Posted by: Lizzie Ross | May 7, 2010

Classic Friday: Dark Is Rising

The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Susan Cooper (1965-1977), 5 vols.

If King Arthur ever does wake up, he’ll be amazed by two things. First, of course, the fact that he’s woken up at all. After he’s recovered from that shock, he then has to deal with his continued fame, his centrality in so many works of art–paintings, poems, novels, movies, even a Broadway musical. I hope it doesn’t go to his head.

Drawing on Arthurian legends, Cooper has created a great YA series here, good (the Light) battling evil (the Dark) in modern England (well, pre-electronics modern, anyway). In small towns and the countryside of Cornwall, Wales, and England, three families find themselves connected through their friendship with Great-Uncle Merry (aka Merriman), no one’s actual uncle, but a convenient friend to have at your side when you’re facing danger of the magical variety.

The series begins with the finding of a treasure map and ends with an all-out battle between the Dark and the Light, in which the children play key roles. Moments of terror and tension build to a very satisfying final trouncing of evil, all in the beautiful, quaint, picturesque countryside of Celtic Britain.

A central character in the third book in the series is a reference to the European tradition of the green man, a pagan symbol of nature that appears in the external decorations on many old churches and abbeys in England. Cooper switches the icon’s gender, and the Greenwitch, though only a wreath of branches and trees, inspires a wish that binds Nature to the children. Quite like the oaths taken by the Knights of the Round Table–though keep in mind that those oaths often led to disaster.

Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree

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