I’ve arrived at book three in my read through of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence. Somewhat to my surprise, Greenwitch sees the return of the Drew Children from Over Sea, Under Stone. The plot is basically the need to recover the item that was lost to the sea at the end of that book, but along the way Cooper delves deeply into folklore again.
The Greenwitch of the title is a sort of whicker man figure that is made by the women of Trewissick and sacrificed to the sea gods, presumably to guarantee safe return of their husbands from fishing expeditions, though she is made in spring so there’s doubtless a fertility element too. Jane Drew, being a) female and b) not exactly a ‘furriner’, gets invited to the making ceremony, and here we see Cooper doing what she does so well.
For she knew suddenly, out there in the cold dawn, that this silent image somehow held within it more power than she had ever sensed before in any creature or thing. Thunder and storms and earthquakes were there, and all the force of the earth and sea. It was outside time, boundless, ageless, beyond any line drawn between good and evil. Jane stared at it, horrified, and from its sightless head the Greenwitch stared back.
Jane is the most interesting character in this book. As a young girl with two brothers, she has clearly long got used to having to be the sensible one. When Great-Uncle Merry suggests a return to Cornwall for the Easter holiday, Simon and Barney are immediately enthusiastic. It is Jane who is left to point out that their previous adventure almost ended very badly for Barney.
There is also the matter of the other child that Merriman Lyon brings along, a young friend of his by the name of Will Stanton. Simon immediately bristles, seeing Will as a rival male. Barney, the artist, is somewhat more friendly. But it is Jane, forced to be part-adult herself, who sees the old man inside Will. Given the carboard nature of most of the female characters in The Dark is Rising, having Jane back was a pleasant surprise.
I don’t have a lot more to say about the book. Cooper is into her stride by now, and knows what she is doing with the series. I can definitely see why it has become such a firm favourite with readers. Hopefully I’ll have more to say as I get to the end and I can see the shape of the whole thing.
By: Susan Cooper
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