The Druid's Son: Group read
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The Druid's Son is currently available at Smashreads in all the usual e-book formats, and as a paperback at Lulu (other online retailers will follow). In addition, so that this doesn't look like just another bookselling scheme, I will provide a coupon code for a free Smashwords download to the first ten people who leave me a profile comment requesting one.
For more background on the book, check out my author chat.
I have read the book over once, and loved it. I have some books on Celts at home now, and I'm hoping to bring up more on Druid's and Celts in discussion here. How appropriate that this group read will cross over Halloween, a fully Druid holiday? See wikipedia on Samhain here and Halloween here.
South Stack lighthouse on Anglesey
The Menai Straight:
“On the coastline, a line of warriors of the opposition was stationed, mainly made up of armed men, amongst them women, with their hair blowing in the wind, while they were carrying torches. Druids were amongst them, shouting terrifying spells, their hands raised towards the heavens, which scared our soldiers so much that their limbs became paralyzed. As a result, they remained stationary and were injured. At the end of the battle, the Romans were victorious, and the holy oaks of the druids were destroyed.”
That's Tacitus describing the Celtic army in AD 61 awaiting the invasion of Anglesey (to Rome, the Island of Mona) by the Roman army under Gaius Suetonius Paulinas. But what did Tacitus know, since he was four years old at the time? Of course his father-in-law was Gnaeus Julius Agricola, who served under Suetonius in this battle and later led the longest and most complete Roman take over of the British Isles. Suetonius overextended his army in this battle. Building up his army in Wales specifically in order to wipe out the Druid's in Anglesey left future-England expose and led to the Boudica revolt.
We kick off just after the Roman invasion of Anglesey, in AD 61/62*. As I begin looking up info for a setting—about Druids and Anglesey and Ireland—the trivia keeps expanding and getting more fascinating. It's a bit overwhelming. The Roman invasion, the various Celtic tribes, their mysterious Druids, Lindow man, these holy oaks, and so on. Which way to turn first?
Hopefully I can pace this out through the group read.
*ETA - a (huge) correction to our date...somehow I had the year 80 in my head. Thanks for the correction, gwernin. Also, there is some uncertainty as to the actual date of the Anglesey campaign.
What pace we follow and how we go about depends largely on who is involved. If you are planning on joining, or following along with the group read, please post here and let us know.
Note the little date error fixed in post #6...
But definitely having 10-12 is great for the variety of insights and readerly appreciation. It might help to leave private notices for those you have reviewed the previous books, even if the reader doesn't have the new one. I've joined several reads without having read the book, as an extended "review" to help me figure out if I want to read it. Of course, spoilers abound, but ....
#15 E - I posted notes to a few I know might be interested, including Tim. Hopefully my notes weren't too bothersome! Three is enough to make this interesting.
So, timing/pacing. There are 20 roughly even-length chapters. My first thought is to run the group read three weeks, seven chapters a week. It's maybe a slow pace, but I'm hoping to bring up some relevant interesting info for each part. Since my knowledge is limited...very limited, I'll be looking it up as we read.
So, something like this:
Oct 22 - 28 - chapters 1-7
Oct 29 - Nov 4 - chapters 8-14
Nov 5 - 11 - chapters 15-20 plus the Afterword (which is fascinating)
If we're OK with this, it means that my next useful post will be this weekend, or, since I have guests in town over the weekend, maybe a few days later.
Quoting directly from wikipedia:
In the mid-19th century, two prominent geologists, Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick used their studies of the geology of Wales to establish certain principles of stratigraphy and palaeontology. They did fundamental work on the Old Red Sandstone but are remembered more for their work on the lower Palaeozoic sequence. It was Sedgwick who established the Cambrian system and Murchison first described the Silurian, naming it for the ancient Silures tribe which occupied mid Wales. An overlap between the two systems as mapped led eventually to protracted dispute between the two erstwhile collaborators. After their deaths, Charles Lapworth erected the Ordovician system (again named for an ancient tribe of northwest Wales, the Ordovices), to account for the sequence of rocks at the heart of the controversy.
And so, a geologic map of Wales:
Off to play with the app in >24 dchaikin: ....
eta: looking again, I see you were asking about ebooks on amazon rather than paperbacks - no, it won't be available directly from amazon because I don't like their licensing terms. The smashwords version is DRM free and available in several formats including mobi.
Welcome Scorbet & yolana.
#27-28 Yolana, I'm using a kindle-version e-book I bought through Smashwords. They have a variety of formats available. This link will get you there: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/gwernin
#19 - Esta - great review, a panoramic view of the life at the time, indeed.
