The dark is rising-day 5 contemporaries and influence

Today’s question poised by Robert MacFarlane: 24 December: Day 5 of #TheDarkIsReadingTo which other books/writers do you think TDIR is related? Alan Garner, Ursula Le Guin, Robert Holdstock; also The Mabinogion, WG Hoskins, Jacquetta Hawkes…

And – where is Cooper’s influence visible in recent/contemporary (YA) writing? https://t.co/5RiAO6Izxq

The most obvious contemporary writer to Susan Cooper would be Alan Garner. Both wrote books based on Arthurian lore. Their stories were heavily based in the British landscape and folk traditions of the land. Other connections could easily be made to T.H. White and his story of Merlin compiled as the once and future king. Much like Cooper and Garner they all have a good understanding of the land and animals present in the British Isles. 

But looking at their work in isolation with regards to literature seems a mistake. The late 60s saw a folk revival in music. Much of this with a pagan nature. Bands like the incredible string band and pentangle form a backdrop to Garner’s and Cooper’s work. Many of these bands drawing on the same source material of Arthurian legend and the Mabinogion. Within movies the 70s saw many darker horror movies with similar rural backgrounds. The Wicker man being the most famous, but Robin Redbreast and Penza’s fen deserve a mention too. 

Kids TV took similar dark turns with the ITV children of the stones. A wonderfuly scary show that would never be made now. The TV adaptation of Garner’s the owl service didn’t go quite as dark, but deserves a mention.

Reading the twitter thread on this question many people are linking Cooper’s work to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. While these are based in magical worlds within modern day settings I’d say the magic comes from a more contemporary setting. The world of folk tales and legend plays a role, but there are other authors more strongly following Cooper and Garner’s work. Not that I’m critising Harry Potter. I just don’t think they have the same grounding in landscape, the myths and legends of the British Isles and nature of the Isles. Diana Wyne Jones with a smattering of Merlin through her stories seems more of a follow on. Albeit with a bit more humour. Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black’s spiderwick chronicles come through in similar ways. There is a background of folklore placed in the contemporary setting.

But however you look at TDIR, in terms of influence or not, it’s a very enjoyable winter read.

Tonight is Christmas Eve so our family traditions were observed. In TDIR Will and family head out carol singing. In my family we stick a candle in a potato cut in half to light the way for Father Christmas. Who knows where these traditions come from, but they must be observed each year.

Tomorrow will be full of excess so if I don’t get a chance I’ll say it now; Merry Christmas to all my blog readers. May your day be full of joy.

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