Beautiful Darkness is the story of tiny sentient anthropomorphic creatures living in the decaying body of a dead girl in the woods. This might make it seem as though the darkness should be apparent, but it appears only in contrast to the beauty of the crisp leaves in the forest and the rosy cheeks of Aurora as she builds tiny shelters from discarded school folders and hands out rations of crumbled crackers from the bottom of a school bag. It is the innocence of the image combined with the unapologetic display of natural decay of human moral that creates both the beauty and the darkness in this tale.
Aurora has invited Hector for tea, on the very first page. They talk in stilted sentences only to be interrupted suddenly by falling into dark, red ooze.
“This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go”
Aurora says, and only as we read on do we start to suspect the ominous meaning of those words. In the little society that forms around the dead girl the characters are child-like, with all the gross humanity that a child may display. And we learn that Aurora is also the name of the dead girl, almost as if the inner imaginings of the little girl survived her physical body. We watch as these tiny human-like creatures live their lives around the decaying carcass of their creator. And one by one they die in cruel ways, made crueller by the casual acceptance of their death by their peers who continue playing with each other, exploring the forest and mocking the girl who feeds off the maggots in the rotting body of the dead girl.
In these idyllic innocent pictures, among forest leaves and a mouse sitting down for tea, we are witnesses to a descent into madness. Aurora initially gathers berries and distributes them fairly among her friends. But then Zelia steals her Hector and Aurora clads herself in the skin of her former mouse friend. She leaves her home and lives in the walls of a house belonging to a mean giant. He works at a table with a torn doll that looks like Zelia. Perhaps the man found the doll in the forest and took it home, perhaps it once belonged to a little girl named Aurora whose body is now decaying into forest earth.
And even then the book manages to take a turn for the darker as Zelia returns, a queen to rule over Aurora. Alas, Aurora is no longer the sweet faced girl she once was. As she merges with the wild in nature she sacrifices her innocence, but never does she sacrifice her beauty.
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