spReAd the love book challenge: The Dark Comes Rising

The first 2015 spReAd the love challenge for fans of Richard Armitage is coming to an end. If you want to make a guest post on my blog, you need to tell me in the next little while. Meanwhile, did you see Obscura’s excellent post about The Monster at the End of This Book?

spread the love

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tumblr_mqyse6kG7V1s059iio3_500For my last spReAd the love challenge, I thought I’d write briefly about a series of books I loved as a twelve-year-old (at left, the edition that was in my local public library). I thought this series had been completely forgotten but then, in the wake of the Harry Potter juggernaut, the books were resurrected as a film that I understand was not very good. I started seeing them around again.

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising books (there are five, total, written between 1965 and 1973) portray children who fight against the dark forces of the universe by seeking out objects of power in accordance with ancient prophecies. The first book I read, The Dark is Rising, is actually the second in the series; the book I liked best, Greenwitch, is apparently considered the weakest of the group. In any case: in The Dark is Rising, the almost eleven-year-old seventh son of a seventh son, Will Stanton, wakes up to discover his world utterly changed, apparently taken back centuries. On the day before, he’d been given an iron circle intersected by a cross, and warned to look out for certain things. Attacked by a rider on a black horse in his new world, he finds a mysterious door to enter. The people he meets there teach him that he is one of the Old Ones, a group of magical beings who defend the light forces of the universe. In order to fulfill his role, Will will have to search for a series of six symbolic items that, once united, make up the first object of power. This search takes place around the Yule days. As I learned in graduate school, these days, particularly the ones between Christmas and Epiphany, sometimes called the days of the dead or the days between the years, were thought by ancient Europeans to be filled with supernatural possibility — something that did not change upon the coming of Christianity. Cooper fills Will’s journey with mysteries and challenges as he searches for the signs alternately in the past and present. Each new figure he meets (for good or ill) teaches him new lessons about his identity as an Old One and the steps he must take to achieve his task. Saying more than that would give away the rest of the story — but it is a total page turner.

What did I love about this book? First, there’s tons of folklore in these books — a kind of mishmosh of Arthurian legend, Old English folklore, and Celtic mythology. They also introduced me to Wales for the first time, and I am pretty sure that it was from one of these books that I learned how to pronounce the Welsh consonant “ll” correctly. (Readers who know me know that linguistics are a primary interest.) Second, there’s the whole identity question — Will has to figure out who he is. The story is suspenseful. But probably the main thing I remember from the book, something that has stayed with me my entire life, are the rhymes that Cooper gives the characters — reflecting ancient prophecies — to accompany them on their journeys. As a reader, one finds oneself chanting them along with the characters and searching for the required signs in the story.

“When the Dark comes rising, six will turn it back, three from the circle, three from the track …” — I can still hear it in my mind.

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indeoxIn honor of the spReAd the love challenge and Richard Armitage, I have donated a copy of Kendra Kandlestar — a book I know nothing about, but which the library I am supporting wants a copy of, in the fantasy genre. Tastes in fantasy change, and I think it’s as important for young readers to find things in the library that appeal to them as it is to encourage them to read classics. (And I read an awful lot of stuff I don’t remember when I was a kid — so you see, the experience of reading is just as important as what you read, in the end.) It also has a female heroine on this International Day of the Woman. As you are no doubt already aware, my spReAd the love posts are made in honor of the Golden Learning Centre Library in Balmertown, Ontario, Canada. If you are looking for someone who needs a book, you can donate to this library from their amazon wishlist, here!

~ by Servetus on March 9, 2015.

10 Responses to “spReAd the love book challenge: The Dark Comes Rising”

  1. Once there was a time before Harry Potter….. 😉 Thanks!

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  2. Omg I love this series so much. I think while I’d have to say that The Dark is Rising and Silver on the Tree are both objectively more exciting and action-packed books, my favorite of the five is actually The Grey King. I really connected with the story of the angry, lonely outsider — Bran — finding kinship with another loner who is also struggling with identity issues. And of course, I bawled my eyes out over the dog.

    I love them all, though. Such good books. I wish more people had read them. I can’t even seem to get the spawn interested in reading them. Gave him his own new set and everything, and he won’t touch them.

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    • The Grey King won the Newbery. I don’t have it in such good recollection. I remember thinking that Silver on the Tree was a bit preachy. I don’t think I read that one more than once. I read The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch,a nd Over Sea, Under Stone multiple times.

      Spawn needs to … oh well. Some day he will realize.

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  3. Oh, I loved that series too! I don’t remember details, but those books inspired me to read the Mabinogion. Ah, the joy of discovering new books and re-discovering old favorites!

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    • what a great idea. Maybe time for me to read it?

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      • For some reason, I seem to remember that the ancient Welsh/Celtic culture was matrilineal. I’ve always thought that was the most sensible approach, if ensuring shared bloodlines was important.

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  4. To this day I can still recite all three verses of the Dark is Rising poem without error. 🙂 That series is as much a part of me as my nose. And my nose is pretty big.

    Plus those books taught me, at the age of ten, a very important lesson about publishing: you can get a Newbery medal nomination if you have at least one dog in your story. But if you want to win, you must kill it. 😉

    Let’s all agree not to acknowledge that travesty of a movie, shall we?

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