#25 - Elenchus - It's cool stuff. The British Celts and their mythical Druids play right into the early development of English, and therefore Western, science in so many ways. Sometimes it's just a coincidence of location, sometimes more (see, for example, Isaac's Newton's friend William Stukeley and other antiquarians).
Wonder if anyone living in those quaint homes is distantly related to Togi ...
We open in the wake of a massive slaughter, a turning point in Celtic history that marked the end of the non-Romanized Celts in Wales. And yet, we open with a harvest. This innocuous line sets the tone for the book. Immediately we are directed to think about food and the seasons, and an cyclic atmosphere. In Esta's review she called this a panoramic view of the era, that is a perfect description, both in the sense that we are seeing everything and in the circular sense. We will roll forward with the seasons, tied to a particular place and a particular, and partly-fictionalized time. These lines also control are reading pace and intensity. Ease in, they seem to say, the world here isn't in a rush yet.
But behind a harvest is the idea of sustenance, and hunger. There are no supermarkets, and these lands aren't importing. Survival is within, and a good harvest is only so far away from a bad one. A there some tension, a steady tension that maybe ties to that violence, at a distance but, present. Maybe there is even a cycle to this violence.
Well, OK, maybe I took that too far. In any case, chapter 1 gives us a brief glimpse of the mysterious Lovernos before introducing Togi and his bats, and his foster father Cunomoros, who advises Togi to be like the bats and “do the thing unexpected.”
And then several magical elements come up. Cunomoros mentions his an incomplete omen about Togi. Whereas Togi discovers several of his own magical elements, accidentally foretelling Ivo's fate ("You will fall in your first fight..."), dreaming about Penwyn, and his anger almost does...something. It's not clear what, and it's not clear what this all means. But it's mixed general cycles of life as he grows up.
But, maybe I should be thinking of something more like this (Bryn Cader Faner):
Or maybe it's purely fictional. In any case, a nice summary of megalithic structures in Wales can be found here: http://www.stonepages.com/wales/wales.html
Too green and tidy, though.
Chapters 1-7 explore the theme of Togi's initiation into his tribe, both as adult and as Druid. It's not that he'll be mature in either role at the end of these chapters, merely that the thematic thrust seems to be on that idea.
A lot is introduced in these opening chapters, of course, but I noticed less emphasis on the initiation theme in Chapters 8-14, as they shift attention to the conflict between the British tribes and the Roman Legion XX.
The threads of both themes are woven throughout, though, and they reinforce one another in interesting ways. For instance, the idea of Togi's growing up is paralleled in the growing threat between Britons and Romans: as dchaikin points out, at first the conflict is in the background, given the recent takeover of Ynys Mon and the defeat of Boudicca as opening frame (they are recent history for our characters, not events unfolding before us), but the Red Crests increasingly become part of the dialogue between characters, until the reader actually meets those Roman invaders on their tax collection rounds. In Chapters 8-14, this conflict is no longer background but constitutes the principal plot.
Togi's initiation undergoes a similar transformation, but the mirror image: from foreground to background.
It will be interesting to see whether there is a synthesis in the last third, or whether a third theme supersedes both. It's that Celtic rule of 3, again.
I've more ideas I'd like to mull over regarding the description of Togi's initiation and the various supernatural elements, which I'll post later. Perhaps most intriguing is the idea that Grove points out herself: we have very little if any description of these rites to go on, so she was faced with the task of inventing them. Yet they must fit the world she's created, much of which is based upon fact as we know it. How she chooses to do that, and how well she pulls it off, are fascinating challenges.
#40 - Good stuff E. I think Togi's magical elements also grow as the book progresses, but he's just too young at the rebellion. Curious on your thoughts about the supernatural here.
But the big thing here is Togi spending Samhain on Penwyn, meeting and surviving the ghost of an ancient priest-king. "Bodiless as fog, in the remembered shape of his body, the dead King came from the mound. The golden circlet he had worn in life encircled his pale brow, but his lunate breastplate of gold was that of a Priest.
There is no evidence the Celts or their druids used these megalithic wonders. And the source of these structures was probably about as mysterious then as it is today. But, for our book we have a most interesting link.
Which just leaves me with questions.
- How is everyone taking these magical elements? Certainly I myself wishing it could be, especially here with these mysterious long lost ancestors.
- Also, what is the knowledge the priest-king gives to Togi?
First with regard to date, maybe this can help anchor other people as to what period this is. Pompei and Herculaneum are still thriving towns at this point (Vesuvius doesn't blow until 79 AD.) Nero is Emperor until 69 AD followed by civil war and the "Year of the Four Emperors". Vespasian eventually takes over.St. Paul is still alive until ~ 67 AD. Um, China is being ruled by Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty from Luoyang.
