, sat in the dormitory, slumped and dejected.
He grabbed the rope in one hand and started rappelling down the exterior wall, as quick as a mouse.
Dog’s milky eyes couldn’t see much of anything, but his capacious heart saw much more.
The other crows murmured and rattled and clicked. They did not yet venture a boisterous caw.
Some of the logs were too large for him to carry, and the iron tools next to the fireplace were a bit unwieldy (he felt a little like a knight at a jousting competition), but he made do.
She appraised the nibs and quills and tubs of ink.
Each one was meticulously inked with tiny brushes, and contained painstakingly detailed illustrations showing dense forests or grand castles or the churning waves of a stormy ocean.
She read on, following the story as the puppy lived by its depleted senses and sharp wits as it grew into a dog, how it traveled over hill and dale through terrible tribulations until it found a home in the arms of a friendly ogress, who loved it forever and ever.
The seamstress read a story about a murder of crows who left gifts for people just because. Right away, she started work on a dress with a crow appliqué adorning the skirt.
That morning, with all the hope and faith that befits a man (but was he a man?) of his stature and bearing, he had flung open his door, fully anticipating that the previous days were merely a fluke and that there would be, as was right and proper, a pie waiting for him on the front steps.
Well, Stone-in-the-Glen was home. Since he had dispatched with that library, of course. The wood beams had been on to him.
He walked to the Center Square and was surprised by the proliferation of umbrellas.
And lately...she could hardly bear to think about it...but lately, the butterfly’s wings had been pulsing more erratically than they used to.
And she was able to understand how things worked. She quickly ascertained the mechanics and processes for large-scale bookmaking.
“What has gotten into all of you lately?” Matron said, utterly flummoxed.
She embroidered cushions with their faces on them and blankets with fanciful animals for the littlest children and showed them how to use the telescope to observe planets and asteroids and stars.
And they saw. A dragon in a man’s skin. A swindle of an entire town. A trail of destruction with an insidious purpose.
She opened the door, fully prepared to be incandescent with fury.
She was so much bigger than everyone else, and she noticed, with some trepidation, the way in which she occupied space.
Her heavy feet trod quietly across her floor and onto the threshold.
But Matron insisted and the Ogress agreed, so Anthea gave herself the task of setting the schedule, taking great pains to be impartial and fair and to make sure that no one had to spend too much time managing the cobbler’s wife when she bustled in with her whirlwind of necessary supplies and baffled volunteers and unrelenting helpfulness.
When they were home, they helped the volunteers replace shingles on the roof, and repair the broken stairs, and shore up the sagging joists to better hold up the floor.
Matron sewed old sheets together, and Myron constructed a set of tent poles. From these they created a large, shaded ramshackle porch, so that the Ogress could come out of doors and sit with her new friends during the day, safe from the sunlight’s assaults on her skin.
The Ogress’s farm was warm again—ever so much warmer than the rest of the town—and produced with gusto.
Those infernal books kept coming. The Mayor was in a lather.
Where have they been coming from?
And why are people ignoring my beautiful signs?
He walked through the town, looking resplendent with his sweeping coat and smart boots and magnificent shock of hair.
He would give everyone a chance to air their grievances about the ludicrous ogress, and they would forget their books and their problems, and once again everything would be as it should.
Tempers would rise. Rancor would fester.
They brought jars of applesauce and bowls of plum compote.
He marched back to the square, doing his best to forget the nonsensical behavior of inconsequential cats, and focus instead on his own marvelous self.
Did she always have a wide smile? The Mayor didn’t think so. Normally, the constable was rather dour.
In addition to enthralling the citizens of Stone-in-the-Glen with his pretty lies and manipulating them with his devious half-truths, the dragon in the man suit who called himself the Mayor had been stealing from the town for years.
The Mayor stared openmouthed at this insolent child.
Why on earth would you think the universe would work so hard as to create this moment if only to let it slide away to oblivion?

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