Stevenson’s pirate in powerful sequel

Treasure Island location
Treasure Island location

Francis Bryan
Jim Hawkins and the Curse of Treasure Island
Orion 2001

Jim Hawkins is no longer ‘Jim, lad’ as he was in Treasure Island. A decade on, in his mid-twenties, he has used his share of the treasure retrieved from his adventure to invest in the Admiral Benbow, the coastal Devon inn somewhere west of Minehead which he now runs following the death of his father. Here he is happy to regale listeners about his experiences without, of course, mentioning the silver that remains on the island. His boastfulness however has dire consequences as he is now drawn into an enterprise which involves a return to that ill-fated island and the loss of any remaining childhood innocence. Continue reading “Stevenson’s pirate in powerful sequel”

A charming guide to Middle Earth

hills

Barbara Strachey Journeys of Frodo:
an Atlas of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
Unwin Paperbacks 1981

Based on Tolkien’s descriptions in The Lord of the Rings and his original paintings and drawings of Middle Earth, Journeys of Frodo tracks the routes taken by the hobbit and his companions of the Fellowship all the way to Gondor and, in the case of Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, back to the Shire. Barbara Strachey had long wanted more detailed maps to follow the action and, failing the provision of a definitive atlas, embarked on the task herself despite having no background in cartography. Continue reading “A charming guide to Middle Earth”

A not too unwieldy ready reference

rackham
Richard White
King Arthur in Legend and History
Routledge 1998

In the 1930s a scholar such as E K Chambers could bring out a study of Arthurian matters and, while inter alia translating or paraphrasing key passages in his discussion, would quote the original medieval texts in Latin on the supposition that his readers would be able to read and understand them. Nearly a century on a knowledge of Latin is not, if you pardon the irony, a sine qua non of the average reader, so we must all be grateful to Richard White for including not just a translation of most of Chambers’ extracts but of a large number of other key Arthurian texts, not all of them in Latin. Continue reading “A not too unwieldy ready reference”

A mind traveller’s vademecum

Baedeker 1937 Great Britain guide (Wikipedia Commons)
Baedeker 1937 Great Britain guide (Wikipedia Commons)

Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi
The Dictionary of Imaginary Places
Macmillan 1980 (1987, 1999)

I fell upon this book when it was first published like a punter attacking an ice-cream during the interval in an over-hot theatre. Just the title had me drooling, and once inside the book I was in seventh heaven. First of all it took places described in a range of literary works as literally true by giving each a Baedeker-style travel guide entry. Then, like any good Baedeker it provided maps and charts giving visual aids to familiar and unfamiliar locations. There have been at least two revised editions since 1980 but this was the first attempt to give an overview of dystopias, utopias, fantasy worlds and comic geographies from different cultures, languages and centuries. The mock-seriousness is sometimes leavened with equally tongue-in-cheek humour though I found that at times the terseness of some entries could be wearing.

Just a few examples of entries, almost at random, may give you a flavour. Continue reading “A mind traveller’s vademecum”

Booking a return to Dalemark

crownDiana Wynne Jones
The Crown Of Dalemark
Dalemark Quartet

Oxford University Press 2003 (1993)

Finale volume | where past and present meet and, | maybe, all’s resolved.

Young Mitt is from South Dalemark, but when he escapes its politics and intrigues he finds that the North is equally dangerous because he is manoeuvred into an assassination attempt on a pretender to the crown of Dalemark. The plot also turns on a present-day girl, Maewen, who gets propelled into Dalemark’s past to play a role not of her own choosing, in a narrative that is reminiscent of the premise in Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. And the Crown? That turns out to be not just a metaphor for gaining a throne but also part of a theme that mingles together motifs from modern Tarot imagery and the medieval quest for the Grail. Continue reading “Booking a return to Dalemark”