My various primary school history teachers appear to be forcing me to mention that the top picture is of a dolmen...
My reading of the scene was that the priest-king didn't give him knowledge - Togi asked for it, but the spirit only spoke of the price for speaking to the dead. He makes no mention of giving knowledge... Could be wrong though.
ETA: Oops. Forgot I wanted to mention that it is/will be Samhain night tonight (depending on timezones).
The suicide of emperor Nero, in 68, was followed by a brief period of civil war, the first Roman civil war since Mark Antony's death in 30 BC. Between June 68 and December of 69, Rome witnessed the successive rise and fall of Galba, Otho and Vitellius until the final accession of Vespasian, first ruler of the Flavian Dynasty, in July 69. This period of civil war has become emblematic of the cyclic political disturbances in the history of the Roman Empire. The military and political anarchy created by this civil war had serious repercussions, such as the outbreak of the Batavian rebellion. (The Jewish Revolt was already in progress.)
Note, the Batavian units were a key part of the destruction of Ynys Mon in AD 60...
I'm the same - it was just that I was checking up on the Anglesey invasion in a book on Roman Britain and it had a table contrasting British events with the greater Roman world. I found it interesting enough to check up a few more and I thought other people would too. (The Chinese fact was to both to avoid being too Euro-centric, and because I'd a book on medieval Chinese history sitting on the coffee-table :-)).
I would say that a lot of people have problems connecting people and events because of the way that history is taught and written about. Most of the time you are concentrating on either one country or one event and links aren't really highlighted. (I remember finally realising that the Henry II who invaded Ireland, the one who caused Thomas Becket to be killed and the one who married Eleanor of Aquitaine were all the same person... Up to then I had known it at least intellectually but it hadn't clicked).
I've been thinking about your question regarding the magical elements. Until you asked the question I hadn't even questioned that they were real in some form or another. But that may be my biases showing through - I grew up on Irish myths and moved on to Arthurian legends, both of which inhabit a place somewhere between history and fantasy.
Though I am somewhat reminded of this exchange from Henry IV Part I:
I cannot blame him. At my nativity
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes
Of burning cressets, and at my birth
The frame and huge foundation of the earth
Shak’d like a coward.
Why, so it would have done at the same season, if your mother’s cat had but kitten’d, though yourself had never been born.
I say the earth did shake when I was born.
You may not know it, but there was an earlier thread discussing magic & the supernatural and its use in various styles of novel, whether fantasy or not. It surfaced in a thread about Grove's first Storyteller series, but various examples and thoughts were shared. I took dchaikin's question as a continuation of that conversation, though of course it stands on its own.
The presence and description of the supernatural elements in The Druid's Son are quite distinct from that in Storyteller, it's something I took care to observe from the beginning (in large part due to that earlier thread).
Broadly, the novel's depiction of magic is striking in that
1 - supernatural influence remains "internal" to the character (usually Togi's), rather than displayed as fireballs thrown by imposing wizards, for example. In this, Grove is consistent with Storyteller. There remains room for readers (and other characters) to dispute whether any magic occurred or was in play, but it's clear that Togi certainly believes it, and most others around him agree. It will be curious to see if the novel addresses whether (and how) a Roman interprets these supernatural events.
2 - Togi essentially equates his personal experience of the supernatural with his awen, or bardic inspiration. Now this seems brilliant, though at first it seemed so obvious I overlooked it. Has, in fact, any other author made this connection? Is it a standard interpretation of awen that it is magic or divine intervention? By this I mean, "divine" in a way more direct than it could be argued that everything about people, our creativity, talents, intelligence, what have you, are from the gods -- providing you believe in gods.
Again I'm at a disadvantage, as I don't recall whether Togi would fit the time period that Jaynes describes. It may be he refers to humans much earlier (Attic Greek or pre-Socratic literature were addressed, I think, so 500 years before this?). But the idea remains compelling to me, and whether deliberate or not, Grove's descriptions seem to fit fairly well.
Julian Jaynes The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
About the internal nature of the magic - I find it very elegantly done - that you can believe what you will, and then take either or any belief quite far within the themes of the novel. Being on the non-believing side, I find these magic elements complex parts of the characters psychology...their belief is a critical part of them, whether or not what they believe has some external truth.
ETA that I posted this before seeing #53
Awen - the divine, inspiration, a muse - perhaps these gods in this story are all part of the artistic process here.
