le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

myths and the merlin conspiracy

I'm re-reading (for the zillionth time) The Merlin Conspiracy, because I don't have a to-read list going this summer. And I keep sighing over its wonderful complexity, and the huge range of myth and folklore Diana Wynne Jones manages to cram into that book.

I taught it in Myth & Folktale class, where it was either not read, or read and reviled by those philistines. It was crushing for me, because I always want my students to enjoy their readings; because I love DWJ and can't abide criticism of her books; and because it includes so many aspects of myth and folktale that we'd already talked about in class.

Some of the myth/folklore elements in the book, in no particular order:
  • Arthurian legend (The Merlin, the Count of Blest)
  • Welsh legend (Gwyn ap Nud)
  • British faerie beings (Little People, the invisible people, etc)
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth's Red and White Dragons myth (which, yes, is related to Arthurian legend, but is also its own thing)
  • flower lore (speedwell, mullein, purple vetch...)
  • city lore (Salisbury, Old Sarum, Manchester in a red dress)
  • totem or spirit animals
  • standard magic lore (earth magics, etc)
  • basic fairytale motifs (things happening in threes, especially the "rules" of the dark paths)
The abundance of magics and folklore in the book sometimes makes me think it's an even richer, more complex text than I already know it to be, as if perhaps somehow Diana Wynne Jones was able to work an actual spell into or with her book, that perhaps the combination of all those elements works like alchemy to produce something Else, something Other, something beyond the everyday alchemy of fiction and reading.

No comments: