Runemarks

Runemarks

by Joanne Harris

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Overview

Runemarks by Joanne Harris

Seven o’clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the end of the world, and goblins had been at the cellar again. . . . Not that anyone would admit it was goblins. In Maddy Smith’s world, order rules. Chaos, old gods, fairies, goblins, magic, glamours–all of these were supposedly vanquished centuries ago. But Maddy knows that a small bit of magic has survived. The “ruinmark” she was born with on her palm proves it–and makes the other villagers fearful that she is a witch (though helpful in dealing with the goblins-in-the-cellar problem). But the mysterious traveler One-Eye sees Maddy’s mark not as a defect, but as a destiny. And Maddy will need every scrap of forbidden magic One-Eye can teach her if she is to survive that destiny.


From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375849480
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 01/08/2008
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 447,033
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 12 - 14 Years

About the Author

Master storyteller Joanne Harris has created a magical and epic romp–a fresh, funny, and wonderfully irreverent new take on the old Norse tales sure to be enjoyed by readers young and old.
Joanne Harris’s books, which include Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange, have been published in over 40 countries and have won numerous international awards. She lives in England with her husband and daughter.


From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

Seven o'clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the cellar again. Mrs. Scattergood-the landlady at the Seven Sleepers Inn-swore it was rats, but Maddy Smith knew better. Only goblins could have burrowed into the brick-lined floor, and besides, as far as she knew, rats didn't drink ale.

But she also knew that in the village of Malbry-as in the whole of the Strond Valley-certain things were never discussed, and that included anything curious, uncanny, or unnatural in any way. To be imaginative was considered almost as bad as giving oneself airs, and even dreams were hated and feared, for it was through dreams (or so the Good Book said) that the Seer-folk had crossed over from Chaos, and it was in Dream that the power of the Faerie remained, awaiting its chance to re-enter the world.

And so the folk of Malbry made every effort never to dream. They slept on boards instead of mattresses, avoided heavy evening meals, and as for telling bedtime tales-well. The children of Malbry were far more likely to hear about the martyrdom of St. Sepulchre or the latest Cleansings from World's End than tales of magic or of World Below. Which is not to say that magic didn't happen. In fact, over the past fourteen years the village of Malbry had witnessed more magic in one way or another than anyplace in the Middle Worlds.

That was Maddy's fault, of course. Maddy Smith was a dreamer, a teller of tales, and worse, and as such, she was used to being blamed for anything irregular that happened in the village. If a bottle of beer fell off a shelf, if the cat got into the creamery, if Adam Scattergood threw a stone at a stray dog and hit a window instead-ten to one Maddy would get the blame.

And if she protested, folk would say that she'd always had a troublesome nature, that their ill luck had begun the day she was born, and that no good would ever come of a child with a ruinmark-that rusty sign on the Smith girl's hand- which some oldsters called the Witch's Ruin and which no amount of scrubbing would remove.
It was either that or blame the goblins-otherwise known as Good Folk or Faerie-who this summer had upped their antics from raiding cellars and stealing sheep (or occasionally painting them blue) to playing the dirtiest kind of practical jokes, like leaving horse dung on the church steps, or putting soda in the communion wine to make it fizz, or turning the vinegar to piss in all the jars of pickled onions in Joe Grocer's store.

And since hardly anyone dared to mention them, or even acknowledge that they existed at all, Maddy was left to deal with the vermin from under the Hill alone and in her own way.

No one asked her how she did it. No one watched the Smith girl at work. And no one ever called her witch-except for Adam Scattergood, her employer's son, a fine boy in some ways but prone to foul language when the mood took him.

Besides, they said, why speak the word? That ruinmark surely spoke for itself.

Now Maddy considered the rust-colored mark. It looked like a letter or sigil of some kind, and sometimes it shone faintly in the dark or burned as if something hot had pressed there. It was burning now, she saw. It often did when the Good Folk were near, as if something inside her were restless and itched to be set free.
That summer, it had itched more often than ever, as the goblins swarmed in unheard-of numbers, and banishing them was one way of putting that itch to rest. Her other skills remained unused and, for the most part, untried, and though sometimes that was hard to bear-like having to pretend you're not hungry when your favorite meal is on the table-Maddy understood why it had to be so.

Cantrips and runecharms were bad enough. But glamours, true glamours, were perilous business, and if rumor of these were to reach World's End, where the servants of the Order worked day and night in study of the Word . . .

For Maddy's deepest secret-known only to her closest friend, the man folk knew as One-Eye-was that she enjoyed working magic, however shameful that might be. More than that, she thought she might be good at it too and, like anyone with a talent, longed to make use of it and to show it off to other people.
But that was impossible. At best it counted as giving herself airs.
And at worst? Folk had been Cleansed for less.

