Magical Worldbuilding in the Ordinary World
Zahra Rizvi
THE VERY GLUM LIFE OF TOOTOOLU TOOP by Stuti Agarwal Penguin Random House, 2021, 160 pp., 250.00
June 2021, volume 45, No 6

There is both beauty and novelty in finding magic, but one hears less about the beauty and novelty of the everyday. Stuti Agarwal’s The Very Glum Life of Tootoolu Toop is a love letter to the everyday, ‘glum’ life that we all live. Told through the perspective of a ten-year-old witch of the ‘Oonoodiwaga’ tribe from the Darjeeling mountains, the novel is a sophisticated worldbuilding of a localized hybrid of the magical and the non-magical which will be a delightful experience for readers of all ages.

The reader is quickly pulled into Tootoolu’s world with Agarwal’s simple inviting prose joining hands with Karuna Subbiah’s matching illustrations. Tootoolu begins her story by means of an open letter to any reader who might come across it. Presented in a handwriting-esque style, the letter details Tootoolu’s wish to live a non-magical or ‘glum’ life as the young witch finds this non-magical world of the everyday that she has just read in ‘glum’ books to be a world full of mundane adventures (which doesn’t really sound like an oxymoron to her magical ears). With Tootoolu’s witty voice, the reader is drawn into appreciating the almost child-like fascination with which Tootoolu yearns to live an ‘ordinary’ life because that is what is most exciting to her. The novel is full of journal-style lists and to-dos which constantly help the reader experience details of the characters’ lives that are otherwise not explicitly presented in the narrative. There is much endearing humour in Tootoolu’s list of ‘How to Become a Glum’ which comes complete with ‘Annexure: Rules to follow in the Glum World’.

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