Sunday, December 03, 2006

Wolfproof - Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Maureen Doyle McQuerry's Wolfproof is a tale full of references to British and Celtic mythology. It could easily have been written by Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones or Geraldine McCaughrean, but it was written by an American poet and author, and therefore its setting is American, not British. McQuerry reports that she was inspired to write the tale by seeing a carving in the roofspace of Merton College chapel (here in Oxford) of the ancient mythological figure of Greenman, with leaves sprouting from his head, vines pushing out from his mouth, and a skin made of bark.

The story is about three children: Timothy James (who is nearly 12), his older sister Sarah (who's 13 and dance-mad) and a school friend of Timothy's, Jessica. The story opens with Timothy at home with his babysitter, Mrs Clapper, whilst his parents and sister are away at a ballet audition. Mrs Clapper has warned Timothy not to open the door as he never knows what might come inside. He's of the opinion that anything that might come inside would be more interesting than watching Mrs Clapper sleeping, although he doesn't really believe anything will come inside. He decides to test his theory, and gets a big surprise when a pale man who puts light in his pockets, a girl who looks like a star, and a horned man enter his house. As a consequence of his rather rash action, a number of adventures befall the three children and they find themselves facing Herne the Hunter (the horned man) and his pack of Hounds in the midst of a wild storm, with only Mrs Clapper (who is far from all she appears to be) and her pet "dog" to assist them.

This photo shows a mediaeval wood carving of a "Green Man", one of two almost identical figures on a misericord in the parish church at Ludlow, Shropshire. This picture is in the Public Domain and the original photo was taken by Simon Garbutt.

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