Spice & Wolf Volume 4

After three solid volumes we’re finally approaching unknown territory. Although I’d forgotten about some of the stuff that the anime covered from the first three volumes (cut me some slack, it’s been over a decade) I did remember the major plot elements once they were presented properly. Volume four is what I assume the upcoming anime is going to cover. Speaking of which, have I mentioned yet how excited I am for the sequel? Yes? Well, let me say it again. After all these years we get another Spice & Wolf season. It’s easily the sequel I was most hoping for. After we got Chihayafuru season 3 a while back, that is. Enough about that though, let’s dive into this volume. I’ve decided to approach the review a little bit differently from previous entries. Instead of dividing characters and stories, I’ll just go through the story more chronologically and give my opinion on each part of the story (the start, the middle and the conclusion). Without further ado, let’s get to it.

The story starts with Holo and Lawrence making their way further north. Diana gave them some idea of where to go and they had a place to start. An abbey near the small village of Tereo. On their way there they come across a small mill. The miller, a young man named Evan, tries to impress Lawrence. He knows that the miller’s profession is one that isn’t very appreciated and is looking for a way out of this situation. I didn’t know this and it makes me wonder if this is accurate. The reasoning given in the novel is that wheat turned into flour drastically reduces in volume and the more pure the flour made, the lower the volume. It makes sense that people wouldn’t like someone who made their products shrink. Obviously that’s not the miller’s fault, but it’s easy to have a scapegoat. After talking with Evan for a little while, they move on to Tereo proper. The village seems a bit hostile and although the village elder is polite enough, there’s definitely something going on. The person in charge of the local church, a young woman named Elsa, sends Lawrence away without properly answering his questions. Later that night they spot Evan sneaking into the church and being let in by Elsa. Lawrence and Holo flash some money to treat the villagers to a nice evening of drinking and get a little bit more insight into the situation the village is in. Emboldened by some new knowledge and having had a very serious talk with Holo about their goals and what they want to do in this village, Lawrence goes back to church, now bringing Holo with him. They overwhelm Elsa by showing off Holo’s animal features and she finally agrees to them searching for information. You see, the church had secretly been the abbey they were looking for all this time and Father Franz, the previous man in charge of the church, was the monk they had been looking for. His books and scrolls were still hidden in the church. While reading for information, the two get involved in the turmoil the village has been in, which is what they were worried about.

The nearby city of Enberch had made a deal with the recently deceased Father Franz that guaranteed Tereo’s prosperity so far. It’s a clever deal that allows Tereo’s villagers to live peacefully without having to worry about anything. Unfortunately, this deal wasn’t as good for Enberch as it was for Tereo, and the passing of Father Franz was the perfect opportunity for them to change things up. They were quick to make up a fake story about poisoned wheat killing a man in Enberch and demanding Tereo pay them back for the wheat. So the villagers are now faced with this problem and turn to blame the obvious target; Lawrence and Holo. Although the village elder starts off being reasonable towards the two, it quickly becomes obvious that he’ll put the villagers ahead of the travelers. It might not be the right thing to do, but it makes sense for a village elder to put the village first. After thinking things over for a while, Lawrence and Holo, together with Elsa and Evan, decide to escape the village. And just as they’re about to confirm that decision, the townsfolk show up at the door of the church, demanding them to be turned over. That wouldn’t end well for Lawrence and Holo. They escape through the secret passage in the back of the church. This leads through a long tunnel towards an altar for Lord Truyeo, the snake god that the village used to follow. Father Franz was looking into these kinds of stories in hopes of reaffirming his belief in the one true god, the one the church follows. He’s an interesting character and I wish we could have known more about him. I think one thing that’s to be respected is when people who are religious question their beliefs when it is apt to do so. Some people will just ignore reality to reaffirm their beliefs. What Elsa does later on is a great example of having faith but being realistic too. When she sees Holo turn into a massive wolf, she doesn’t say this isn’t real or anything like that, she rationalizes it. Holo and other creatures of the sort must be created by the real god. Makes sense from a religious perspective.

After the four have escaped the village, Elsa changes her mind and she goes back to the village. Lawrence has a harsh talk with Evan which results in the latter going after Elsa. Holo gets angry at herself. With her snarkiness it’s often easy to forget there’s a lot of depth to her character. She’s mad at herself for not protecting her village from the bear spirit, even though she didn’t know about this spirit at all, and if she did wouldn’t have been able to win against it either way. What they can do though, is help this village here and now. And that is exactly what they do. They devise a plan to save the village and show off a true miracle by making wheat grow out of wheat seeds. This is one of the few times we see Holo do something miraculous, besides turning into a massive wolf. The bishop from Enberch is bamboozled and after Evan eats wheat from every bag without dying they have to admit defeat. Lawrence handles the financial parts of the deal and the village is saved. All’s well that ends well.

Final Thoughts

This volume focuses heavily on the religious aspects of the Spice & Wolf world. There are different pagan gods, spirits and rituals, just like in our world. There is also the god that the church worships, just like in our world. It’s interesting to have a take on this that involves the different spirits actively being in the story. I’ve always liked the idea of gods and spirits being real although I’m not a believer of any religion. I do like to include religion a lot in the stories I write. Having powerful entities that watch over people, for better or worse, is something fascinating and adds dimensions to a story.

I do think it’s funny that the church just went and dubbed everyone else a Pagan. Pretty arrogant, but I suppose that’s a notion not uncommon about religion in real life either. I wasn’t as enthralled by this volume as the last one, but I still enjoyed it. Time to start reading volume 5, but before I do so I would love to know what you guys thought of this volume. Let me know in the comments down below and as always; thanks for reading!

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