A Crystal Age Critical Essays

W. H. Hudson


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

W. H. Hudson is best known for his nature writings and his novels about South America, where he grew up. Although there are elements of fantasy in some of his other novels, The Crystal Age (first published anonymously, then published as by Hudson in 1906) is his strongest and clearest contribution to the genre. Hudson is particularly famous for his books about birds. His love for nature and eye for natural beauty show up in his descriptions of nature in The Crystal Age.

Nature is an important element in the novel because the world that Smith enters after his period of unconsciousness is a utopian world in the pastoral tradition. A pastoral work praises the simplicity of country life, particularly the life of shepherds, and provides an idealized view of nature. The model for the pastoral world is the Golden Age of Greece, a mythological innocent past that was irrecoverably lost. Hudson describes a “crystal age,” a time that is beautiful and unchanging but also fragile.

The world that Smith enters is not free from death, but death usually comes without pain and grief, and only after a long life. The inhabitants of this world are young and beautiful, and they spend their time performing simple tasks, singing, and reading books about the history of their house and other houses in the world. They live in a state of innocent bliss, like children, and their love for one another is free from any sexual passion. Smith appears...

(The entire section is 565 words.)