From Generation to Generation: An Exploration of Myth and Landscape in the Work of Alan Garner

Research Group members Nick Swarbrick and Matt Tobin have been busy in the Cheshire countryside, in this guest post for Folklore Thursday.  I suspect others might be retracing their steps soon!

Reading between the lines of landscape, and drinking in a sense of place from the unpicking of a collective memory, be it literary, anthropological, geographical, or our own sensory experiences, is something that has been toyed with for decades. The emotional and spiritual dimension of being in place, in the work of Alan Garner, powerfully reminds us of our connection to, and relationship with, the land and the memories/stories attached to it.

Alan Garner is a prolific writer perhaps best known for his two books The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960) and The Moon of Gomrath (1963). These are both magic realism adventures in which two children visit his Cheshire homeland and encounter creatures from British legend. All of his books are either re-presentations of folktales or an unearthing of the mythologies which have collectively been woven into the landscape over the centuries. The commonality throughout is the emotional and spiritual connection that modern peoples have with their past. With a gap of some fifty years, he completed the trilogy in 2012 with Boneland. After reading Garner’s last two novels – Boneland and Thursbitch – we came to the conclusion that the landscape itself is a character. There is something sentient about the physical space; it is as if the elves in the earlier novels and the psychological disturbance of his middle-period fiction are revisited with an almost surgical exploration as he looks at the relationship between spirituality, landscape, and story.

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