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Greenwitch

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Author: Susan Cooper

Series: The Dark is Rising

Publisher: Puffin

Published in: 1974

Age Range: Children+

Period: Contemporary

Setting: Cornwall

Genres:  AdventureArthurianMagic


Characters:

  • Will Stanton, now 12, is invited by his uncle Bill, over from America, to holiday in Cornwall where the Drew children will be staying with their Great Uncle Merry.
  • Jane, Barney & Simon Drew have come back to Cornwall to recover the grail which they found over sea and under stone, and which has been stolen by the powers of the Dark. They know nothing of Will's role.
  • Merriman Lyon is the prime mover of events, encouraging the two sets of children to work together to find the grail.
  • Captain Toms is one of the Old Ones who lives in Trewissick where the children are staying.
  • Bill & Fran Stanton are Will's uncle and aunt who are renting the house where they are all staying.

Synopsis:

The Trewissick grail, found in Over Sea, Under Stone has been stolen. The Old Ones know, from a prophetic verse, that the Greenwitch, an image made of branches every year by the women of Trewissick and sacrificed to the sea, is in some way involved, so they manage to come to Trewissick to join Captain Toms.

The Drews are brought there by Gumerry, who knows the Stantons and arranges for Will to come. It only gradually dawns on the Drews the role that Will has to play, and together they discover that one of the minor powers of The Dark has the grail and is trying to increase his own power.

Notes:

This book sees the first meeting between the Drews, finders of the grail in Over Sea, Under Stone and Will Stanton, youngest of the Old Ones. There is a certain dramatic irony for the readers when the Drews somewhat self-importantly complain to Merriman that Will is in the way while they look for the lost grail. That said, the relationship between them improves and the Drews accept him for what he is, without truly understanding what that is.

The whole focus of the story is the pagan sacrifice involving the Greenwitch figure, made by the women of the village from hazel, rowan and hawthorn, and then sacrificed to Tethys, personification of the sea, and whom the Old Ones later visit, as a gift for good fishing.

“Then it is still here,” Will said, and to the children's bewliderment he and Merriman turned and ran, ran towards the end of the headland, and the sea beyond.

With swift ease of animals they ran, the long lean man and the sturdy boy, an urgent loping running that took away their age and all sense of familiarity in their appearance; faster, faster, faster. And at the rocks ending the headland they did not pause, but went on. Will leapt up light-footed to the crest of Kemare Head and cast himself outwards into the air, into empty sky, arms spread wide, lying on the wind like a bird; and after him went Merriman, his white hair flying like a heron's crest. For an instant the two dark spread-eagled figures seems to hang in the sky, then with a slowness as if time held its breath they curved downwards and were gone

Saturday 19th July 2003