It was very exciting to see the Drew Children again in Greenwitch, in particular Jane, who had always been my favourite. The weird town, the cult-like close-knit community and then the ritual that Jane witnesses all combine to create a dreamy atmosphere with a quite ominous tone. I also liked the fact that Jane’s empathy was her special power (even if she didn’t have any actual magical powers). That was something that I could try to cultivate in preparation for my turn at defeating the Dark!
And then meeting Bran in The Grey King was a whole other revelation. Suppose some boy at school was actually the long lost son of King Arthur! I think I freaked out a few likely-looking lads by staring at them with what I hoped was an ‘I know who you really are’ kind of a look. None of them admitted to any secret magical or royal heritages, but a few of them went red and ran away.
Every issue we write a letter to an author that has inspired and influenced us. For our Objects, Artefacts and Talismans issue, Laurel tells Susan Cooper how The Dark is Rising Sequence terrified her, inspired her, and made her look at people funny.
Dear Susan Cooper,
Because of you, for years I suspected that my Auntie Chrissie was secretly an Old One sent to watch over me until my full powers and importance in saving the world were made clear to me. This made my eleventh birthday somewhat of an anticlimax, but I did not give up all hope (don’t tell anyone, Susan, but I’m still hoping).
My dad read Under Sea, Under Stone to me when I was eight, over a summer that we spentin St Ives, Cornwall. With the roar of the sea in my ears and the eerie shrieking of gulls cutting through his voice, I was totally captivated by the idea that magic and myth could come into our real world – maybe come into my real world – and sweep us into the drama of its mystery. When the Drew family found out that their ‘Great Uncle Merry’ was in fact Merlin, a character who I was particularly obsessed with at the time after recently listening to my dad read The Sword In The Stone (I think my dad was on an Arthurian Legend kick), I was giddy with glee. As I followed their quest for the Holy Grail, that legendary object, I walked the rocks on the beach seeking likely looking caves, and touched the stone cliffs hoping they would fall away to reveal magically hidden tunnels.
Finally, in The Silver on the Tree, when all of the characters: Merlin, Will, Bran, and the Drew children, all meet to bring down the Grey King, the most terrible Lord of the Dark, the epic journey through myth, legend and time was at an end. I wistfully closed the book - kind of annoyed that none of the mortals would have any memory of their adventures, and that the Old Ones had left the earth forever. So, was that the battle between light and Dark over forever then? What about me? When would I battle the Dark Lords? And if I did, would I forget about it afterwards? Wait. Maybe I had already battled the Dark Lords! Had my Auntie Chrissie wiped my memory after we had magically saved Dartmoor? (More speculative squinting ensued when she came to visit.)
But really Susan, I just wanted to let you know that your books had a huge influence on me growing up, fuelling hours of daydreaming and odd behaviour. I actually re-read them all in my early twenties, and they still affected me in a very similar way. So, thanks Susan. Thanks for bringing excitement, grandiose impossible ambition, and terror into my life.
Lots of love,
"The Dark is Rising scared the living bejesus out of me"
And then, The Dark is Rising scared the living bejesus out of me. As the nights grew longer and the summer faded, my life returned to its routine of school and life in an ancient stone house on Dartmoor. Both my parents worked, and I spent a lot of time on my own, reading and eating too many crisps. My dad had bought The Dark is Rising, book two in the series, for me, after Under Sea, Under Stone, had been such a success. I’m not sure why I ended up reading it to myself rather than having it as a bedtime story, maybe he’d been away working abroad as he often did, but, that winter, I sat down and read the Dark is Rising to myself. The whole atmosphere of the book had darkened. Will, when he finds out on his eleventh birthday that he is an Old One, the Seeker whose mission it is to find the ‘Four Objects of the Light’, is genuinely scared by what is happening to him. Some terrifying Lords of the Dark are after him, in a series of spooky and freaky ways, making his own home unsafe and putting his family at risk. Like the first book, this was myth breaking into real life, but unlike Under Sea, Under Stone, I was forced to think about how scary it must be to actually be a character in one of those books, with all of these life threatening, weird and magical things happening to you. This didn’t stop me, however, in wishing desperately that such a dangerous adventure would happen to me.
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