The themes and setting of The Princess and Mr. Whiffle are exceedingly familiar. This is a realm of make believe complete with a candy castle, tea sets and make-believe adventures. Even the American-Anime drawing style emphasizes the cuteness and frivolity of the world.
The book sets out as you follow the Princess on her daily routine with her stalwart companion, Mr. Whiffle...a slightly over used teddy bear. It is cute and endearing. The art is a bit inconsistent in its visual style but does not detract from the story. The story is well crafted and extremely succinct to fit the faux children’s story format; often with only three or four words per page.
As you read, you begin to notice that something isn’t quite “right”. Namely, there is an excessive amount of violence. It is make-believe violence against stuffed animals...but a strangely out of place violence. Not the cartoony violence of Looney Toons...I am talking, putting the stuffed heads of the rebel army on a stick sort of violence. But, it is done so innocently.
Unexpectedly the story ends. However, you find out this is simply the first ending. If you continue to read, you find that the story continues and ultimately reveals two additional endings. It is within these endings that the true genius of the book is revealed. While the first ending is a feel good ending, like a children’s book, the following two take a turn for the surreal and the horrific. A twisting path that inverts your assumptions and proves them wrong.
If I wanted to reach, you could say that the ending of The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed is a great cultural teaching tool. Because it the books lulls you into complacency with culturally familiar words, sights and format...you make assumptions. Cultural constructs leap to the fore of your mind and blind you to the reality unfolding in the story. The three endings slowly show you how blind you really are and how much culture blinds you to objective facts.
When you re-read the story...it is all so suddenly clear and you will feel those cultural blinders lifted. You will see all the tiny clues laced into the story and so invisible to your mind...your eyes covered by cultural filters. If you don’t want to turn the book into a cultural learning tool...then it is simply subversive fun. The unexpected twists are delightful and entertaining.
I can only caution that you do not let your children read this book; it is not fit for children. Honestly, it might not fit for anyone who is slightly squeamish. I take great enjoyment on springing it unsuspectingly upon my friends, as their expressions while reading the book are priceless. So, I cannot recommend this book enough. Patrick Rothfuss has catapulted himself to the forefront of my favorite authors list, showing how dynamic his artistic gift is in both long and short form.
Subterranean Press: The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed by Patrick Rothfuss and illustrated by Nate Taylor
Image Source: Scanned Cover
Review Copy: Self Purchased
Review Copy: Self Purchased