Alan Garner’s first two novels, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960) and The Moon of Gomrath (1963), dealt unequivocally with the battle between good and evil, embodied in wizards, witches, elves, and svarts. There was no doubt as to which side reader and protagonist alike would be on and no reason to question the assumption that good would triumph. The characters were assigned their roles, which they then carried out to reach a satisfactory and obvious conclusion. For all their darker moments, the two novels frequently took on almost the flavor of pastoral idylls, celebrating the authors love of his childhood home, Alderley Edge.
In Elidor, such comfortable certainties are abandoned. Garner’s writing begins its transition toward a darker, more ambiguous view of the eternal conflict. Garner eschews the familiarity of Alderley Edge, choosing instead desolate urban settings and a countryside wasted by a mysterious force, all of them landscapes in transition. The children themselves are on the threshold of adolescence, unlike the younger protagonists of Garner’s first two novels. Roland, the youngest, still clings to the childhood the three older children are rejecting. Although they are no longer quite at ease with his childish acceptance of magic, neither can they deny entirely what has happened to them in Elidor, although for much of the story, they refuse to speak of the place.
For much of the novel, although...
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