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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Child of the Prophecy, by Juliet Marillier

This post is on the third book of Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters Trilogy, Child of the Prophecy (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2002). The previous post, on the second book, is here.

Again, Marillier displays her talent for placing characters in extended moral dilemmas. The first book had Sorcha, sister to six brothers, required to keep silent for years, in order to rescue the brothers from an enchantment placed on them by their stepmother, Oonagh. Sorcha finally succeeded. This book has Sorcha's granddaughter, Fainne, threatened by Oonagh, who is her other grandmother (I won't explain that in this brief post!). Oonagh threatens that she will torture and kill Fainne's father, Ciarán, physically and emotionally, if Fainne doesn't do her will, and she seems fully capable and willing to carry out this torture, even though Ciarán is her son. So Fainne, a teenager, believes, at first, that she has no other choice. Eventually, she sees that she does. Her great-uncle, Conor, a Druid priest, tells her, about another, but related matter, that there is always a choice.

Marillier says that she is herself a Druid. (The books of this series are set in the Ireland of the Middle Ages, where there were Druids.) As I mentioned, in posting about another, later series (see here, and especially here) by her, she does show some remarkable sympathy for Christianity. Not so much in this series, or in this book. No character of any importance is said to be a Christian. The longest statement about Christianity is:

I did not understand the Christian way. My studies suggested to me it was somewhat lacking in respect for the things that are: for the power of earth and sun, the force of water and the purity of air. Those are the cornerstones of the old faith, for without them, without the knowledge of moon and stars, without the understanding of all existences, how could one make any sense of things at all? We are a part of those wonders, tied to them as a newborn child is tied to its mother; if we do not know them, we do not know ourselves. (p. 537)

Unfortunately, too much of this is true now, and, perhaps, was in the Middle Ages, as well. Nature worship, whether Druid or pagan, isn't the cure for human ills -- Christ's death and resurrection is -- but belief in the efficacy of that resurrection should be compatible with respect and love for the world that the Word brought into being, and now sustains.

Two themes in the book are the importance of choices, and unselfish devotion as an ideal. Fainne's Aunt Liadan and her Uncle are portrayed as devoted to each other, trusting each other, in a way that is in harmony with 1 Corinthians 13. The love of Fainne and her father are another example of commendable love. Fainne confronts another of her great-uncles, Finbar, with his withdrawal from events. (Finbar was rescued from being a swan, but not completely -- one of his arms is a swan's wing.) In the end, he chooses to take part.

The entire series, over three generations, is about some small islands. They are represented as the heart of things. The series ends with the final destruction of Oonagh, and the return of the islands to their natural state, with Fainne and her new husband as guardians, not owners.

Like the other books in the series, this one is written entirely from the viewpoint of the main character, Fainne. Like the other books, there are supernatural elements, fairies and older beings, and supernatural abilities in humans, such as the ability to transform into an animal, to cast spells, to converse at a distance by telepathy, and to see the future. Fainne and various relatives have one or more of these abilities.

This is a powerful series, presenting, over and over, characters facing real moral choices. It also presents clear distinctions between good and evil. I wish Marillier wrote as a Christian, not a Druid, but am certainly glad that I have read this series for the second time.

3 comments:

Rachel said...

Hi,

I found your blog via the next blog button and I've found your entries very interesting. Would you mind if I gave your blog as one of my blogs for Blog Day 2006? The idea is to get people readign blogs from others with different backgrounds or outlooks from their own.

Thanks,
Rachel

Carl V. said...

"Unfortunately, too much of this is true now, and, perhaps, was in the Middle Ages, as well. Nature worship, whether Druid or pagan, isn't the cure for human ills -- Christ's death and resurrection is -- but belief in the efficacy of that resurrection should be compatible with respect and love for the world that the Word brought into being, and now sustains."

I agree. It is interesting that some Christians equate concern over the environment, interest in the folklore and mythology of the world, love of nature, etc. as 'evil', 'new age', etc. I think we are called to be well rounded individuals and we have a responsibility to the world we live in, not just from a spiritual standpoint but from a natural one as well.

These books sound interesting. I've seen them in the store, love the covers, but haven't read any of her work.

Martin LaBar said...

Go ahead, Rachel. I'm grateful for any readership.

Thanks, carl v. Some of us Christians are too narrow-minded on such matters. I'm probably too narrow-minded on some others.