Wednesday, 29 April 2009
This book, which I read for the One Upon a Time III Challenge, immediately reminded me of Tolkien: the small town of Lud-in-the-Mist feels so very much like The Shire. It was published in 1926, and Mirrlees was quite a well-known figure in literary circles, so it's quite possible that it had some influence on Tolkien's creation, while the book itself owes something to William Morris's medieval romances. It is at the same time recognisably English and "domestic", yet with an alien feel concomitant with the town's location on the edge of the Elfin Marches. There are echoes too of Sylvia Townsend Warner's work. Modern readers will find a town reminiscent of Wall, in Neil Gaiman's Stardust, not surprising as Gaiman lists Mirrlees an one of his influences, and has written the introduction to this Fantasy Masterworks edition.
Lud's citizens have the same air of comfortable smugness that the Hobbits have before trouble comes to The Shire and, like the Hobbits, they want no truck with anything unsettling - indeed there are marked similarities between the Hobbits' distaste for anything that smacks of the exotic or adventure and that of the good burghers of Lud who, afraid of the taint of fairy fruit, refuse even to name it. When the Mayor, Nathaniel Chanticleer, is told that his young son may have eaten the fruit he is appalled, and it is a matter for utmost secrecy. He decides to send Ranulph away, not realising that he is sending him into even greater danger. It is up to Chanticleer, an unlikely hero who is lost in a marriage the heart has gone out of, to find his son and set the town to rights.
While the writing style is very much of its period, there is a timelessness about this book. In many ways it is less dated than Lord of the Rings or, say, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for its themes are universal. Its inclusion in the Fantasy Masterworks canon is well-deserved - a must-read for anyone interested in the genre, and certainly for everyone reading for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.
Posted by Jodie Robson at 18:26
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
This is not a genre that I read in very often, but this does sound interesting. I'm signed up for OUATIII challenge, but I haven't made much progress because I'm having trouble picking out some books. Maybe I should try this one.ReplyDelete
I've just added this book to my wishlist as it sounds intriguing.ReplyDelete
It's an unusual book, but worth the effort, I think.ReplyDelete
gosh, I've never heard of it! It goes on my list, too...ReplyDelete
I've been meaning to read this, and your review reminds me that I really should! Also, Hope Mirlees was mentioned in Byatt's "The Children's Book" which I've just finished so I think it's time to turn to Lud-in-the-Mist, finally.ReplyDelete
Melanie, you should definitely read it. I've just managed to reserve the A.S. Byatt book at the library, where it's on order - did you enjoy it?ReplyDelete
Thanks for this review. Lud-In-The-Mist is perhaps, my favorite book ever. Just something about it is so..special..and as you say..timeless.ReplyDelete
Feel free to check out my review on it, if interested :) http://tyrionfrost.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/lud-in-the-mist-by-hope-mirrlees/