Awe-struck, he paused to gaze around him. To his left and right and behind him, the great bald-headed peaks reared up, but before him the ground dropped steeply away into a forested valley, where oak and ash mingled their early summer leaves, bronze-green and palest green-gold. Before him in the distance he could see other mountains, still blue shadowed in twilight, but no match for the giant on this right. Yr Wyddfa, Cintegos had called it yesterday: the Place of the Graves. Even as he watched, the first sunlight touched its peak, painting with rosy light the gray crags still seamed with traces of last winter's snow.
The spirit of the land - another form of awen?
We get our first look as the Black Grove - the megalithic ruin of Bryn Celli Ddu.
It has its own interesting history. Some info on wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryn_Celli_Ddu
What an interesting discussion about the magic throughout the novel. I agree with Esta on how seamlessly Grove works in the magic as a supernatural element only Togi can see, leaving room for reader interpretation. However, it remains a believable force to the characters who experience it and must explain some of the more miraculous events in their lives. With the amount of times Togi cuts his hand for his personal tributes, I imagine it must look like raw hamburger. I'm curious if there is any evidence for the Druid blood sacrifices that are repeated over and over again or if this is a borrowed element from another culture?
On the other hand there is Lindow Man, and I don't know of any ritual scars, outside his the ones from his execution.
#63 Esta - been thinking about this post.
Three things I want to note in this chapter:
1. I love how Togi leads in the Beltane
2. There is interesting paragraph on bard-craft - " the memory of the people, the keeper of knowledge and lore....sustained by awen, the fire from heaven by which they all were inspired"
3. And the Deceangli raid - our first experience with bloodshed, even if we only seem to experience it at a distance.
- The first is the trial of fire and learning about the strength of iron from Gofannon
- The second is learning about the protection of waters from the sea god Manannan
- the high powers cover first the Shepherd of the Stars - who leaves in Togi with fear and chill (Needles of ice pierced him) and a knowledge of darkness. Then Lugh, who gives the power of light, and the inspiration of awen...and awe. And finally the moon goddess whose language of suggestion leaves us wondering what it was Togi was glad to know.
The blue names are wikipedia links
We seem to working toward some sort of higher intensity, but chapter 9 cools it down, as Togi spends a summer with sheep, learning a little Latin, using his magic to kill rabbits and re-prophecy Ivo's death.
Then we have a little sex-charged scene in the pools. Keeping in character, the book tones this down...and then we get this line:
Togi slipped quickly behind her and put his hands on her bare brown shoulders. Her skin was smooth and soft, and a loose lock of her hair brushed his fingers. A shock ran through him, but he kept his eyes on Vindex, who was looking uncertain.
OK, that's pretty hot. For me the book changes right there, the intensity ramps up, and we are juiced up ...and we go directly into the revolt!
And poor Vindex.
I think it's worth posting Tobi's subtle moment of awen after Sennos is identified as a Druid:
At the forbidden word, a little shiver of silence went through the crowd. Togi felt it in himself; it stroked down his spine like ice. For a moment there was a darkness in his sight, a roaring in his ears; he wanted to cry out a warning, but he struggled against the words which were choking him. This was no time or place for prophecy. Man though he was now in years, in this company he was still little more than a boy in experience, and unknown to most of those here. He took a deep breath, and another; his vision cleared, and he saw Sennos standing beside the King.
This is an echo of Tobi's manhood ritual dream. He is tragically too young.
In historical fantasy, in some sense we can know where things are going - at least when they hook onto real and significant events, or are intertextual with existing works like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y_Gododdin, and I really don't like real tragedies (yes I am a coward who would rather read of the Three Frivolous Bards of the Island of Britain than the Three Savage Men of the Island of Britain, who performed the Three Unfortunate Assassinations!)
Yes date-crossing gets complicated - I have just noticed that in a parallel semi-historical world Marcus Didius Falco is in Britain at an overlapping period.
note to self - find a good translation of Y Gododdin
But yes, an awesome picture: doesn't have the chintzy character that so many re-enactments do, to my eye.
Chapter 12 is the attack on the Romans in Ynys Môn, where we first end up in a small village called Rhiwlas on the other side of Mynydd Llwydiarth. We also meet Tagia, witness the beginning of a staged sacrifice, get the first a close up look at fighting (see gwernin's post #74) and actually meet a Roman soldier.
note 1: Mynydd Llwydiarth has a "prehistoric" hillfort, but the stone nemeton on top of Mynydd Llwydiarth is fictional.
note 2: Whenever I search for "Rhiwlas" I am directed to "Gwynedd " ??
The hill of Mynydd Llwydiarth
Which reminds me that back in chapter 3 in Togi's Samhain night on Penwyn he has a similar play with the truth. He swears to spend the night without living company, but then saves himself with poor little mouse.
