The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Ryhope Wood stands in southeastern England, in the county of Herefordshire, near the village of Shadoxhurst. One of the few remaining ancient forests of England, it is a place where times long gone elsewhere still live. Ryhope is a small woods, measuring only three square miles, but within the forest time and distance bear little relationship to the outside. Narrow creeks become great rivers, several days become decades, and a few hundred yards of trail become a track of many miles. Ryhope Wood serves as the focus of the three fantasy novels composing the Mythago Cycle.

Within these primal woods are mythagos, or myth images, created from the minds of individuals who live nearby and who are somehow drawn to Ryhope. A mythago might reflect something out of an individual’s past—from stories and tales heard as a child or learned in school—but can also represent or replicate the histories and myths of all who lived and died since the last ice age. The mythagos are not imaginary fictions: They are real, at least within the confines of Ryhope Wood, but not precisely as the outside world understands reality.

Mythago Wood is the story of George Huxley, his two sons, Christian and Steven, and George’s colleague from Oxford, Edward Wynne-Jones. In the years before World War II, Huxley becomes obsessed with Ryhope and the mythagos to the extent of ignoring his family. He is entranced with one of his own mythago creations drawn from ancient myth, a young woman named Guiwenneth.

Steven, returning from military service, discovers that his father has died. Christian, Steven’s brother, has become ensnared by Ryhope and by the now-dead Guiwenneth. In his woodland search for a resurrected Guiwenneth, Christian is pursued by his mythago of his dead father, a part-boar, part-man, the Uscrumug. Guiwenneth returns, but to Steven. In his jealousy, Christian, whose time in the woods has transformed him into a brutal warrior, kidnaps Guiwenneth. Steven, joined by Harry Keaton, a badly burned former air force pilot, pursues his brother. His quest takes years as measured in Ryhope time, and many mythago challenges are faced and overcome. Eventually Steven finds Christian. Fulfilling an oft-told myth, Steven, the Kinsman, kills the...

(The entire section is 926 words.)