It started with a dance and ended with a loving, but frozen kiss!
How can a book about a thirteen year old witch, five hundred tiny blue tattoo-covered men with red hair, and a senior witch who goes to her own funeral after forecasting her long-delayed meeting with Death (she’s 111yrs old or 113 depending on who’s counting) for a few hours later, be romantic? I’m not even sure who the books are aimed at – children or adults – though a lot of the humour is very complex as well as being paradoxically quite childlike (not childish, I hasten to clarify). The book (one of a series of four about said young witch and her tiny protectors) is full of humour and quirkiness with precious little that can be described as traditionally romantic, and there is absolutely no direct mention of sex though this is hilariously alluded to by the little blue, Gaelic-sounding men). There is hardly anything in the way of romantic language, very little said about actual feelings, yet it remains one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read.
The book, of course, is The Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett. I’ve not read much by this much esteemed author despite my love of fantasy (both reading and writing it) but got intrigued by this particular quartet after hearing a music CD by Steeleye Span (my best ever most favouratist folk rock group ever – even taking into consideration Runrig!) Steeleye Span have created a fabulous musical story from images and direct quotes from the four books. Some of the songs are so good and evocative that I just had to read the books too, immediately.
And so I fell in love, me a cynical old Grandmother (well not really – I must be the most romantic person since the Victorian Romantic poets). Yes, I fell in love … with the idea of a flat earth drifting through the galactic years on the back of a turtle, with the Dark Morris, little blue men (Nac Mac Feegles), and the ‘big wee hag’ – the young witch Tiffany, and definitely with the icy, confused Wintersmith who has in his turn mistakenly fallen in love with Tiffany. I think he thinks she is the Summer Queen and she is, indeed, sprouting vegetation from her footsteps since she danced with him in the Winter Dance but that’s as far as I’ve read – the third book in the series being this fated and doomed love story – so I’m not quite sure how this will pan out.
I have to admit that the aura of romanticism has been enhanced by Steeleye Span’s music and songs which I cannot stop playing (especially tracks: You; and First Dance) – its playing now. But so far, as well as becoming compulsive reading, it has inspired a piece of mixed media art that I set out intending to illustrate a piece of writing on wolves, and which instead, and surprisingly, has become a rhapsody to the strangely compulsive, and gently emotive love story unfolding as I read. I may have to write my own poem to honour this lovely love story in due course, as I did for the Wicked Lovely books about dark Fae by Melissa Marr: Darkest Immortal Destiny (filed in Poetry – earlier posts). It’s strange what simple or unusual sparks of ideas catch the imagination, whilst more obvious examples of similar concepts leave the Muse half sleeping.
The romantic element, it has just occurred to me, is as ghostly and ephemeral as the Wintersmith himself. Yet the story has turned winter into something incredibly evocative which, for me – I hate winter and go into hibernation after the clocks go back – is truly amazing.
I thoroughly recommend the four books, and when I’ve worked through the 200 or so books piled up on my blanket box (with some on my E-book) that I still have to read, I may well try more of Terry Pratchett’s Disc World novels – they are so original and intriguing.
The four books are: The CD is:
The Wee Free Men Steeleye Span
A Hat Full of Sky Wintersmith
I Shall Wear Midnight