Curious what to make of Togi in these instances. Maybe it's not important...but seems somehow to say something about Togi.
85: I could comment on this, but I'd like to see what other people think first.
Nice observation, Daniel: hadn't put that together. My reaction to the first instance was that it was a "clever" solution on Togi's part, in that clearly everyone meant a person, and so a living mouse is a fair if unexpected tactic.
I think Togi has more to answer for in the second instance! Again, initially I took it as a rephrasing of his original intent: that he didn't want to deliberately plan and act, but his intention was, nonetheless, for the Roman soldier not to die. So there's a distinction here, between personal action and intention, and it's one that some may consider "unfair" and others not. For my part, I think Togi is deluding himself a bit in implying he's not accountable for the outcome, when clearly his intentions were fulfilled. But in his defense, it would make a big difference in the immediate circumstance were he to openly contradict Sennos; and also, the very motivation for his intent is his awen, which we've linked (however tentatively) both to magic and to divine intervention. Which is to say, it's not his personal wish, but his concern to follow the will of the gods.
Part of Togi's maturation on a number of fronts!
ETA clarification: by his awen, I mean he gets the strong sense that a sacrifice is not a good thing for the gods, but doesn't have a better argument for the group. Not to mention it would be openly opposing Sennos.
#88 - "although he respects his elders he has a mind and a will of his own." - Very interesting, a hint looking forward to the fence...Togi is not quite as humble as he presents himself to be.
I was thinking appearances may be more important that the reality.
And yes, he is beginning to think for himself and work his own will.
Perhaps that's what all Druids are! But I don't get that impression from Togi himself.
Sennos, on the other hand, there could be more sleight-of-hand involved. We'll see.
The mouse, on the other hand, was neither prayed for nor created by magic; it was simply a case of using what came to hand.
I think we're drifting into a discussion of the nature of religion vs the nature of magic. I'll back out for now and let the group discussion continue.
hmm...perhaps. My interest is more along the lines of the psychological nature of belief...but I admit I'm then lumping religion and magic together. That's maybe unfair to both.
In any case I will try to post more over my lunch. Have notes through chap 16. Fascinated by Lindow Man.
was wrong...so I removed my comments. See post #98 for the Black Lake.
Lovernos modeled after Lindow Man, the supposed Druid body found in bog (in the general vicinity of Llyn Dulyn). This is a fascinating find, and, I think, a key inspiration for gwernin, based on the afterward.
The practice that has most heavily influenced the popular conception of the Druids, however, is human sacrifice. One of their victims was the so-called Lindown Man – the remarkably well-preserved corpse of a Druidic priest that was found in a Manchester bog in 1984. His throat had been slit and he had, apparently, willingly offered himself up for sacrifice.
more reliable info here: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_prb/l/lindo...
He had probably done very little hard, manual work, because his finger nails were well manicured. His beard and moustache had been cut by a pair of shears. There is no evidence that he was unwell when he died, but he was suffering from parasitic worms. His last meal probably included unleavened bread made from wheat and barley, cooked over a fire on which heather had been burnt.
The basic info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindow_Man
We have gwernin's poetry, which I won't comment on as I'm not a poetry critic. But it's worth highlighting
And then we have unprinted song of praise for Caratacos. Caratacos is a fascinating British historical figure. His success in Britain was used as an excuse for the AD 43 Roman invasion. He fought against the Roman until he was finally captured about AD 51 and brought to Rome. But his legend still inspired two later revolts by the Brigantes. Dio Cassius and Tacitus record his story, and Tacitus captured (or invented?) his famous speech in Rome.
"If the degree of my nobility and fortune had been matched by moderation in success, I would have come to this City as a friend rather than a captive, nor would you have disdained to receive with a treaty of peace one sprung from brilliant ancestors and commanding a great many nations. But my present lot, disfiguring as it is for me, is magnificent for you. I had horses, men, arms, and wealth: what wonder if I was unwilling to lose them? If you wish to command everyone, does it really follow that everyone should accept your slavery? If I were now being handed over as one who had surrendered immediately, neither my fortune nor your glory would have achieved brilliance. It is also true that in my case any reprisal will be followed by oblivion. On the other hand, if you preserve me safe and sound, I shall be an eternal example of your clemency."
This speech saved his life. He was allowed to live in Rome.
The attack is factual. In AD 77 or 78 Gnaeus Julius Agricola finally conquered Anglesey.
