In the Editor's Note to Sanctuary, Paul Monette is quoted:
"It's been on my mind for a long time that there
aren't enough tales and fables that take into account
the gay and lesbian experience, both the tragic and
the exalted. Ours is a mythology invisible to
history. Thus I would love to fashion a story or two
worthy of being told around the tribal campfire."
An accomplished writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, Paul
Monette died of AIDS in February 1995. This small fable
serves his memory. Vivienne Flesher's haunting illustrations add
depth and clarity to the tale.
The witch who keeps the last forest safe with her spells loses
herself to the energy-draining sanctuary enchantment. Her longtime
familiar, the horned owl, sees his chance to seize his own measure
of power. Having no inherent magic of his own, he sows mistrust
amongst the animals, urging them to report to him any "differentness"
among their fellows. Those who are different, the owl says, are
the cause of all that is wrong in their world.
Enter Lapine the Rabbit and Renarda the Fox who meet in "a predator's
game of tag" -- Fox hunting Rabbit:
In one way, of course, they were perfectly matched, by way
of their inexperience. Renarda had been taught all the
hunter's right moves by her mother, but had still never
brought down any prey of her own. It was a virgin season
for both. Perhaps that was why they lengthened the course
of the hunt, darting over the ice of a woodland pond,
scrambling through brambles, leaping the beavers' dams
along the stream.
And perhaps they wouldn't have admitted as much -- a thought
too radical for a hunter's world -- but they were enjoying the
chase for its own sake. Playing, almost. Lapine casting a
glance over her shoulder, almost locking eyes with the enemy,
almost getting the ghost of a smile in return.
In a word: different.
The two young animals quickly fall in love. Because they are of
different species but not of different genders, they hide their love
aboveground in daylight, spending their nights together in their
burrow. Soon the seeds the owl has sown bear poisonous fruit. Lapine
and Renarda are reported and incarcerated in widely separated prison
camps created by the owl.
When a young wizard from the outside world discovers this area of
enchantment, he comes to see for himself what is found there. Pitting
himself against the owl, the wizard will wield the powers of truth and
love to overcome the opposing power of arbitrary intolerance.
Simply told with gentle humor, Sanctuary is a short piece, originally
intended to be part of a collection. It stands luminously now on its
own, a graceful admonition to the world on the power of love and of the need
for a more benevolent morality.