It’s not just the different times and places and historical events but the sheer volume of new-to-me legends, folklore, and cultural mythology to be had in reading Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History that has kept me so hooked. “Angela and the Scar” takes place in 1900 Philippines, and right away we’re introduced to the kapfre, a kind of forest spirit guardian of the woods, and Angela herself, a young girl who has already lost her father to violence and is now missing her mother.
What I adored about this story was very much in play right from the beginning: the seamless way everyone involved is just aware and in touch with the notion of the kapfre. Angela and the kapfre have spoken before. When Angela mentions the kapfre to adults, they don’t immediately question her reality (especially in the face of her having covered a huge distance in nearly no time). And more, the kapfre is still quite other, and doesn’t really care all that much about war or loss or anything beyond enjoying Angela’s company and riddles until it’s made clear that war has—and will—damage the forest.
From there, the story turns into a race against time to save the rebels, her mother, and defeat an invading force that outguns and outnumbers them—with nothing really to work with on their side but he cleverness of Angela, the bravery of all involved, and her relationship with the kapfre and—maybe—his co-operation and help, if she can get him to understand how important these things are. The notion of the time and place here is so very key, this is Angela facing a world under violent change, and it will leave no one the same, and yet the story still manages to leave everything on a positive, importantly hopeful note.