Arriving in midsummer of 77, Agricola found the Ordovices of north Wales had virtually destroyed the Roman cavalry stationed in their territory. He immediately moved against them and defeated them. He then moved north to the island of Mona (Anglesey), which Suetonius Paulinus had failed to subjugate in 60 because of the outbreak of the Boudican rebellion, and forced its inhabitants to sue for peace. He established a good reputation as an administrator, as well as a commander, by reforming the widely corrupt corn levy. He introduced Romanising measures, encouraging communities to build towns on the Roman model and educating the sons of the native nobility in the Roman manner.
It's conceivable the book could have ended here.
What to make of Sennos?
Finally, Togi’s mom is named…she is Vera.
Source: British Museum collections
When I have time I will link one or two here (or do feel free :) )
We're past Chapter 9, but here's a quote I found interesting for itself (within the plot), but also as a reflection of how magic is used in the novel. It appears during Togi's rabbit-catcher scene, with the boys expecting something different. I think this scene and the quote reflects on our own discussion of Togi's "intent" and use of Druidic powers.
"He was not popular with everyone; he spent too much time alone, and some of them suspected him of working magic. And in that, of course, they were not entirely wrong: but only in their ideas of what that magic might entail. It was not something which could be used lightly, like an old wife’s charm muttered over the cooking pots, or the string of nonsense words which kept the nightmare at bay. It was an opening of one’s self to the universe, to see and feel and taste and smell everything that was around one, and by aligning one’s will with that of the Gods, to work changes in the world. This much Togi knew from Cunomoros’ teachings and from his own experience, although he lacked as yet the power and focus to cause great changes. One day he might own that focus, might command that power, but not yet." (p 121)
I believe I get the distinction gwernin makes in >90 gwernin:, "going with the opportunity the gods have sent him" and it's not trivial. Yet that doesn't go far enough for me, especially as Togi's belief is for more than coincidence. So in that sense, the line "aligning one's will" is highly suggestive to me.
So. Not to harp on this, but it was for this element of the novel I was most anxious to read about Togi as opposed to Gwernin! Consequently I pay more attention to it, perhaps, than if I'd simply come to the book without any particular anticipation.
Vote: I'm following but not commenting.
Yes, Storyteller as half-step to the mindset / emotional weight of the 1st Century Druid in The Druid's Son. And interesting, too, that having taken that half-step, presumably it will influence your writing of the next Storyteller book. Which in itself "looks back" to Togi. A nice recursive chain.
I think the balance / tension between religion and magic is done well: at least, it has me pondering it, which is what I'd hoped. Surprisingly, the sense of place remains strong but is not (for me) different than with Storyteller. Reflecting upon that, my tentative conclusion is that it has more to do with me than with the writing. That is, each place and time are so alien to my commonplace, and I have so little background on either, they come across as similar. It's an insight into the working on my own mind's eye that is unexpected, but makes sense. I suspect it could change as I learn more about each time period.
I felt that the way Togi saved the Roman, was merely him taking advantage of the situation that presented itself and was reflection of the moment when he finds a mouse to take is place with his ancestors ghosts. To me Togi's magic and the awen are more tools for him to take a step back or give him maybe the foresight to use what he is being given in a situation and turn it to his advantage. It is nice to see Togi mature from using his gifts for self centered thing like a dare, for a more humane treatment of an enemy. For most of the story to me the moments of awen and religious rituals were more like training the eye to observe and collect the data the rest of folks simply glance over, to give Togi an edge that no one else has. The gods and the religion were just ways for them to explain what couldn't be explained. That was until the Roman Governor and general acknowledge Druid curtain as being magical after the final battle. That is much harder to theorize away.
Perhaps I don't read enough into these sorts of things.
#118 - Kevin - The first half of your seems to be more or less what was intended. As for the Druid Fence, yeah, it really does bring the magic to the forefront where many other characters confront it. My impression is that G intended us readers to able to take the magic either way - real or possible an explanation covering something else. For the later take, yours and mine, the fence presses us. But then, what exactly is the fence? What is it doing? It could just be fog...
With some confidence he (1) links Druids to the megalithic structures in western Europe, seeing an continuous cultural link between them, and (2) he hints that Druids used the stones in classical times, based on classical comments that he interprets as references to the Callanish Stones. I thought that was quite interesting. To quote:
There can be little doubt that the belief systems evident in the last four centuries or so of the 1st millenium BC—the time of the historical Druids—were the result of a longue duree of development and refinement spanning several millennia. The druidic class, then, were the inheritors of ancient wisdom.
He is also convincing about the existence of human sacrifice as some points and in at least some locations during the druid era.
eta: Oh, you meant the review! Thanks!!
This photo of Black Mountain is courtesy of TripAdvisor
I (not it) have notes through the end. If I'm free over my lunch hour, I will try to post the rest. I don't have more pictures though. :( At least not yet.
