Travel Light

Travel Light by Naomi Michison is beautiful young adult story, published in 1952, recommended in This is How You Lose the Time War. It's the story of a fiercely independent young princess named Halla. The official card catalog entry characterizes it under "human-animal relationships", "abandoned children", and "feral children". A sample of Michison's style from Chapter 2, where Halla's dragon parent Uggi has a Hard Conversation with her:

Halla stretched her arms and the bracelets clinked and the rings flashed in the sunshine. "I'm glad I'm a dragon," she said.

"Never forget, child," said old Uggi, "not only to think dragon thoughts, but also that you are part of a dragon's treasure. My treasure. And remember, if a man were to see you, he would immediately try to steal everything you are wearing and carry it away and probably murder you as well."

"I'd breathe fire on him," said Halla, "when will you teach me to breathe fire? I'm tired of history."

"It is very sad," said Uggi, "but I cannot teach you to breathe fire."

"Why not?" asked Halla. "Is it because I was a bear once? If only you would show me how to breathe fire, I would try to stop eating berries and getting my paws full of earth!" For the dragons were always speaking to her about these habits.

Uggi sighed, a hot, hot sigh that burnt a small patch of lichen that had survived so far on the side of the rock. He felt that, in spite of the way he had brought Halla up as a dragon, the moment was come when she must learn the facts of life, hard though it would be for him to tell them to her. He went on: "It is time, my child, that I told you something. Have you noticed, when you look at yourself in the shining mirror, that you are not like me nor indeed like any of the dragons?"

"Not very like," said Halla, admiring her long toes, which were decorated with gold and emerald toe-rings, but which were not quite long enough, nor nearly sharp enough for claws. "Perhaps I shall be more like you when I am older. I think I can feel my wings growing," she added, looking backwards over her shoulder and scratching her back.

Uggi the dragon wept a sizzling tear. "My child, I am afraid you will never grow to look like a dragon, for the truth is, you are not a dragon."

"But–" said Halla, and her lip trembled, "I feel like a dragon. You always tell me I'm a dragon. Oh, I know I'm a dragon!"

"Alas!" said Uggi. "That is not enough. Though it is something. I am afraid that what I have to say will upset you very much, my dear. You must be brave, brave as a good dragon. The truth is that you are a child of man and only by adoption one of us. But never mind," he said eagerly, "you are quite safe. You shall never go back to them. Unless, that is, you want to do so."

Halla burst into tears and threw her arms round Uggi's neck. "I could never possibly want to go back, never!" she said. "Why did you have to tell me? Why can't you turn me into a dragon?"

Travel Light is funny, wise, and thought-provoking. It offers Norse and Christian religious elements in addition to princesses and dragons, plus echoes of E. Nesbit and Michael Emde. Delightful reading, for the young at heart of any age!

^z - 2022-02-13