Many Waters is the fourth of Madeleine L'Engle's books about the Murry family, a group first introduced in her Newbery award-winning...
(The entire section is 370 words.)
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Chapter 1 Summary
Twin brothers Sandy and Dennys Murry return home following a snow-interrupted hockey practice. They find no one at home, so they they fix a snack and go out to their mother’s lab. Mrs. Murry is a theoretical biochemist; Mr. Murry is a leading astrophysicist. Mrs. Murry regularly uses her lab to fix dinner so as not to have to interrupt her work. Sandy and Dennys discuss the work load of their sister, Meg. They wonder if theirs will be equally as challenging, Sandy as a lawyer and Dennys as a doctor.
The boys notice their father’s new computer, complete with extra keys to work in Greek, Hebrew, and Cyrillic. Lamenting the cold conditions in their pre-Revolutionary home, Dennys types on the computer: “TAKE ME SOMEPLACE WARM.” Sandy questions the wisdom of messing with the computer but gives in and types, “SOMEPLACE WARM AND SPARSELY POPULATED.” Dennys adds, “LOW HUMIDITY.” They decide to go fix some hot cocoa. As they open the door of the lab, They notice a sign that warns, “EXPERIMENT IN PROGRESS. PLEASE KEEP OUT.” They wonder that they did not see this sign upon entering. They open the door to return to the kitchen, but the kitchen is not there. Instead, they encounter a dense mist accompanied by a blast of heat. Thinking it is a fire, Sandy yells at his twin to get a fire extinguisher, but Dennys cannot see anything because of the fog. They hear a sonic boom followed by silence. They look around and see that the house has disappeared.
Sandy and Dennys find themselves in a desert covered with white sand and blazing sunlight. They wonder if they have been transported to another planet through one of their father’s experiments. They realize that this place fits the criteria they had typed on the computer. The boys strip down to their underwear and begin to travel across the sand toward what they believe is a palm tree.
Suddenly the earth shakes and a cliff rises from the sand. Seeking shelter in its...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Sandy wakes up to find Japheth and an old man standing over him. The old man is Japheth’s grandfather, Lamech. The mammoth, Higgaion, is spraying water over Sandy’s sunburned body. He asks for Dennys and learns that his twin had become unconscious, losing the connection he and the unicorn had with reality, and disappeared. Lamech assures him that unicorns are very responsible so Denny is sure to be found. Once they call the unicorn, it will appear with Dennys. When Lamech calls the unicorn, however, Dennys is not with it. Lamech explains that evidently someone else had already called the unicorn and Dennys with it. He tells Sandy that Dennys is sure to be somewhere on the oasis. Japheth promises to go out to look for him.
Lamech asks Sandy where he is from, but Sandy has difficulty explaining his place of origin in a way the old man can understand. Suddenly, a manticore enters the tent, meaning to eat Higgaion. Dennys drives it out before it can harm anything. Lamech thanks him for saving the mammoth. A young girl about Sandy’s age enters the tent, and she and Sandy are introduced. She intrigues him, though she is about Japheth’s height of four feet. She has brought a nightlight to her grandfather, who is not in communication with her father.
After she leaves, a large, glowing, winged figure appears. It is the seraph Adnarel, who adds some herbs to the water to heal Sandy’s sunburn. He questions Sandy about his arrival in this place. Sandy explains that his father was working on an experiment with the space-time continuum, and the twins had interfered with it, which brought them here. Lamech tells Adnarel that Dennys has disappeared and that Japheth is out searching for him. Adnarel assures Sandy that his brother will be returned. He calls a pelican from the wilderness to fill the pot with water. Lamech and Higgaion will keep his skin moist to promote the healing of the sunburn. He is impressed, he says, that Sandy knows the Old Language. Sandy denies this, but Adnarel says that perhaps the gift of understanding has been awakened because he had no time to think. He gives his own robe to wrap Sandy in, and his wings are revealed. He says he will check on Japheth and see if Dennys has been found. With this security, Sandy drifts off to sleep.
