Leon Garfield Judith Vidal-Hall - Essay

Judith Vidal-Hall

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Golden Shadow] is in no way a conventional retelling of the deeds of a strong-arm bully whose heroism is measured in monsters slain and enemies lying dead in heaps. It is every bit as idiosyncratic an interpretation as [The God Beneath the Sea], concerned more with the hero as a man than a superman, and questioning the nature of heroism itself. If there are two ways into myths as has been suggested, it is true to say that this book takes the inward route, looking beneath the outer religious and moral purpose of the stories to their inner preoccupations. We feel Heracles primarily as a man, still larger than life, but in weakness as well as in strength; the archetype not of the hero as species, but of everyman's heroic suffering in his quest through life. It is this dimension—the massive humanity of Heracles—that the authors have added to the traditional story. It may be an interpretation nearer to our ways of thinking than to the original conception of the Greeks, and perhaps we lose here something of the old heiratic grandeur of the Myth, but we gain far-reaching insights, investing the story with a new and valid relevance. (pp. 182-83)

The Golden Shadow is for all who will read and are of an age to understand. It is not an easy book; its narrative devices are as complex as the ideas it contains. Despite the moments of humour, of broad comedy even, it is a sombre story told as a tragedy with all the violence and blood-letting that implied for the Greeks as well as Shakespeare. The language of its telling, only, is simpler than in the earlier book, more nearly reaching the poetic than the often tortured prose of that other. (p. 183)

Judith Vidal-Hall, in Children's Book Review (© 1973 Five Owls Press Ltd.; all rights reserved), December, 1973.