The Mythago Cycle Critical Essays

Robert Holdstock


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Holdstock’s three novels about the primeval forest of Ryhope Wood are very much in the genre of fantasy and have been recognized as such. Mythago Wood won both the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy Award for best novel. Holdstock also published a long novella about Ryhope Wood, “The Bone Forest,” contained in a 1991 collection with the same title. This latter work, which discusses at length the relationship between George Huxley and his two sons, is the first narrative segment of Holdstock’s multivolume saga and is preliminary to the events narrated in Mythago Wood.

Much of the fascination for Holdstock’s readers comes from his mythmaking and myth-using abilities. His mythagos, the myth images that are the products of the imaginations of the characters, are drawn from various historic and mythic traditions, including the Celtic, Greek, and Anglo-Saxon. Figures from many different pasts, from a World War I soldier to a middle-aged Jason and his fellow Argonauts to ice age hunters, cross paths in Ryhope Wood. Although George Huxley, Edward Wynne-Jones, and the explorers in The Hollowing are convinced that there is a scientific explanation for the events and transformations associated with Ryhope Wood, the element of science is submerged by the unexplainable: Scientific rationality seemingly cannot explain the long-held secrets of Ryhope.

The forest follows its own laws, if any. At times the events...

(The entire section is 510 words.)