Sanctuary: A Tale of Life in the Woods

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Sanctuary: A Tale of Life in the Woods is a short story written by Paul Monette. It tells the story of a fox named Renarda and a rabbit named Lapine. The two animals are lesbians in an interspecial relationship. But they must hide their love from the manipulative leader of the forest, the Great Horned Owl. It was the last book Monette wrote before he died of AIDS in 1995; it was published posthumously in 1997.


The story opens up to the destruction of forests all over the world, except for one which is protected by a magic shield erected by the Witch. The Witch eventually decides to perish in order to keep the shield up, leaving her familiar, the Great Horned Owl, in charge of the forest. He does so by convincing the animals of the forest that it was he who kept the shield up. The other animals never knew of the Witch's existence

Many years later, the Owl decides that to strengthen the loyalty of his followers, he must create an enemy to loathe. He separates the animals of the forest into decendants of the First Ones, the First Ones being the very first residents of the forest, and the decendants of animals that came after the First Ones. Any animal who seemed "different" would be marked as decendants of outsiders and be subject to various cruelties such as isolation from the other animals.

At this point, the story begins to tell how Renarda the Fox and Lapine the Rabbit met. At first, the two were predator and prey. But when they realized that they were having too much fun chasing each other, they quickly became friends and eventually lovers. They shared a den with two different entrances to keep their relationship a secret. However, the Owl, during one of his late night flights, sees Renarda and Lapine nuzzling and sends his wolf guards to arrest them. They were marked as outsider blood and sent to two different isolation districts.

Meanwhile, outside of the forest, an apprentice wizard named Albertus is looking through books about a powerful sorceress who used her magic to protect the forest where she lived. Determine to learn from her, he sets out to find the forest and manages to navigate through the shield's magic. He then meets Renarda, who informs him of the Great Horned Owl's tyranny. Disgusted that anyone would impersonate the Witch and use his influence to spread hatred, Albertus decided to reunite Renarda with Lapine and bring the Owl down from his throne by challenging his to a magical contest.

The Owl proves his magic simply by flying to the top of his spruce tree and telling all the animals what he has seen, which they see as proof of the Owl's magic. Despite being an apprentice, Albertus uses his magic to ressurrect the Witch, who then reveals the Owl as the impersonator he was and the Owl flees from the forest. Without the Owl's rule, Renarda and Lapine were free to express their love however they wished. As for Albertus, he became the Witch's student and lover.