Maddy turned her attention to the cellar floor and the wide-mouthed burrow that disfigured it. It was a goblin burrow, all right, bigger and rather messier than a foxhole and still bearing the marks of clawed, thick-soled feet where the spilled earth had been kicked over. Rubble and bricks had been piled in a corner, roughly concealed beneath a stack of empty kegs. Maddy thought, with some amusement, that it must have been a lively-and somewhat drunken-party.

Filling in the burrow would be easy, she thought. The tricky thing, as always, was to ensure it stayed that way. or, the Protector, had been enough to secure the church doors, but goblins had been known to be very persistent where ale was concerned, and she knew that in this case, a single charm would not keep them out for long.

All right, then. Something more.


From the Hardcover edition.

Reading Group Guide

1. Reread the last two paragraphs on page 19 that describe how the Malbry townsfolk regard Maddy. What does it mean that Maddy showed “signs of being clever,” and why would this be “disastrous for a girl”? Do you think this holds true for girls and women in our society? Does this same notion apply to boys and men?

2. Discuss negative examples of chaos that are affecting the world today (war, environmental degradation, gun proliferation, etc.).

3. The Whisperer tells Maddy, “The Folk have remarkable minds, you know— rivaling the gods in ambition and pride.” (p. 463) Discuss examples of ambition and pride in the text. Do you think it is positive to be ambitious and proud? How do ambition and pride affect many characters in the story?

4. The character of Loki fears little, but he greatly fears the fanaticism of the Order. (p. 109) What is fanaticism? What are some examples of it in the text? Why is it so dangerous? What are some examples of 20th century and early 21st century fanaticism?

5. Discuss the character of Nat Parsons and what he symbolizes. What is he after in the story and how does he go about getting it? What is his tragic flaw? Do you think he deserves his fate and ultimately his redemption in the river Dream? (p. 511)

6. Discuss the proverb “Not kings but historians rule the world.” (p. 151 and p. 161) What do you think it means? Do you agree with this idea? Throughout Runemarks, the Vanir and Aesir shift from one “Aspect” to another. (p. 166) How is this notion of one’s Aspect related to identity and truth? Although Maddy discovers she is not human, how is her “humanity” revealed throughout the story? What character traits does she possess that make her heroic?

7. Reread pages 186 and 187 that describe the Word. What does the Word symbolize? What is the significance of the golden key? How can power be an addiction?

8. Do you think One-Eye was justified in withholding information from Maddy about her life? Why do you think he experiences a feeling of “deep and undeniable relief” after the Examiner says to him, “Your time is over?” (p. 238) Why do you think the author chose to fully blind him at the end? (p. 353)

9. What error in judgment does Skadi make in forming an alliance with Nat? Why do you think one who has such keen instincts would make such a poor decision? Why does she feel justified in double-crossing the Vanir?

10. Discuss the character of Ethelberta. What is meant by the following description of Ethelberta’s realization that her “inner voice, once heard, was difficult to ignore”? (p. 321) How are Ethel and Maddy alike?

11. How do Ethelberta’s values, disregarded by the Folk, serve her in the end? Heimdell looks in awe upon Odin in his true Aspect: “To Heimdell he looked as if he were made of light, and if any of the Folk had dared to look, they would have seen it.” (p. 323) Discuss this observation. How can it apply to your own interactions with people who are different from you in some way?

12. Place students in small groups to discuss each of the novel’s major themes: power/ambition, deception, intolerance, revenge, acceptance, identity, and destiny. What other threads or themes can students identify in the story?

13. Loki is known as “the trickster” and symbolizes chaos. The Aesir mistrust Loki, but know that they need him for change to occur. (pp. 34—35) Discuss examples of chaos that have been catalysts for positive change.

14. The reader learns that Maddy wants to “free all the people in Malbry and beyond, to free them from sleep and into dream.” (p. 526) What does the author mean by freeing people from sleep? Why have—and do—dictatorial regimes use tactics such as book-burning to gain or keep control over people?

15. On the last page, the author concludes with this thought: “The river Dream, like the World Tree, has many branches, many routes.” Discuss this idea. What branches will you climb or routes will you follow to realize your dreams?

Foreword

1. Reread the last two paragraphs on page 19 that describe how the Malbry townsfolk regard Maddy. What does it mean that Maddy showed “signs of being clever,” and why would this be “disastrous for a girl”? Do you think this holds true for girls and women in our society? Does this same notion apply to boys and men?

2. Discuss negative examples of chaos that are affecting the world today (war, environmental degradation, gun proliferation, etc.).

3. The Whisperer tells Maddy, “The Folk have remarkable minds, you know— rivaling the gods in ambition and pride.” (p. 463) Discuss examples of ambition and pride in the text. Do you think it is positive to be ambitious and proud? How do ambition and pride affect many characters in the story?

4. The character of Loki fears little, but he greatly fears the fanaticism of the Order. (p. 109) What is fanaticism? What are some examples of it in the text? Why is it so dangerous? What are some examples of 20th century and early 21st century fanaticism?

