Sunday, October 23, 2005

A Feast of Alan Garner

Today I have read a couple of essays from Garner's collection, The Voice That Thunders and I've also read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, which was a lot more straightforward than The Owl Service - possibly because this is Garner's first book. It's very Tolkienian, in that Dwarves, Wizards, Trolls (here called the Mara) and Elves (the lios-alfar), wander through the story, and the Dark Lord is an echo of Sauron; but also because it is influenced by Norse myth (both Fenrir and Ragnarok are mentioned), but the difference between Garner's book and Tolkien's, is that Garner's are set in the real world, at a time in recent history, whereas Tolkien's Middle-earth is clearly a mythological place of time long past... Having said that, though, Garner's Alderley Egde (in Cheshire) contains magic and mystery enough. Susan and Colin go to stay with their mother's former nurse, Bess, and her husband, whilst their parents are overseas. Susan wears a bracelet carrying a small stone which she refers to as the Tear, but Bess tells her is the Bridestone, a family heirloom that has been passed from mother to daughter for generations - so long in fact that no one can remember from where it originated.

When Colin and Susan, out for a walk, are pursued by weird creatures across Alderley Edge, they are saved by the wizard Cadellin. He takes them into the caves of Fundindelve, where he watches over the enchanted sleep of 140 knights. But the heart of the magic that binds them - Firefrost, also known as the Weirdstone of Brisingamen - has been lost. Cadellin has been searching for the stone for more than 100 years, but the forces of evil are closing in, determined to possess and destroy its special power. Colin and Susan finally realise that Susan's Bridestone is the Weirdstone and they set out to take it to Cadellin, but it is taken from them. Fortunately they manage to recapture it, but getting it to Cadellin is not going to be easy, when Nastrond's agents are out looking for them and the stone, and are determined to prevent the children, their two dwarf companions, and Gowther (Bess' husband), from reaching the pre-arranged meeting with Cadellin.

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