PETER & MAX Reading Group Guide
From the New York Times best-selling, Hugo Award-nominated, Eisner Award winning comic book series FABLES comes PETER & MAX: A FABLES NOVEL, written by Bill Willingham, with spot illustrations by Steve Leialoha. PETER & MAX tells the dark story of brothers Peter Piper, of Pickled Pepper fame, and Max Piper, the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Willingham deftly weaves an epic tale of good and evil, sibling rivalry, magic, music and a quest for revenge that spans from medieval times to the present day, from the heart of the Black Forest to New York City.
Full of vivid detail, imagination and adventure, PETER & MAX illuminates the breadth of Willingham’s knowledge of literature and his true storytelling ability. The novel further explores the vast universe of FABLES, which includes fourteen critically acclaimed volumes, the graphic novel 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL, and the spin-off series JACK OF FABLES and CINDERELLA.
1.) Bill Willingham’s comic book series, FABLES, is full of wonderful characterizations. However, in PETER & MAX his use of description is much more elaborate. What do you make of his twist on fairy tales, nursery rhymes and tongue twisters such as “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and “Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep”?
2.) Remembrance Day is the biggest holiday in Fabletown. Why? What does it signify? (p. 89) What is the significance of 1928?
3.) What is Little Bo Peep’s real name? How did she get the name Bo? (p. 34)
4.) Willingham’s use of foreshadowing is evident when Max finds an arrowhead in a tree on the way to the Peep’s home. Max suggests that it may be “from an advance scout for an invading army,” but the adults shrug it off. What’s the significance of this occasion?
5.) At its heart, PETER & MAX is a story of good vs. evil, but it’s also a coming of age story. What is the impetus for Max and Peter’s feud/sibling rivalry? (p. 83, 84)
6.) How would you characterize Mr. Peep’s relationship with his sons? Do you think Mr. Peep made the right decision by entrusting Peter with Frost rather than giving it to his eldest son Max? Why or why not?
7.) Max is told several times by his father that he is a man at the age of 14. His father reminds him that with manhood comes great responsibility—chores and carrying a sword—but Max still grows rebellious and jealous of Peter. Do you think what Wilhelm says about Max is true? “He’s not a rational creature any more. I think his mind’s broken.…They just get too afraid and something snaps in them.” (p. 85)
8.) When Peter reaches the walled city of Hamelin it is already overtaken by the Empire. He enters easily, but cannot leave or get a job without a pass, cannot play music, even begging was regulated. What is Willingham saying about conquest?
9.) Peter can play Frost to make danger pass him by, but there is a consequence each time. What is that consequence? How many times does he use it? Do you think he uses it wisely?
10.) While behind the gated walls of Hamelin, Peter eventually fulfills his brother’s prophecy and becomes a thief to survive rather than die of starvation. Do you think Peter can be excused for his thieving? And for joining the brotherhood? (p. 155)
11.) Max meets a young witch in the Black Forest. She offers him a magical device of his choice and he picks a flute. What does he name it and why?
12.) The witch’s original intention is to use Max to seek revenge against the three knights of the road who insulted her. How many years does Max spend in the woods learning Fire’s secrets? (p. 211) Do you think the witch regrets how powerful he becomes?
13.) Bo and Peter become separated in the woods. When they finally reunite they’re both after the same thing, but by different means. To leave their current commitments and be with each other they must have vowed to a prior oath. What was that oath?
14.) What do you make of Peter’s marriage to Bo now? Is it out of guilt? True love? They have no children. Who will Frost be passed to?
15.) Peter goes back to Hamelin to find Max. He wants answers, but realizes he may never get them. Do you think the ending is appropriate? Do you think there is an alternative to this ending?
16.) Are Peter and Max similar in any ways? If so, how?