Reread Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising books recently. Well, sort of reread; the first time I only got halfway through the five book series. Interesting to see how the books hit me differently this time.
The first time through was the way in which the Light was the Light because it was the Light, and the Dark likewise; good and evil existed in very absolute terms. But this time through, it’s clear that the author is as aware of this problem as the reader. Especially by the last couple of books:
“Well,” Rowlands said carefully, turning the Land-Rover into the road. “I am not at all sure what is going on all around us, Will bach, or where it is leading. But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun… At the center of the Light there is a cold white flame, just as at the center of the Dark there is a great black pit bottomless as the Universe… It is a cold world you live in, bachgen. I do not think so far ahead myself. I would take one human being over all the principle, all the time.”
Will slumped down low in his seat, curling into a ball, pulling up his knees. “Oh, so would I,” he said sadly. “So would I, if I could. It would feel a lot better inside me. But it wouldn’t work.
—The Grey King
And by the end of the book, the world is fairly explicitly returned to humankind with its more complicated shades of gray:
“For Drake is no longer in his hammock, nor is Arthur somewhere sleeping, and you may not lie idly expecting the second coming of anybody now, because the world is yours and it’s up to you.”
—Silver on the Tree
So I’m no longer troubled on that front; the problems of the Light and the Dark are conscious, a part of the worldbuilding that those in the world have to deal with.
Instead what troubled me was the inability of those outside the Light and the Dark to handle the knowledge of their existence. I could believe most people have trouble coping with this knowledge, but each and every ordinary human? At the end of Silver on the Tree I felt that those not explicitly of the Light who helped save the world, at the least, ought get to keep their memories intact.
I really dislike books where grand things happen, and then those whom they happen to forget them. To me the point of a fantasy journey–of any journey–is what one learns and how one changes along the way, and with forgetfulness much of that learning and changing is lost.
Though less so in these books than most; there is the sort of background sense that at least something of the gained wisdom remained.
And they remain lovely books otherwise. The Grey King, in particular, is compelling and haunting. Its closing lines will be with me for some time.