Year of the Unicorn Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series Year of the Unicorn Analysis

Andre Norton

Masterpieces of Women's Literature Year of the Unicorn Analysis

Witch World offers a gripping fantasy world of mythic struggles between the gods. It emerges from the imagination of Andre Norton, a great American storyteller and author of more than ninety books. Norton draws on a rich multicultural vision culled from history, anthropology, folklore, and humans’ primordial interest in adventure, fear, and courage. Witch World is paradoxically a sacred myth in secular packaging: a fantasy series in American popular culture linked to sacred dramas and universal instincts.

For example, Norton employs many of the formulas used by traditional adventure stories. Gillan is involved in a series of dirty tricks that she barely survives. Yet Norton makes these adventures more than devices to confound her readers. Her heroine continually avoids the traps set before her by learning more about herself and her enemies. She draws on physical and mental strengths. She reflects on past experiences and chooses to act with moral goodness. She ultimately chooses intimacy without surrendering her humanity.

This book and others in the Witch World series can be read by juvenile readers and appear to be wholesome yarns. This superficial reading is in itself enjoyable, but this has been a barrier to Norton’s acceptance as a serious writer of cultural myths. One of the serious critiques of women’s lives in this book arises from the constrictive, unexciting life that Gillan, an orphan, endures within a women’s abbey. Anything, including an arranged marriage to pay a war debt,...

(The entire section is 620 words.)