The Druid's Son: Group read

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The Druid's Son: Group read

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Edited: Oct 14, 2012, 2:16pm

Time to start an organizing thread for our planned group read of my new book The Druid's Son. We're expecting it to get underway on October 22, after my author chat is over or nearly over. dchaikin will be facilitating it, and I will be stopping by frequently to answer any questions.

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.

Oct 14, 2012, 2:11pm

For the curious, I've posted the first chapter on one of my blogs here.

Edited: Oct 15, 2012, 12:27pm

Just marking the thread.

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.

Oct 16, 2012, 10:26pm

How appropriate, indeed! I'm underway and plan to join the group read. Am very curious to shake out evidence from speculation regarding Druids, as a part of the group.

Edited: Oct 21, 2012, 12:29am

Anglesey, Holyhead Mountain

South Stack lighthouse on Anglesey

The Menai Straight:

Edited: Oct 21, 2012, 10:03pm

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.

Edited: Oct 21, 2012, 12:19am

For those new to G. R. Grove (lt name gwernin), she has done wonder stuff with the Storyteller series, including remarkably extensive historical and geographical (and even geologic) details into her novels. She also brings in linguistic touches, especially from Welsh. Her first trilogy of novels are historical fiction from the darkest of the dark ages in post-Roman Wales. The latest novel, The Druid's Son begins in Wales, but in Roman times, 500 years earlier. Anyone interested should check out her recent author chat HERE. Also check out reviews on LT.

Oct 21, 2012, 12:21am

We'll start reading The Druid's Son next week, officially Monday (Oct 22). The book is available electronically through Smashwords here.

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.

Oct 21, 2012, 12:22pm

Great stuff, dchaikin: especially appreciate the photos of the significant places in the book, or providing important backstory (invasion of Anglesey).

Edited: Oct 21, 2012, 4:04pm

Thanks elenchus. You are joining right?

Note the little date error fixed in post #6...

Oct 21, 2012, 4:11pm

Taking a longer look at the third picture, of the Menai Straight. Anglesey is to the left and the picture is looking northeast. The Romans crossed toward the more southern side of the Straight, which is the lower part of the picture. In our book, Togi will cross at the northern end, somewhere lost in the haze at the top of the picture.

Edited: Oct 21, 2012, 9:12pm

I'm definitely joining. I'm about a third of the way through, but plan to dip back into chapters as the group addresses them. I'm looking forward to the tighter focus that a group read typically brings. I'm quite sloppy with dates and geography, to raise 2 obvious examples of how, no doubt, my participation will help me, even without any special efforts on the part of you or the group.

Oct 22, 2012, 8:58am

#12 - hoping we get a few others to join us.

Oct 22, 2012, 9:11am

I will join in - I have the book, but have only read the first chapter so far. I will be away for a few days from Thursday, so may be quiet, depending on Wifi etc

Oct 22, 2012, 9:21am

More would be great, but I think even 2-3 along with your moderating efforts, dchaikin, will be enjoyable and of benefit to all. Since this is archived, it is also available to others as they discover the book on their own.

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 ....

Oct 22, 2012, 9:29am

#14 Hello Tim.

#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.

Oct 22, 2012, 9:33am

I'm going to try to leave my own private invitations as we go along: these "admin duties" needn't be left to you entirely!

Oct 22, 2012, 10:50am

A note for anyone thinking about joining : You can read the first chapter of The Druid's Son on G. R. Grove's blog here:

Oct 22, 2012, 5:14pm

The book is splendid (I posted a review) and I'll catch the group read as often as I can.

Oct 22, 2012, 8:31pm

I'm in, just got my copy.

Oct 22, 2012, 9:35pm

Wow, we're up to five. Esta & Kevin, welcome and glad you're here.

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.

Oct 23, 2012, 12:59pm

Sounds good for me: the slow pacing also means when I do get a chance to read (not every day, natch) it's reasonable that I'd catch up for missed days.

