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Sunday, November 19, 2006

cover of The Throme of the Erril of Sherill

I've read most of McKillip's more recent books (pretty much everything I could get my hands on), so I've started to look for some of her older works. This one is only McKillip's second published book, and it's a little strange in some ways-- but it also has the fairy tale feel that so many of her books do. The story centers on the Cnite Caerles, who loves the King's Damsen (his daughter) and asks for her hand in marriage. But the King is pining away for the great Throme of the Erril of Sherill and demands that Caerles quest to find the Throme before he can marry Damsen. However, this is an impossible task (as everyone else tells Caerles), because the Throme doesn't exist. However, Caerles loves Damsen and sets out to find the Throme-- even if it doesn't exist, he intends to find it-- and this leads him on an interesting journey.

Caerles meets all manner of interesting people and creatures on his quest, and gradually trades or gives away (all for honorable reasons) all the trappings of a Cnite (his horse, shield, sword, and even his boots) so that by the end of his journey, he no longer even looks like one. Everyone he meets tells him that the Throme does not exist-- but each sends him to a completely different place to look, such as the Floral Wold at the end of the world, or the Dolorous House of the Doleman. Finally, he meets a country woman who gives him some sensible advice-- he must write the Throme himself. He is able to do this, but only because of the experience of the Quest. In fact, his throme is so wonderful that the King is convinced that Caerles succeeded-- but Caerles is unwilling to win his Damsen by a lie, and tells the truth. The King demands that Damsen refuse to marry him, but after seeing what he has gone through for her and laughing at him, barefoot in his leaf cloak with a starry staff and riding a fire-breathing hound, she finally stands up to her father and chooses to live with her love.

The names and language in this book are a little strange, which suits the kind of story McKillip tells, although sometimes it is more jarring than magical. Caerles come across a "dagon," a huge hound with violet eyes and fiery breath that is large enough to ride like a horse, and falls into a Borebel pit, and falls asleep in a norange grove. Even the names of the people that Caerles meets, such as the Earl Merle, seem more like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book than in a McKillip fairy tale.

An enjoyable little tale, and a quick read, with entertaining, musical language. Also shows some hints of the magic and depth of McKillip's later works (Caerles reminds me in some ways of Cyan Dag in The Tower at Stony Wood; even his emblem of three moons bears a similarity).

Title:The Throme of the Erril of Sherrill
Author:Patricia McKillip
Date published:1973
Genre:Children's Fantasy
Number of pages:69


Anonymous said...

I suppose it's unlikely that anyone will read this 2 years later, but this is my absolute favorite book. Of all time. Without reservation.

So I'm very happy that someone else has at least heard of it. I came across Chapter 2 in one of the Fantastic Imagination anthologies and had to find the rest. If you can find it the original hardback with the illustrations by Julie Noonan is well worth it,

It's a deceptively simple story and utterly charming. McKillips takes so many cliches and turns them inside out so that even the familiar parts seem new, fresh, the magic sparkling off them the way they did when you first heard Mossycoat, Cinderella, King Arthur or whichever fairy tale first ignited your imagination.

The language play is delightful- especially when read out loud. I imagine a linguist or someone more familiar with older forms of English might get some references, but sadly, that's an uneducated guess. Regardless, you can tell she's having fun, much in the way Crowley does (but to me, in a way that's much less frustrating).

Anyway, thank you for posting this. Hopefully others will check out the book.

Lark said...

Reading this book out loud is a great idea-- I will have to try it sometime. I remember the language and words being very playful and inventive, so that would be a great way to experience it, and share it.

Thanks for the comment (I always read them!). It's always nice to find another McKillip fan.

Cayzle said...

I just read it aloud to my five-year-old daughter, and she, I and her mom all loved it! A wonderful book.

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