5. Discuss the character of Nat Parsons and what he symbolizes. What is he after in the story and how does he go about getting it? What is his tragic flaw? Do you think he deserves his fate and ultimately his redemption in the river Dream? (p. 511)

6. Discuss the proverb “Not kings but historians rule the world.” (p. 151 and p. 161) What do you think it means? Do you agree with this idea? Throughout Runemarks, the Vanir and Aesir shift from one “Aspect” to another. (p. 166) How is this notion of one’s Aspect related to identity and truth? Although Maddy discovers she is not human, how isher “humanity” revealed throughout the story? What character traits does she possess that make her heroic?

7. Reread pages 186 and 187 that describe the Word. What does the Word symbolize? What is the significance of the golden key? How can power be an addiction?

8. Do you think One-Eye was justified in withholding information from Maddy about her life? Why do you think he experiences a feeling of “deep and undeniable relief” after the Examiner says to him, “Your time is over?” (p. 238) Why do you think the author chose to fully blind him at the end? (p. 353)

9. What error in judgment does Skadi make in forming an alliance with Nat? Why do you think one who has such keen instincts would make such a poor decision? Why does she feel justified in double-crossing the Vanir?

10. Discuss the character of Ethelberta. What is meant by the following description of Ethelberta’s realization that her “inner voice, once heard, was difficult to ignore”? (p. 321) How are Ethel and Maddy alike?

11. How do Ethelberta’s values, disregarded by the Folk, serve her in the end? Heimdell looks in awe upon Odin in his true Aspect: “To Heimdell he looked as if he were made of light, and if any of the Folk had dared to look, they would have seen it.” (p. 323) Discuss this observation. How can it apply to your own interactions with people who are different from you in some way?

12. Place students in small groups to discuss each of the novel’s major themes: power/ambition, deception, intolerance, revenge, acceptance, identity, and destiny. What other threads or themes can students identify in the story?

13. Loki is known as “the trickster” and symbolizes chaos. The Aesir mistrust Loki, but know that they need him for change to occur. (pp. 34—35) Discuss examples of chaos that have been catalysts for positive change.

14. The reader learns that Maddy wants to “free all the people in Malbry and beyond, to free them from sleep and into dream.” (p. 526) What does the author mean by freeing people from sleep? Why have—and do—dictatorial regimes use tactics such as book-burning to gain or keep control over people?

15. On the last page, the author concludes with this thought: “The river Dream, like the World Tree, has many branches, many routes.” Discuss this idea. What branches will you climb or routes will you follow to realize your dreams?

Customer Reviews

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Runemarks 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great story with an incredible back ground in Norse mythology. BIG caution for those who have younger children. This is not Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings fantasy. Some of the images of the Netherworld are very graphic in the depictions of torturous suffering. While this is only a small part of the story, I would not recommmend this for youngsters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read this book. If you're 10, if you're 25, if you're 50. Read it if you loved Joanne Harris's adult fiction like Chocolat, or if you love Norse mythology, or if you love a great fantasy book, or if you just love a well written engaging story. It's fast, interesting, well done and above all else entertaining. A coming of age story with mythology and fantasy thrown in. Believe me you can't miss with this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books ever! Even if you have little background knowledge of the myths its still amazing, but knowing the myths makes it much more amazing. Every time I read it I get something new from it. 
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The story was great entertainment and there never was a really boring part. I could see a movie or trilogy of movies come from this series. Appropriate for all age of reader.
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TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Born with a runemark that would have had her slaughtered if she was an animal, Maddy was different from everyone in her village. Her magic didn't help her blend in much, either... well, it did help the people whenever goblins were around. Earlier in her life, Maddy was an acquaintance with a traveler, One-Eye, who became her mentor. He told her all about the runemarks and the Norse Legends that contain the Gods that are currently banned and erased by the leaders of the Ragnarok town. Odin would like Maddy to help him find treasure, where the goblins are, and to find the Norse Gods. Their adventures begin by entering Red Horse Hill. She just doesn't know it yet, but Maddy will soon find herself up against forces of evil and the prospects of a world about to end. All she has to do is summon up the Seven Sleepers, if possible, to help go against the newest evil, the Nameless, who want to erase all the supernatural for good. Born as an outcast, Maddy is ready to conquer what is ahead, ready to show that being different is better than being like everyone else. RUNEMARKS is an exciting read for all ages, building on a world full of magic and imagination. It's a breath of fresh air to have a heroine as the main character who must go against evil to save her town. Although I never knew that there was such thing as Norse mythology, this novel explains most of it, making it fully captivating. A great read for those who enjoy a creative world.
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This book was good, but was not up to par with joanne harris's other books. She sometimes overly describes things (which seems to be a trademark of Miss Harris) but it is still and entertaining and interesting read. If you don't know Nordic tales it's a bit confusing at first, but you catch on later. It's quite long and sometimes seems to drag on. I found the ending a bit depressing but it fit well with the book.
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