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The Legend of Hedgehog Boy
Posted By François Peneaud On June 26, 2011

A year after the second part of his Legend of Hedgehog Boy story, René Capone publishes a collection of the already-printed first two parts, with the third and last part added1 . In the first part, we’d met a boy who’d fled an abusive home, as well as a wounded teddy bear named Frank. The bear and the newly-named Hedgehog Boy (he decided to wear the skinned head of an hedgehog) built a life for themselves in the woods, alongside Kitty, another runaway boy with whom Hedgehog Boy falls in love. At the end of the first part, Kitty is kidnapped by other animalskins wearing boys lead by Possum, a boy who’s bent on stealing what he doesn’t have. HB and Frank decide to rescue him. In the second part, we followed the guys on their journey to find out where Kitty is kept. Along the way, they meet a number of other boys and girls, all with their animal totems (or in the case of a girl, with Frankenstein bolts in her neck). We left them as they began to face the group of kidnappers. The all-new third part sees the final battle between Hedgehog Boy and Possum, and it’s very bloody. I was surprised by how bloody it was, since in the first two The face-off parts, the fairy tale elements were far less harsh than the real-life aspects of the between HB and story. But after all, in all the great legends and fairytales, the witch does burn in Possum her oven, the wolf is really gutted and the beast does marry the beauty (really, how awful is that fate?). So, Capone doesn’t shrink from his responsibilities as a storyteller, and as Kitty says, “In all the greatest books, someone always gets rescued”. The question, of course, is who does the rescuing, and who’s rescued. From the beginning, Hedgehog Boy was far more than a simple queer fairytale: its use of such a heavy topic as child abuse and its consequences, both physical and psychological, marked it as a well-thought form of therapy. Contrary to historical fairy tales, which usually showed kids the dangers of straying from the “normal” path that society had agreed upon, Capone’s story argues for self-expression, reconstruction after traumatic events and the building of a chosen family. These themes should, it seems to me, resonate one way or another with every queer adult. In fact, Capone subverts the usual goal of fairy tales in various ways, as for example with his portrayal of Frank, the angry teddy bear: Frank’s role would normally be that of the conscience voice, the calming, moral side of the boy. Instead, we get a fierce warrior who’d reduce Jiminy Cricket to road kill in an instant. Another thing struck me among the numerous ideas Capone has thrown into his magic cauldron: the importance of books and literacy. Hedgehog Boy is shown at the beginning of the story as being both illiterate and fascinated by books. Later, a boy mailman (a mailboy?) plays an important role in bringing news of Kitty to his forlorn boyfriend. I won’t reveal another instance of the importance of writing and reading right at the end, but let’s say that it seems to me that Capone shows literacy as an integral part of being able to take one’s life in hand. Which might seem obvious in our society, but unfortunately isn’t (and I won’t even try to comment on the problems faced by people in countries with a high rate of illiteracy). In fact, literacy is shown as a facet of growing up, of telling one’s life story instead of letting other people do it. I found that especially poignant as Capone clearly has a problem with spelling (he states that himself), and does his best to overcome it. The book also has about twenty pages of supplementary material, including illustrations, short stories showcasing the characters, and more powerful statements about the themes developed in the book. Those of you who might not trust small-press artists to finish their stories and waited for Capone to do so don’t have any excuse now: The Legend of Hedghog Boy is complete, and whether you’re a young person still searching for their own path or an older adult more settled, this book has something to offer to each and everyone of you. Just like the best fairy tales.

Notes: 1. You can buy this 168-page book from the author. ↩

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