Into the Greenby Charles de Lint
The author of Spiritwalk tells an "imaginary world" tale in the manner of Tolkien and Peter Beagle. A young woman travels through the Kingdoms of the Green Isles with a witch staff in her hand, a harp on her back, a puzzle to solve, and a quest to fulfill. Magic abounds in the land--but within magic, there is also danger. . . . See more details below
The author of Spiritwalk tells an "imaginary world" tale in the manner of Tolkien and Peter Beagle. A young woman travels through the Kingdoms of the Green Isles with a witch staff in her hand, a harp on her back, a puzzle to solve, and a quest to fulfill. Magic abounds in the land--but within magic, there is also danger. . . .
“De Lint can feel the beauty of the ancient lore he is evoking. He can well imagine what it would be like to conjure the Other World among ancient standing stones. His characters have a certain fallibility that makes them multidimensional and human, and his settings are gritty. This is no Disneylike Never-Never Land . . . . Life and death in de Lint's world are more than a matter of a few words or a magic crystal. The Sidhe are beguiling, terrifying folk and their Otherwold a realm from which no mortal returns unchanged. De Lint knows that, regardless of what names he uses.” The Philadelphia Inquirer
- St. Martin's Press
- Publication date:
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- 1st ed
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Into the Green
By De Lint, Charles
Orb BooksCopyright © 2001 De Lint, Charles
All right reserved.
ANGHARAD'S PEOPLE MET the witches the night they camped by Tiercaern, where the heather-backed Carawyn Hills flow down to the sea.
There were two of them--an old winter of a man, with salt-white hair and skin as brown and wrinkled as a tinker's hand, and a boy Angharad's age, fifteen summers if he was a day, lean and whip-thin, with hair as black as a sloe. They had the flicker of blue-gold in the depths of their eyes--eyes that were both old and young, of all ages and of none.
The tinkers had brought their canvas-topped wagons around in a circle and were preparing supper when the pair approached the edge of the camp. They hailed the tinkers above the sudden warning chorus of the camp dogs, and Angharad's father, Herend'n, went out to meet them, for he was the leader of the company.
"Is there iron on you?" Herend'n called, by which he meant, were they carrying weapons.
The old man shook his head and lifted his staff. It was a white wood, that staff; cut from a rowan: witch-wood.
"Not unless you count this," he said. "My name's Woodfrost and this is Garrow, my grandson. We are travelers--like yourselves."
Angharad, peering at the strangers from behind her father's back, saw the blue-gold light in their eyes and shook her head. They weren't like her people. They weren't at all like any tinkers she knew.
Her father regarded the strangers steadily for a long heartbeat, thenstepped aside and ushered them into the wagon circle.
"Be welcome," he said.
When they were by his fire, he offered them the guest-cup with his own hands. Woodfrost took the tea and sipped. Seeing them up close, Angharad wondered why the housey-folk feared witches so. This pair was as bedraggled as a couple of cats caught out in a storm and seemed no more frightening to her than beggars in a market town square. They were skinny and poor, with ragged travel-stained cloaks and unkempt hair. But then the old man's gaze touched hers and suddenly Angharad was afraid.
There was a distance in those witch-eyes, like a night sky rich with stars, or like a hawk floating high on the wind, watching, waiting to drop on its prey. They read something in her, pierced the scurry of her thoughts and the motley mix of what she was, to find something lacking. She couldn't look away, she was trapped like a riddle on a raven's tongue, until he finally dropped his gaze. Shivering, Angharad moved closer to her father.
"I thank you for your kindness," Woodfrost said as he handed the guest-cup back to Herend'n. "The road can be hard for folk such as we--especially when there is no home waiting for us at road's end."
Again his gaze touched Angharad.
"Is this your daughter?" he added.
Herend'n nodded proudly and gave the old man her name. He was a widower and with the death of Angharad's mother many years ago much of his joy in life had died. But if he loved anything in this world, it was his colt-thin daughter with her brown eyes that were so big and the bird's-nest tangle of her red hair.
"She has the sight," Woodfrost said.
"I know," Herend'n replied. "Her mother had it too--Ballan rest her soul."
Bewildered, Angharad looked from her father to the stranger. This was the first she'd heard of it.
"But Da," she said, pulling at his sleeve.
He turned at the tug to look at her. Something passed across his features the way the grass in a field trembles like a wave when the wind touches it. It was there one moment, gone the next--a sadness, a touch of pride, a momentary fear.