Edited: Oct 23, 2012, 11:53pm

So, re-reading this has me thinking about geology. Not just because of those rocks by the lighthouse in post #5. It's because I'm looking at the opening maps and seeing tribes called Silures and Ordovices - the source of the names of two major geologic eras. (Togi's tribe is the Ordovices).

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:

Oct 23, 2012, 11:57pm

If you're bored, the link below has some interesting stuff on the geology of Anglesey. Note that the link fires up an app, so it takes some time to load. Click on the triangles around the edges.

Oct 24, 2012, 12:03am

Now we're getting oriented! Had no idea of the overlap between these important tribes and geological eras / rock stratifications, makes so much sense in hindsight.

Off to play with the app in >24 dchaikin: ....

Oct 25, 2012, 9:59am

I'll try and join - I have a copy but not yet started.

Oct 25, 2012, 10:52am

I will try to get a copy. It'll probably have to be an ebook, can the ebook be bought directly from amazon?

Edited: Oct 25, 2012, 11:12am

Hi yolanda - it's not on amazon yet because the distribution process takes a while, but it is available on lulu as a paperback or hardback.

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.

Oct 25, 2012, 12:17pm

Wow, we are up to seven. It's a small crowd now...

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:

#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).

Oct 26, 2012, 5:58am

I'm still a bit of a luddite with my kindle and find that I mess up with adding email addresses to my kindle account, the painless direct download from amazon is my best bets. Its a pity about their licensing hooha.

Edited: Oct 29, 2012, 1:44pm

I have some notes over the first six chapters. I'll post more later. For now, I'll leave you with a picture of Togi's home valley (modern Cwm Penmachno).

Oct 29, 2012, 1:59pm

Lovely. Any idea from which vantage point the picture was taken?

Wonder if anyone living in those quaint homes is distantly related to Togi ...

Oct 29, 2012, 2:15pm

33: This map might help...

Oct 29, 2012, 7:10pm

Geology survey skills are, perhaps, more useful to a novelist than commonly suspected! (Not just map skills, but a working familiarity with online tools such as these: had no idea get-a-map services were so readily available.)

Oct 29, 2012, 7:23pm

What a beautiful place!

Edited: Oct 29, 2012, 10:55pm

Harvest was over.

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.”

Oct 30, 2012, 1:18pm

Chapter two again opens with a sentence about the season. Tobi begins the chapter 9 years old, which puts the date at roughly AD 70. Among the key elements we are introduced to here are the "Red Crests", here the Roman tax collectors. Note the leader of the small troop, he'll come up again. Boudicca gets mentioned, as does the Roman invasion of Ynys Mon, and their "fish scale armor". Rome seems to be in control with cold efficiency. We also meet Cintegos, the bard, and King Regenos.

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.

Oct 30, 2012, 1:25pm

Somehow I thought I knew what Penwyn was, but going through my notes I can't seem to find the reference. I expected something like a hut of standing stones, like this, but on a hill:

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:

Edited: Oct 30, 2012, 1:55pm

Purely fictional in this case, although West Kennet might give you an idea...

Too green and tidy, though.

Edited: Oct 30, 2012, 2:16pm

I'm about 2/3 through the book, and have a tentative idea of how I'd summarise the themes thus far.

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.

Oct 30, 2012, 2:24pm

#39 - G, well that explains it! A much better likeness, I'm realizing now.

#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.

Oct 30, 2012, 7:19pm

I'd like to join in here, albeit somewhat belatedly, and I'll need to go back and re-read a little, with some of these points in mind. (Full disclosure - I was one of the proofreaders, and yes, I sure I missed a few bits.)

Oct 30, 2012, 11:01pm

Welcome, Rowntree! And such a suitable member name, too. Glad to have you with us.

Oct 30, 2012, 11:49pm

Yes, welcome Rowntree. I think that makes us 8.