Chapter 3 Summary
Yalith hurries home with her blowpipe ready in case she once again encounters the manticore. She heads toward an outcropping where she sees a lion, to whom she calls out, “Aariel!” However, it is not a lion but a dragon who rises up in the shape of a man. It is Elbis, one of the nephilim. He offers Yalith gifts in an obvious attempt to get her agree to his desire to mate. The nephilim regularly try to seduce the human girls (“daughters of men”), but Yalith considers herself too young at less than one hundred years of age. Elbis warns her that there are changes coming and that El (God) is going to cut short the human life span, which goes on for hundreds of years. He offers to teach her many things. She recognizes it is an honor to be taught by a nephil, but she hesitates.
A lion approaches and reveals himself to be the seraph Aariel. Yalith tells him about Sandy, the “young giant,” in her Grandfather Lamech’s tent. Aariel notices that Yalith seems to have observed Sandy closely as to his physical attributes. Yalith continues on home, passing through a town where she sees her sister, Mahlah, in company with Ugiel, one of the nephilim. Mahlah tells her she has betrothed herself to the nephil and wants Yalith to tell their mother.
Dennys awakens to find himself with the unicorn in the company of a group of small people who are of a cruder appearance that Japheth. They have called for a unicorn and are surprised that one arrived with this “giant.” They throw Dennys out of the tent into a garbage pit. Overcome by the stench, Dennys strips off all his clothes and walks naked across the burning sand.
Mahlah waits out in the desert where Ugiel brought her. She sees a pelican that turns into a seraph named Alarid. Alarid asks her if they are really losing her to the nephilim. Mahlah points out that Ugiel is his brother, but Alarid says he and Ugiel have chosen different paths. Alarid begs her not to forget him...
(The entire section is 521 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Dennys wakes up surrounded by little brown people and fears that he is back in the terrible tent. He feels a hand smoothing his forehead and hears a voice calming him. He sees eyes belonging to two girls, and he realizes he is not back in the same tent. He then recognizes Japheth (“Jay”), who asks who has hurt him. Dennys is still feverish, perhaps with an infection picked up in the garbage pit and exacerbated by the scrapings of the sand as he crawled across the desert. Japheth does not want Dennys to drink too much wine, so he goes back to his Grandfather Lamech’s tent for some fig juice. He refuses to let Yalith go because of the increase in the numbers of thieves in the night around the town.
Dennys drifts in and out of consciousness, overhearing the conversations of Yalith and Oholibamah. It seems that Lamech has refused to move out of his tent into his son’s tent. As a result, his son (Yalith and her brothers’ father) does not speak to him. The girls hope that eventually the two will be reconciled; they feel anguished that old people are no longer revered. Dennys suffers under a very high fever. He thinks he is asleep and wishing that he could awaken and call for his mother.
In Grandfather Lamech’s tent, Sandy is still miserable. His burnt skin is beginning to itch, signifying healing. He knows that Dennys has been found and is safe in Japheth’s tent. Matred is astonished at the resemblance between the two giants, except for the severity of their burns. The seraph Adnarel returns to bring more herbs to add to the water that Higgaion bathes on Sandy’s skin. When it becomes apparent that Sandy is healing, Lamech takes him out into the night. Sandy is amazed at the brightness and profusion of stars—there are many more than at home. Off in the distance is a glow in the sky, which Japheth says is a volcano. He assumes that Sandy and Dennys have come from the other side of the mountain, where they have such odd things as snow.
Lamech says that El told him his days are numbered. He explains that the ground has been cursed, but El promised that Lamech’s son would bring relief to the land. Lamech says he is seven hundred and seventy-seven years old, not as old as his father, but older than his grandfather. He is not sure what is in store from him after death. After living so long, he knows he is ready for a rest. Sandy feels cold, so Lamech takes him back into the tent.
Chapter 5 Summary
Dennys wakes up to hear the sound of someone moving about the tent. It is Yalith’s father, Noah; the name sounds vaguely familiar to Dennys. He asks Noah how Sandy is doing. Noah says Sandy is almost well, as is Dennys himself. Dennys wants to go to see his brother but Noah tells him he must be completely well before he travels to the other tent.
Noah answers Dennys’s questions about seraphim as well as he can. They are sons of El, but no one knows where they came from or why they are here. Dennys suddenly remembers where he heard the name Noah. He had paid only scant attention in Sunday School, but he remembers the story of Noah and the flood. He remembers only the names of the men, however, and not those of the...
