Welcome, Instapunderati, and thanks for stopping by!
The winter solstice has arrived, and the sun has touched its lowest point on the southern horizon for those of us north of the equator.
It took an ice storm for me to understand in my bones why my ancestors back in the Old World so feared and reveled in the end of the longest night. When the sun appeared after two days of night, heavy cloud, breaking trees and cold that crept in as the fires failed, well, I too sang hymns of praise to the sun above. Only sunlight would thin and dissolve the ice, and allow the repairs to begin so that heat and light could return to houses and other buildings. Unlike other, smaller towns, we never lost water, thanks be.
And so the shortest day, the longest night, the lengthening of days and the deepening of the cold have arrived. And I turn once again to the adventures of Will Stanton and Co., and Uncle Merry.
“When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back…”
OK, how many of you finished the verse? 🙂 So you’ve read Susan Cooper’s books, too.
I always come back to them this time of year. Over Sea, Under Stone didn’t do much for me, but then I read The Dark is Rising and got hooked. Eventually I memorized the entire poem set that goes with the books, aside from the Welsh-language bit. As much as I like the others, the first book to feature Will, the seventh son of a seventh son, the last of the Old Ones, is still the best.
For those who have not found the series, the five books chronicle the adventures of five children/ young teens and their uncle/mentor (“three from the temple/three from the track”) as they race to fulfill a prophesy about the final victory of Light over Dark. The stories take place in Cornwall (x2), Wales (X2) and the Thames Valley, and draw heavily on English and Welsh mythology. Cooper did a beautiful job of interweaving the legends into the stories. The books do stand alone (except for the last one, Silver on the Tree), but it makes more sense to read them as a set, I think.
“Tonight shall be wild, and tomorrow beyond imagining.” Farmer Tom to Will in The Dark is Rising
They are, well, I’m not sure what genre they fit. Fantasy yes, very much so, set in modern times but also jumping back to Roman Britain, and outside of time. They are shadowy but not dark in the current sense. There’s no sadism, no blood-n-guts, no “realistically failed” families (unless you count Bran’s family in The Grey King and Silver on the Tree, and even then there’s a great deal of love between parent(s) and child. There are scary scenes, and tension that builds within and between the books, but nothing nightmare-inducing. And there are moments of sheer beauty, both written and described.
Yes, I loved the books and still do. They are probably slow by current standards, and younger readers might need some explanations about the Wild Hunt, the Grey King, and the Lost Land of Ys. The Mari Llawd might also scare sensitive kids, but if they’ve gotten that far, they are probably ready for it.
What’s the rest of the verse? 🙂 I’m glad you asked:
“When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back/ Three from the temple, three from the track./ Wood, bronze, iron, fire, water, stone,/ Five shall return and one go alone.” From The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.
The books are now available as e-books.
*The poem is much longer, and fun to learn and recite.