Excerpt from The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Witch's Boy

by Michael Gruber

The Witch's Boy
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2005, 377 pages
    May 2006, 400 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Once upon a time, in a faraway country, there was a woman who lived by herself in the middle of a great forest. She had a little cottage and kept a garden and a large gray cat. In appearance, she was neither fair nor ugly, neither young nor old, and she dressed herself modestly in the colors of stones. None of the folk who lived nearby (not the oldest of them) could tell how long she had dwelt in that place.

One spring morning, the woman set off to collect some plants she needed. As she glided silently along, she studied a list she had made, for she tended to be absentminded about small things. She passed the old oak tree, lightning killed and half hollow, where the local people were accustomed to leave things for her, and there she heard an odd little cry. She stopped and looked, and saw that in the hollow was a wicker basket. Have they left me a piglet? she wondered. But when she came closer, the basket shook and she heard the unmistakable cry of a new baby. There was a note in a crude hand tied to the handle of the basket, which read:

The devil's child
For the devil's wife

"Well, well," said she to herself, "let us see what some rude person has left." She opened the basket and looked in. "Oh, my!" she said aloud, as she beheld the ugliest baby boy that she, and perhaps anybody, had ever seen. He had a piggish snout and close-set eyes of a peculiar yellowish color. His mouth, wide and floppy, was already full of square little grinders. He was covered in coarse dark hair resembling the bristles of a hog; and his ears were huge and pointed like a bat's. His body was also oddly shaped, like a sack of stones, and his feet were far too large. Of all his features, his hands alone might be called good, their long delicate fingers flexing as the stubby arms waved.

He seemed healthy enough, and when the woman reached down and touched his cheek with the backs of her fingers, he gave a lusty cry and rooted with his mouth for her thumb.

"Hungry, are you?" she asked. "Don't you know that witches are supposed to eat babies, not feed them?" The ugly baby gurgled and pushed harder against her hand. His yellow eyes looked hungrily into her gray ones. She felt a magic older than even her own flicker between them, and it startled her.

"What am I thinking of?" she said. "How could I keep a baby? I have never been sentimental before." She addressed the baby. "You will make a meal for the lynx or the gray wolf. This is your fate." She moved her hand away and turned to go, but the little thing, feeling the withdrawal of the woman's warm presence, began to whimper again. In an instant, almost without thought, she had drawn the baby into her arms and pressed him to her bosom. The baby gurgled and stared with mindless intensity into her eyes.

"Ah, well." She sighed. "It seems we are stuck together, little lump. I have no idea how we shall get on or what will become of you. I have never heard of a woman of my sisterhood rearing a child before, but lately the world is full of new and disturbing things—and perhaps this is one of them, dropped into my very lap. Perhaps we shall both learn something from it."

She placed the child carefully back in his basket, and carried it back the way she had come. The few people she passed all nodded cautiously at her and made room on the path, but none attempted to start a conversation, as they might have with almost anyone else. The people of that neighborhood were woodcutters, trappers, charcoal burners, and a few farmers who worked the small clearings. They thought her strange; she had the disconcerting habit of appearing without warning around the turn of a path; or you might be working and suddenly be aware of her presence in a corner of your sight, like smoke from a distant fire. You could not hear her coming, not even in autumn, when the very rabbits made a crunching as they traveled their underbrush roads. Although she greeted people politely on these occasions, she was short of speech and soon glided onward, out of sight. Her voice was deep and clear and not accented with the local twang. She kept no company, nor did she trade, as far as anyone could see.

From The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber, Copyright © 2005 by Michael Gruber. All Rights Reserved. HarperCollins Publishers.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hag-Seed
    by Margaret Atwood
    There's a scene in The Tempest that many critics have concluded is indicative of Shakespeare&#...
  • Book Jacket: Crossing the Horizon
    Crossing the Horizon
    by Laurie Notaro
    In Crossing the Horizon, Laurie Notaro takes us back to a time when flying was a rare and risky ...
  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.