Like his character David, William Mayne was the son of a doctor and spent his boyhood in Yorkshire, where he returned later in life. Earthfasts thus reflects Mayne’s own experiences; his descriptions of the moors, dales, times, and seasons constitute some of the most powerful parts of his writing and suggest that he is at heart a realistic writer.
Earthfasts was Mayne’s first excursion into fantasy as a children’s writer. His first novel, Following the Footprints (1953), was followed by more than forty books in twenty years, the majority of which were realist, often with a historical dimension. Other fantasy novels, such as Ravensgill (1970), also have Yorkshire settings. It has been suggested that Mayne was pushed into fantasy by the success of Alan Garner. The latters The Weirdstone of Brisingamen appeared in 1960 and does resemble Earthfasts in locale, the intrusion of past time into the present, and the motif of reawakened knights prematurely disturbed.
Mayne certainly is conscious of the fantasy elements in his story. Much of the dialogue is about the nature of scientific evidence and explanation. At one point, David must warn Keith to treat the drummer boy as a real person with real emotions of confusion and fear, and not as a scientific experiment. Some of this dialogue is philosophical.
One of the critical difficulties with Earthfasts, as with other books...
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