I've also enjoyed the pictures, and Daniel's comments / background info. I've avoided reading Esta's review just yet, usually I want to write my own before reading anyone else's. But I may not hold out this time!
Chapter 17 is a new beginning. It's three years later, which I think put Togi at 18, but maybe I missed a year. He is now in Ireland, or Ériu’s Land, studying under a master druid in Emain Macha (aka Navan Fort). See post #115 for pictures...well, OK, one more:
Later we will travel to Temair...I'm not sure what this is. Temair may be related to the mythical Hill of Tara, or may be something different. Gwernin, help...please...
Along with a new place, we meet several new characters - Fedelmid, Aed, Ruad & Niall Ollam File; and we learn the name of our Roman, Centurion Quintus Fulvius Rufus. After meeting Fulvius Rufus, Ruad will tell Togi, "My imbas says that your fates are intertwined."
The one thing that struck me here was when Togi asked learn about the higher magical, like the Druid fence, Fedelmin tells he he's not ready and asks him, “Where is your need for haste?” – This tells us a lot because we know the answer. He failed the Ordovices because he was too young. If he had been a little older... If we were wondering how acutely he felt that, this is part of our answer. He is in a rush to not be too young again. Of course, we know he doesn't always follow the rules, he'll make things work as he can.
What does Togi expect of his fence?
Through his mind there passed a snatch of memory: Cunmoros’ voice, speaking of Lovernos’ death. For himself, the old man has said, he kept nothing at all…His very life he gave in the end, as a sacrifice to the Gods…
We are of course dealing with a Roman invasion of Ireland. If we had any doubt, we are clearly shown the way by the mention of the possibly real historical character of Tuathal Teachtmahr - the exiled Irish king who is said to have tried to get Roman assistance to reclaim his kingdom.
We have two new locations:
The second one, the one of the Druid fence, is pictured is from the Black Mountain, which today overlooks Belfast. See post #126 for a picture.
The First one is Tailtiu where Togi goes for Lughnasa, and where he
What is the fence? The description in the book: “… a bank of slowly moving mist, full of dark shadows and strange flashed of light.” Is it just a confusing mist, or real magic?
Togi, captured, prophecies Fulvius Rufus’s future, and escapes with the help of Manannan. It's a strange relationship these two have - Togi and FR.
In 81, Agricola "crossed in the first ship" and defeated peoples unknown to the Romans until then. Tacitus, in Chapter 24 of Agricola, does not tell us what body of water he crossed, although most scholars believe it was the Clyde or Forth, and some translators even add the name of their preferred river to the text; however, the rest of the chapter exclusively concerns Ireland, so southwest Scotland is perhaps to be preferred. The text of the Agricola has been emended here to record the Romans "crossing into trackless wastes", referring to the wilds of the Galloway peninsula. Agricola fortified the coast facing Ireland, and Tacitus recalls that his father-in-law often claimed the island could be conquered with a single legion and auxiliaries. He had given refuge to an exiled Irish king whom he hoped he might use as the excuse for conquest. This conquest never happened, but some historians believe the crossing referred to was in fact a small-scale exploratory or punitive expedition to Ireland, though no Roman camps have been identified to confirm such a suggestion.
Irish legend provides a striking parallel. Tuathal Teachtmhar, a legendary High King, is said to have been exiled from Ireland as a boy, and to have returned from Britain at the head of an army to claim the throne. The traditional date of his return is 76–80, and archaeology has found Roman or Romano-British artefacts in several sites associated with Tuathal.
Taking the native dating as broadly accurate, another theory has emerged. The Roman historian Tacitus mentions that Agricola, while governor of Roman Britain (AD 78 - 84), entertained an exiled Irish prince, thinking to use him as a pretext for a possible conquest of Ireland. Neither Agricola nor his successors ever conquered Ireland, but in recent years archaeology has challenged the belief that the Romans never set foot on the island. Roman and Romano-British artefacts have been found primarily in Leinster, notably a fortified site on the promontory of Drumanagh, fifteen miles north of Dublin, and burials on the nearby island of Lambay, both close to where Túathal is supposed to have landed, and other sites associated with Túathal such as Tara and Clogher. However, whether this is evidence of trade, diplomacy or military activity is a matter of controversy. It is possible that the Romans may have given support to Túathal, or someone like him, to regain his throne in the interests of having a friendly neighbour who could restrain Irish raiding. The 2nd century Roman poet Juvenal, who may have served in Britain under Agricola, wrote that "arms had been taken beyond the shores of Ireland", and the coincidence of dates is striking.
The drama is over. Togi, back in Emain Macha, now 19?, watches those bats again.