(The entire section is 461 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Yalith looks out in the nighttime and sees a circle of creatures that change into nephilim. In the center is Mahlah, who is officially betrothed to Ugiel. Surrounding the nephilim is a circle of seraphim, who plead with the nephilim that they are brothers. The nephilim tell the seraphim that they have rejected heaven and have chosen to live on earth. The seraphim say they have thus lost both. As Mahlah and Ugiel disappear, Eblis arrives and tries to convince Yalith once again to become his wife. She refuses again, but Eblis tells her he will wait.
Japheth comes to visit Dennys and sees that he is getting better. They talk of the message Dennys received from the stars as he has sat out under the skies at night. The stars...
(The entire section is 443 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Sandy asks the seraph Adnarel how he and Dennys are going to get home, but Adnarel has no idea. He explains that Dennys is almost well enough to travel across the oasis to come to him, though it is a long way. Sandy suggests that Adnarel summon a unicorn and then asks about the method that unicorns use to travel; he associates it with the concept of a quantum leap, in which subatomic particles can be observed where they start and end but not during the journey itself.
Sandy wishes he could see Yalith again. He and his brother have not yet become interested in girls at school, but the girls in this place intrigue him. He gets permission from Adnarel to go outside in the sun for a short time. Adnarel says he will send a...
(The entire section is 426 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Mahlah and Tiglah wait near Lamech’s tent as the twins approach. Tiglah apologizes to Sandy because her father and brother threw him out of their tent when the unicorn brought him, but it turns out that she is speaking to Dennys. Sandy thinks Tiglah is beautiful but not in the subtle way of Yalith. The girls ask the twins if they want to go walking but the boys decline, claiming that their skin is still too sensitive to be exposed much as of yet. The griffin appears, but Tiglah kicks her away.
After the girls leave, Dennys and Sandy discuss them. Dennys tells Sandy of his experience in Tiglah’s tent, stating that she did not try to stop her father and brother from throwing him out. They again wonder what will happen...
(The entire section is 469 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
On the hottest afternoon they have known since they arrived at this time, Sandy and Dennys hear thunder rumbling in the distance. They realize this is a good thing for the orchards and garden, but it could also signal the beginning of the flood. Lamech is clearly dying and asks them about their time “over the mountain.” They tell him that people are taller and have places to help the sick, but their hearts are not kinder than those Lamech has known. Lamech says he does not understand the words of El. The twins do not understand either. The thunder and lightning grow stronger, but no rain falls.
That night, the twins discuss how their beliefs have changed since they have come to this time. The have become more...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Aariel in his lion form comforts Yalith while Grandfather Lamech lies dying in his tent. Dennys waits outside. Noah holds up his father to enable him to breathe. Lamech urges Noah to do what El commanded him to do. Noah promises as Lamech dies. Outside, a seraph comes to Dennys. Japheth and Oholibamah go off to grieve by themselves. Japheth tells his wife that El gave Noah a command to build an ark in the desert, far from the water. Oholibamah is incredulous and wonders if Noah understood.
Noah, his sons, and the women come out from the tent. Sandy has still not arrived, and they wonder where he is. They know he would want to be there at Lamech’s burial. The women prepare Lamech’s body for burial. The men carry him...
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
Yalith walks into the desert and calls for Aariel. He appears and listens as she tells him what has happened. When Yalith tells the seraph that Noah is going to build a boat, Aariel says this is wise. Yalith tells him that her parents, brothers, and their wives are going on the ark, along with animals to preserve the different species, but she and her sisters are not allowed on the ark. Aariel tells her that many waters cannot quench love. Yalith asks Aariel what he knows about Sandy’s disappearance, but Aariel says the stars are silent. When Yalith asks him if the twins will die, the seraph says he does not know.
Sandy awakens in the tent when he hears (and smells) Tiglah enter. She tells him he has a visitor, and...
(The entire section is 449 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Yalith goes out in the night to listen to the singing of the stars. She hears no anxiety in their song but only the command “Fear not.” She knows the stars never give false comfort, so her fear begins to ease.
The twins continue to work on the ark. Dennys looks at the wives of Noah’s sons. Although their names are not given in the scriptural account, they are in the ark story. He stops for a drink and sees a dark vulture flying overhead. He also sees Alarid as a pelican and cries out that he needs to speak to him. The pelican lands and turns into a seraph. Dennys begs him to find some way to save Yalith from drowning in the flood. Alarid explains once again that the seraphim do not work to change what is to come....
(The entire section is 535 words.)