Legend of the Lost Legend
© 1996 by Parachute Press. Cover Art by Tim Jacobus.
The Legend of the Lost Legend was a mixed bag. It was rooted in a solid fantasy-based concept and got off to a solid start before getting lost in the woods (sorry I couldn’t help myself). Dad and the kid characters were fine, which was refreshing after several consecutive books where the real horror was the clueless and terrible parenting. I enjoyed Ivana and Silverdog. Luka was also a refreshingly weird character, but he also felt incomplete. What didn’t work for me was the test that the kids were put through. It didn’t seem to have any real purpose other than to run from things. It got a bit tedious. It reminded me of One Day at Horrorland but without the charm. The magic forest was lacking charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. The twist at the end was perfectly unsettling, though how our characters got there left me with some serious questions. I appreciated that the twist felt like the point of the whole book, as opposed to the usual “gotcha” Goosebumps ending. Overall, there was a lot I liked about Legend of the Lost Legend; it was in the details where it didn’t quite hold up.
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ERMAHGERD #47: Legend of the Lost Legend.
© 2023 by Daniel Stalter. All rights reserved.
Photo by Daniel Stalter. Photo collaboration with the reigning Mx Rockbar Harriet Tugsmen.
Observations & Spoilers
Legend of the Lost Legend opens with a fake-out. Justin and his sister Marissa get lost in the snow before stumbling on a mythical creature. This just turns out to be one of their dad’s stories. That’s because their Dad travels the world collecting stories and folklore. The kids are really camping in the forest of Brovania, which is a made-up country located somewhere in Europe. They are there searching for the Lost Legend; a manuscript that is said to be hidden somewhere in the very woods they are camping in. Dad sends the kids to bed without finishing the story, but the kids are soon woken up by noises outside their tent. They step outside, and that’s when they meet Silverdog.
Silverdog is a gigantic and disheveled, but ultimately friendly dog. Justin finds a note in the dog’s collar. It says: “I KNOW WHY YOU’RE HERE. FOLLOW SILVERDOG.” The kids attempt to wake their father but he’s just too deep of a sleeper. They pull on their boots and hurry after Silverdog. They get a little lost in the foggy woods and fall into a small crevasse before the dog eventually leads them to a tiny house. The house looks like something out of a fairy tale. They follow Silverdog inside where a strange Viking woman locks them in. Her name is Ivana and she turns out to be perfectly friendly with an unpredictable sense of humor. She tells the kids she can help them find what they are looking for, but first, they need to pass a test in the Fantasy Forest.
Before she can explain the test, a weird dog/gorilla creature with a human face bursts into the room and attacks Justin. This is Luka. Ivana scolds the creature and reassures the kids that he’s perfectly friendly, just very protective. She tells the kids they need to get some sleep before they can start the test. They protest at first that they need to alert their father, but she assures them that this is the only way to get what they are looking for. So they got to sleep in the house but woke up in the woods. Luka is there with them. They find two backpacks that Ivana left for them, and then Luka takes off chasing after a squirrel. It is only then that they find Ivana’s note letting them know that if they fail to keep Luka with them, then they are “doomed.” Well, shit.
The kids start walking and find themselves stepping on something crunchy. They turn out to be eggs that start hatching. Robotic mice creatures emerge from them and quickly overwhelm the two kids. They escape when they realize the mice have buttons that can switch them off. Justin puts a few in his backpack and the kids carry on. Then a tree falls on Marissa, but it turns out to be fake. They realize that they can push the trees over with little effort. The ground starts to shake and Justin deduces that it’s the footsteps of some large creature. I’m assuming he’s seen Jurassic Park, thus making this a reasonable conclusion. They decide to run. They see a creek that has shallow water. They try to cross it but end up sinking into the mud and getting stuck. That’s when the giant creatures reveal themselves.
Two giant cats loom over the kids. They pluck them out of the river then begin dropping them and picking them back up again. This is very painful for Justin and Marissa. The kids figure out that the cats intend to eat them, but right now they are playing with their food. Justin makes a remake about being “suffocated by hot cat breath” that I found really funny. Justin is finally able to get the mechanical mice out of his backpack and switch them on. This distracts the cats long enough for the kids to escape. They run until they find Ivana’s cabin. Inside they find Ivana slumped over, dead. She has a giant wind-up key protruding from her back. Finally, Luka enters the cabin walking on two feet, and explains everything.