Then Togi meets the Archdruid, where is punishment meets the gods price - Mac Criomthann will roam* Ireland.
*no pun intended...
And a classic aerial shot:
from the Knowth website, which has some great links.
There are lots of ways one might respond this, from high offense at the fiction, to wonder at the effort to meet the facts, to indifference about the facts...it is just a story after all. My own thoughts aren't worked out yet, but certainly lead toward being impressed with the effort to honor the facts, the time period, the life cycles and the landscape. I'm very curious about anyone else's response to this.
And, please, post your own final thoughts on the book here.
To me your idea is clearly not against the intent of LT, but I acknowledge the difficulty in drawing a bright line to define what is appropriate. Perhaps simply putting a comment on Tim's profile, to address any problems.
If the latter, is it because it's the nearest translation, or because we don't know what they called themselves / called the islands, and have no choice?
This occurred to me because earlier we noted that "Wales" was not a term used in Togi's day, and Grove properly avoids the term, despite the thematic link to the Wales of Gwernin's time in the Storyteller series.
The equivalent for Ireland would be "Ierne", as used in some of the last chapters of the book where the characters are assumed to be speaking Irish.
"Wales" as noted elsewhere comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for "foreigners".
I've finished the book and am mulling thoughts in preparation for my review. One observation about my own reaction to the story: I was anticipating that Togi and Rufus would end up with a different relationship, if not exactly "warm" then more respectful and even collaborative. Not sure why I was anticipating that, but it made Togi's eventual "leap" all the more ... unexpected!
Did anyone else have a similar read of their relationship? Or was it straight-up antagonism for others?
#156/7 - I find their relationship quite complex. I think they instinctively like something about the other, and hate what the other represents, making a curious and unpredictable personal relationship...which, of course, must develop over three or four scattered moments. I think that through Togi's view of FR we see the author's (yes, Gwernin's) respect of for the Romans, and I think FR's view of Togi may have a parallel in the a modern view towards modern Druidism - a learned derogatory skepticism combined with a spiritual curiosity. FR seems to really drink up Togi's prophecy.
#149 - Kevin - I agree completely.
I felt the roman had grudgingly come to respect Togi, but I'm not convinced that Togi developed much respect for the Roman. He saved the Roman from certain death not because he respected him as warrior but he felt a moral issues about killing an unwilling sacrifice. To me in this relationship Togi is more the antagonist on the personal level.
The Druid's Son grew out of an internal story in the 4th Storyteller book, which I'm still writing, and which will be called The Fallen Stones. In it Gwernin, in Ireland, hears a story about a wise and clever Druid called Mac Criomthann, who is the son of the last Archdruid of Ynys Mon whose story we heard in The Ash Spear. I found Mac Criomthann interesting, and wondered how he became the sort of man he was in that story; The Druid's Son is part of the explanation.
Interwoven with this, and central to the book, is the concept of sacrifice, and particularly of making oneself a sacrifice to the Gods for a cause. Lovernos does this in the beginning, offering his own death to become the guardian of the land. Togi, in making the Druid Fence against the Roman invasion, also expects to die; in a sense he does, being reborn into a new life as Mac Criomthann, freed of all his earlier obligations and able to start anew - another thing unexpected in the pattern of his life.
This importance of sacrifice - voluntary sacrifice - ties neatly into Kevin's comment above (162), by the way: Togi is not happy with the idea of an unwilling human sacrifice. He has no reason at that point to like the Roman, who after all was responsible for the death of one of Togi's fellow tribesmen (Ivo) not so long ago, and he would have been perfectly happy to kill Rufus in combat. As Lovernos says later, it is the consent that matters...
Enough for tonight, I think - I'll probably have more thoughts later. Happy Thanksgiving, all!
To everyone else, I think it is time to bring this to a close. Thanks for joining and for suffering through all my posts and mistakes, I do hope you all gained something along the way. And, especially, thanks for all the contributions, inspiring us all to think about the book and context in a variety of ways.
Again, happy Thanksgiving ;-)
I don't think that's a bad thing, and can give numerous reasons why...even if one is perhaps predisposed to be uncomfortable with anything Christ-like or Christian...we are after all in the era of founding of Christianity.
But, as you say, something older and common to many religious-related mysteries fits well.
"The wood and water are definitely not there for any sort of overt symbolic reasons." - Our druids apparently having their name derived from the Celtic word for oak, it's hard not to see anything with wood in it as somehow a sacred reference. Well...no...I'm oversimplifying...anyway I'll leave the thought out here. I like the fanciful parallels of the Druid's holy oaks and the old testaments ancient love of sacred trees (see, for example, the Song of Deborah, likely the oldest scrap in the OT.)