Introduction to The Third Wish
By Jed Hartman
31 January 2011
In the past, it's been our practice to run reprinted stories without editorial comment. But we're trying something new this year: we're going to run several reprints, each chosen and introduced by a guest curator.
But we're kicking off the year's reprints with a non-guest curator. Ever since we published our Author Focus issue on Joan Aiken back in 2001, I've wanted to reprint my favorite Aiken story, and this year seemed like a good opportunity to do so.
In that Author Focus issue, I wrote a review of some of Aiken's short fiction, in which I talked some about my history with her work. As I wrote at the time:
The first Aiken story that I ever encountered, probably in Children's Digest or Child Life sometime in the late '70s, was [. . .] a lovely fairy tale titled "The Third Wish." It appears in [Aiken's collection] Not What You Expected; it wasn't until I saw it in this book a few years ago that I realized that the story (which had stuck in my memory all those years) was by Aiken.
Reading "The Third Wish" now, with a more experienced feminist eye, I'm not entirely thrilled with one aspect of the story's gender politics. But I think that's partly because it was written in the 1950s. And despite any flaws, it remains my favorite three-wishes story ever.
And so I'm delighted to be able to present to you Joan Aiken's "The Third Wish."