"But, Da," she repeated.
"Don't be afraid," he said. "It's but a gift--like Kinny's skill with a fiddle, or the way Sheera can set a snare and talk to her ferrets."
"I'm not a witch!"
"It isn't such a terrible thing," Woodfrost said gently.
Angharad refused to meet his gaze. Instead, she looked at the boy. He smiled back shyly. Quickly Angharad looked away.
"I'm not," she said again, but now she wasn't so sure.
She wasn't exactly sure what the sight was, but she could remember a time when she'd seen more in the world than those around her. But she'd been so young then and it all went away when she grew up.
Or she had made it go away...
* * *
As though the coming of the witches was a catalyst, Angharad found that once again she could see what was hidden from others. Again she was aware of movement abroad in the world that went unseen and unheard by both tinkers and the housey-folk who lived in the towns or worked the farms, and to see it, to hear it, was not such a terrible thing.
Woodfrost and Garrow traveled with the company that whole summer long and will she, nill she, Angharad learned to use her gift. She retained her fear of Woodfrost--because there was always that shadow, that darkness, that secrecy in his eyes--but she made friends with Garrow. He was still shy with the other tinkers, but he opened up to her. His secrets, when they unfolded, were of a far and distant sort from what she supposed his grandsire's to be.
Garrow taught her the language of the trees and the beasts, from the murmur of a drowsy oak to the quick chatter of squirrel and finch, and the sly tongue of the fox. Magpies became her confidants, and badgers, and the wind. But at the same time she found herself becoming tongue-tied around Garrow. If he paid particular attention to her, or caught one of her long dreamy glances, a flush would rise from the nape of her neck and her heart began to beat quick and fast like that of a captured wren.
* * *
On a night between the last days of the Summerlord Hafarl's rule and the first cold days of autumn, on a night when the housey-folk left their farms and towns to build great bonfires on the hilltops where they sang and danced to music that made the priests of the One God Dath frown, she and Garrow made a mystery of their own. They made love as gently fierce as the stag and moon in the spring and, afterwards, lay dreamy and content in each other's arms while the stars completed their nightly wheel and spin in the skies high above them.
When Garrow finally slept, tears touched Angharad's cheeks, but it wasn't for sorrow that she wept. She was so full of emotion and magic that there was simply no other release for what she felt swelling inside her.
* * *
The tinker company wintered in Mullion that year, on a farm that belonged to Green George Snell, who once traveled the roads with Angharad's people. There they prepared for the next year's traveling. Wagons were repaired, as were harnesses and riggings. Goods were made to be sold at the market towns and the horses were readied for the fairs.
When the first breath of spring was in the air, the company took to the road once more. Angharad and Garrow still rode in Herend'n's wagon, though they had jumped the broom at midwinter. Newly married, they were still too poor to afford their own wagon.
The road took them up into Umbria and Kellmidden that summer, where the company looked to meet with the caravans of other travelers and to grow rich--or at least as rich as any tinker could get, which was not a great deal by the standards of the housey-folk. They looked forward to a summer of traveling and the road, of gossiping and trading, of renewing old acquaintances and making new friends.
Instead, they found the plague waiting for them.
Copyright 1993 by Charles de Lint
Excerpted from Into the Green by De Lint, Charles Copyright © 2001 by De Lint, Charles. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Born in Holland in 1951, Charles de Lint grew up in Canada, with a few years off in Turkey, Lebanon, and Switzerland.
Although his first novel was 1984's The Riddle of the Wren, it was with Moonheart, published later that same year, that de Lint made his mark, and established him at the forefront of "urban fantasy," modern fantasy storytelling set on contemporary city streets. Moonheart was set in and around "Newford," an imaginary modern North American city, and many of de Lint's subsequent novels have been set in Newford as well, with a growing cast of characters who weave their way in and out of the stories. The Newford novels include Spirit Walk, Memory and Dream, Trader, Someplace To Be Flying, Forests of the Heart, The Onion Girl, and Spirits in the Wires. In addition, de Lint has published several collections of Newford short stories, including Moonlight and Vines, for which he won the World Fantasy Award. Among de Lint's many other novels are Mulengro, Jack the Giant-Killer, and The Little Country.
