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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

cover of Greenwitch

The Arthurian grail that the Drew children found in Over Sea, Under Stone is stolen from a museum, and they end up going back to Cornwall during their spring break, along with Great Uncle Merry. Conveniently, Will Stanton's also on spring break, and his American uncle is in the country and offers to take him down to Cornwall. While they are there, it is time for the spring ritual of the Greenwitch.

Only women are allowed to the making of the Greenwitch (a huge structure of wood and stone that they build and then throw into the sea), and rarely are foreigners even allowed to get close, but Jane is invited to come-- and she senses the power and loneliness of the creature the structure represents. Before they throw it into the ocean, the women all touch the Greenwitch and make a wish-- and on impulse, Jane wishes that the Greenwitch would be happy. This sensitive and unselfish act rewards her greatly.

When the Simon, Jane, and Barney found the grail there was also a manuscript in a lead case-- the key to decipher it. In their attempts to keep the grail from the agents of the Dark, the manuscript was lost in the ocean. In this book, we discover that the Greenwitch has a "secret"-- something she holds very precious. The Lady of the Sea and the Greenwitch are both part of a wild magic that doesn't answer to Light or Dark-- so while both sides work their magic and ask or demand that she give it back, she is powerful enough to refuse them. In the end, she gives it freely to Jane, because Jane was kind to her.

Some interesting ideas about art... Barney is beginning to develop into an artist (like his mother, and as it was predicted briefly before). The grail-thief and would-be Dark lord lures the two brothers into his tinker shed, and uses Barney to read the future and how he may command the Greenwitch. It's never mentioned why he chooses Barney, but I wondered if it might be because as an artist he would be able to see things others couldn't. Interestingly enough, the agent of the Dark is also a painter-- Barney sees his work and senses the genius and power of it, but also a wrongness and a malevolence. Even better, the man's spells to command the Greenwitch are done through painting-- which seems so perfect and plausible.

An entertaining, if brief, entry in the Dark is Rising sequence. The Drew children finally meet Will Stanton (and sensitive Jane is the first to notice he is older than his years), and the poem on the manuscript found with the grail sets up Will's quests for the rest of the series.

Author:Susan Cooper
Date published:1974
Genre:Children's Fantasy
Series:The Dark is Rising Sequence
Number of pages:147
Notes:repeat reading


Unknown said...

That is a very well-written summary. It reminds me of why I love this book so much, such that it is one of my favourites in the sequence.

Even though this was marketed as a book for children, a part of me wishes greatly that Susan Cooper had written an adult edition. As is, the book is so full of captivating plotlines, imagery and characters that after several reads over many years, it still leaves me in wanting of some more. More of what? More of the Greenwitch. More of the wild magic and its power. More battles with the Dark.

More about Jane and Barney's mysterious powers, if they are such.

Lark said...

It was weird having to label this book as "children's literature"-- I know that's what it's considered, but it doesn't seem quite accurate. Maybe this is Children's Lit in the same way that Harry Potter is: accessible and interesting to a younger crowd, but plenty to engage an older mind as well.

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