The/The Moon of Gomrath Weirdstone of Brisingamen Critical Essays

Alan Garner


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath are Alan Garner’s first two novels, both written for younger readers. Although the former won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1970, the author considers them to be apprentice works. His writing has improved markedly over the years, yielding such impressive works as Red Shift (1973) and the Stone Book Quartet (1983; published as The Stone Quartet in the United States).

These early novels nevertheless remain popular with younger readers, for several good reasons. They are involving stories of fast-paced adventure. The children in them must struggle against formidable odds to elude pursuit and achieve their goals. Not only their own survival but also that of all humanity depends on their success, for the Sleepers must be preserved against the peril that is to come, and ordinary mortals are helpless against the all-devouring Brollachan.

The strange creatures that the children encounter, both hostile and friendly, are another source of fascination. They are taken from folklore and legend, primarily Scandinavian in the first novel and Celtic in the second. Among the more important of such borrowings are the figures of the Morrigan and Angharad Goldenhand. The former is one of a triad of Irish warrior goddesses skilled in shape-shifting. She frequently assumes the shape of a raven or crow. The latter is identified as the Lady of the Lake, and as such she plays an important role in Arthurian legend. Garner acknowledges many of his sources for these and other borrowings in the note that concludes The Moon of Gomrath. He does, however, adapt the material to the needs of his own story. Thus, while Angharad provides magical protection for Susan just as the Lady of the...

(The entire section is 732 words.)