Married since 1980 to his fellow musician MaryAnn Harris, Charles de Lint lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
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I'm a huge fan of de Lint, and so I enjoy all his works, though I expected more out of this one. It centers around Angharad, who is a tinker, witch, and a harper (a point that de Lint emphasises every few pages and comes to be very annoying) and she interrupts her usual quest, of roaming the lands to find others of her kind and show them their gifts, so that she can destroy a great evil. A great, horrible, terrible evil, that is essentially just a shadow inside a box that makes people feel awful. And Angharad is burdened with the quest of finding the box and destroying what's inside so that it doesn't destroy "the green", which is the land of magic that we also hear about every few pages, and also gets annoying. But repetetive phrases aside, it was a decent little story. Quick read. The characters are fairly likeable, though they're not nearly as engaging as some of de Lint's other characters. The settings were nicely described though, and I felt like I was there, without being told every single detail. It did feel like the story was building up to some epic ending, but overall it was pretty passive. I'm glad I read the book, and I'll keep it in my collection, but it's not something I'm going to want to read again.
In this story Charles de Lint begins with snippets of strong voice, but it peters off toward the end, when you find the plots pulled through as predictably as knitting a thread. The beginning, taken from a series of short stories, act as pleasant images of the character. However, it soon becomes apparent that Angharad should have stayed in the short stories she started in. It was a short read, with the whispers of a stronger author beneath, but in the end a dissapointment.
Much of Charles de Lint's work has been categorized as urban fantasy - tales that tell of the power and magic in the world today, in people's lives now, in places here. 'Into the Green' could be a transition tale: how did we get to a time in which magic and power seem to have disappeared, in which urban fantasy comes into being as the longing for that power and magic? What was the world like just before the very last traces of that power disappeared? Angharad the tinker, a nomad of gypsy kind, lived in the world at such a time. The 'time' is of course disguised as a different place - the Kingdom of the Green Isles - and in fact has a history, a past time of its own in which power and magic, and those who wielded the power and magic, were not so rare. The Kingdom of the Green Islesis not thick with magic; this isn't Earthsea, with its mage winds, competing mages, priestesses, Roke's college of mages. It is more akin to Middle Earth at the end of the Third Age: political and military powers are wielded in the open, while ancient wisdoms and subtle forces fade and dissipate as surely as, though more slowly than, the morning fog lifts and disperses with the rising sun. Then we are in the heat and rush and bright light of day. One of the remaining spirits in the Kingdom of the Green Isles - a mere breath, a shimmering wisp of that world's magic - warns Angharad of the impending final retreat of 'the green', of magic and light, from their world. It is Angharad's triad of dispensations - tinker, witch, and harpist - that signal her right to this wisdom, and allow her understanding of and response to that wisdom. The spirit, an oak's spirit, instructs Angharad in, if not preventing the final retreat of 'the green', at least closing off the most obvious and sure avenue of that retreat. This is a magical box, a sort of negative Pandora's box. If let open in the world, the box wouldn't release a mob of calamities and troubles, but would rather suck out of the world the last of that breath of magic of the green into the blackness of the box. Her task is to find the box, and somehow take that blackness into herself before it can darken the fey light in the heart of the world. De Lint's story seems to come to us through the mists of Irish history, language and legend, much of which is seemingly intentionally left obscure. The many references, and even more subtle allusions, to a nomadic Irish gypsy life do give a certain time-depth to the Kingdom of the Green Isles, and to Angharad's life and journey there. At times, these same idioms and colloquialisms lack substance, and stand out like props. Also, the storytelling suffers from a choppy plot in the first third of the book. The acknowledgment at the beginning of the book partly explains, and confirms, this: the 'early portion of this novel appeared, in much altered form, as short stories.' About one-third the way into the book, I got the sense that I'd left behind any story that had been developing, or not developing, and now was coming quickly into the thick of a mystery novel. Angharad has temporarily left her meandering tinker ways to get wrapped up in, and get to the bottom of, intrigues involving the sale of purported witch bones, and finding the mysterious box that may after all be somehow involved in the gruesome business. Nonetheless, the last half of the book is quite engaging, and actually less 'fantastic' than is the first 'early portion.' Perhaps the most engaging of this part of the story is its more soulful, psychological, and human, rather than fantastic and fey, quality. A broken, unredeemed outcast - a forgotten, crippled soldier bent on blowing his brains out with alcohol (he is a coward to boot, and so resists cutting his own throat or falling on a sword) - flickers into the picture. He can't bear to look at his love, the woman he held in her dying moments, as she speaks to him in his memories, and we ache for him to look and listen long enough to hear beyond his sha