Luka removes his fake fur revealing that he is human and was just pretending to be an animal walking around on four legs. It turns out he built Ivana and every other creature they encountered during their “test” in the Fantasy forest. His family has protected the real Fantasy Forest using this test for generations. It is supposed to prove who can differentiate between what is real and what isn’t. I would argue that the test was just a random series of actions that didn’t really prove anything other than the kid’s survival skills. Anyway, Luka is now satisfied and gives the children what they have been searching for. He hands them a silver chest and tells Silverdog to lead them back to their campsite.
The kids run into their father along the way. He was already out looking for them. They open the chest, excited to finally see the manuscript, only to find that there is just a giant egg inside. Silverdog takes them back to Luka, who explains that he thought they were looking for the Eternal Egg of Truth. They tell him that it’s the Lost Legend that they are after, so Luka directs them to the people who possess it. He warns them that the people may not be willing to part with it. So Justin, Marissa, and Dad set off and quickly find the people right where Luka said they would be. The people look dirty, tired, and malnourished. When Dad asks them for the Lost Legend, they quickly hand it over and hastily pack up their camp.
Justin and Marisa crowd around their dad as he removes the manuscript from the silver chest. There is a note attached. It reads: “WHOEVER OWNS THE LOST LEGEND WILL BE LOST FOREVER.” Suddenly it dawns on Dad and Justin that they are lost. Cue dramatic music and roll the credits!
I’ll start with what I enjoyed and work my way to the hate. The book started really strong, and I think it maintained that up until the test. The twist ending was also great. It was very dark and had far-reaching implications for our characters. It felt like the entire story was rooted around this premise, which I also liked. I was reminded of the 1995 Jimanji movie, where Robin Williams’s character got stuck in the jungle for several decades. I enjoyed the weird as fuck quirkiness of Luka’s character too, but he also frustrated the shit out of me. Here comes the hate.
Luka is one of the more batshit crazy characters in a series known for batshit crazy characters. He lives in a magic forest filled with machines he built, dresses as a dog creature, and puts people through weird tests in order to protect the magical forest. The kids pass his test, he explains everything and gives them what they want. He is presented as eccentric but well-intentioned, and therein lies my problem. Why did he not offer a warning to the family about the Lost Legend? The kids passed his test, and he praised them for it. Did they not at least deserve a vague heads-up that maybe they were better off taking the Egg of Truth and leaving the Lost Legend where it belongs?
Based on the way his character is presented as a helpful guardian, his just sending them to get lost in the woods forever seems like a really shitty thing to do. The issue for me was in presenting him as a chaotic good character when he is perhaps more of a chaotic neutral. He explained a little bit too much of his logic to the children. It would have been better if his reasoning had been more mysterious. Keeping his motivations closely guarded would have left the kids guessing where they stood with him. If he didn’t give a shit about them getting lost in the woods for many years, then I wanted that to be clearer. I wanted his tests to be more peculiar, as though they were measuring something only he could understand. Giving Luka’s character just a little bit more depth would have made this a much stronger story.
In closing I offer this one last random thought: I wish Ivana hadn’t turned out to be a wind-up doll. I really enjoyed her.
For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 points each.
I then split that in two to give it a rating out of 5 stars. Those criteria are:
Concept: the strength of the overall idea
Execution: the mechanics of storytelling
Character: the protagonists, antagonists, and villains
Intent: does it succeed in being the kind of book it wants to be?
Originality: subversion and reliance on genre tropes
The overall concept was pretty cool, and I especially liked the ending. It was the smaller details that didn’t quite add up, but the bigger picture was strong.
There was an overreliance on running as a scare tactic. The whole magic forest test really didn’t make a lot of sense or clear purpose. I almost wonder if it would have been better without Luka explaining his logic.
While I really liked how batshit Luka was, I feel like it needed to go further. He needed to be way more mysterious or a little meaner and cryptic. The kids and Dad were fine.
The end twist is unsettling in the best way possible, and the book is unapologetically weird at some points. It was Luka’s test that got a little tedious for me. Characters running from one threat to another aren’t nearly as scary or interesting as a lot of the other elements the book spent less time on.
A lot of the beats felt familiar. I was reminded of One Day at Horrorland without all of the charm. The setting and the twist ending felt fresh, though.
TV Adaptation – Bullet Review
No TV Episode of this one.
Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #48: Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns
Also, be sure to check out the latest from my Fear Street blog series:
Fear Street #25: One Evil Summer