Edited: Oct 31, 2012, 12:01am

Penwyn was supposed to lead into chapter 3, Samhain night...Togi is now 11, so roughly AD 72. There is a reference to the Corieltauvi rebellion, a real event that apparently faded out around AD 70.

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?

Edited: Oct 31, 2012, 10:31am

A couple of fairly random comments:

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.

>38 dchaikin:
My various primary school history teachers appear to be forcing me to mention that the top picture is of a dolmen...

>45 dchaikin:
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).

Oct 31, 2012, 11:22am

#46 Scorbet - Good stuff. We're in the midst of the post-Nero fiasco.

from wikipedia
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...

Oct 31, 2012, 11:26am

I probably won't post more today, so Happy Samhain Eve. My little ones will impersonate the priest-king tonight - one in the form of Captain America and the other as some kind of warrior ninja. We'll fend them off with sugar sacrifices...and then suffer the consequences.

Oct 31, 2012, 11:48am

Scorbet, that concise piece of historical context is welcome. I've noticed I'm very weak in drawing spatial and chronological connections between events or people that I know separately, though it's something that I find rewarding when I'm able to make the links.

Nov 1, 2012, 9:08am

>49 elenchus:

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).

>45 dchaikin:

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.

Nov 1, 2012, 1:10pm

That captures quite well the debate here! Am not familiar with that play, Shakespeare's wit and wordcraft are usually pithy and are again in this instance, thanks for that.

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.

Nov 1, 2012, 1:11pm

Now, if there are spirits like these, maybe Shakespeare still drifts about, mixing with the ancient Celts and pre-Celtic Britains...

Edited: Nov 1, 2012, 1:21pm

With regards to my 2nd bullet above, it brings to mind Julian Jaynes's imaginative description of the experience of consciousness among humans with a brain still very much divided, i.e. the bicameral mind. One of his claims is that hallucinations and information from the left brain would be experienced by the person as equally real as empirical / sensory input from the outside world.

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.

ETA touchstone
Julian Jaynes The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

Edited: Nov 1, 2012, 1:58pm

#51 E - The question wasn't meant to link to previous conversations, but your certainly welcome to bring them in.

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

Nov 1, 2012, 1:29pm

#51 on awen & #53 - there is a lot of ground to follow there, into the intellectual occult. But...I personally have never pursued it. :) Still, very interesting about Jaynes.

Awen - the divine, inspiration, a muse - perhaps these gods in this story are all part of the artistic process here.

Edited: Nov 1, 2012, 1:35pm

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.

Nov 1, 2012, 1:40pm

Chapter 4 Togi finally leaves his valley, first to Dinas Brân, in the shadow of Yr Wyddfa (English name is Snowdon), and then later north down the Conwy valley and to the coast. Here we meet the druid, Sennos, who tells Togi, "Remember, boy, the importance of the hearth-Gods, and the spirits of the land. They are the root of our religion, and powerful in their own spheres. Never neglect them"

The spirit of the land - another form of awen?

Nov 1, 2012, 1:42pm

PS - Togi is now 13, it's ~ AD 74

Nov 1, 2012, 1:43pm

I appreciate these pictures more than I can say!! I look at them and think back on the story, and am once more impressed.

Nov 1, 2012, 1:44pm

Dinas Brân is fictional, based somewhat on Dinas Emrys, an later, Autharian era ruin.

Edited: Nov 1, 2012, 1:55pm

Chapter 5 takes us across the Menai Straight (see post 5) and finally to Ynys Môn, the holy land for these Celts. Caesar thought the Celtic religion originated in Britain, and perhaps this is the place he meant and the motivation behind the Roman push for conquering the Island.

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:

Nov 1, 2012, 1:58pm

#59 - Esta - Agree, they really add to the story. The spirit of the land...

Nov 1, 2012, 2:24pm

My chapter 5 notes remind me this is when Togi first sees the sea/ eats his first salmon. There are many "breakthrough" moments in his young life!!

Nov 5, 2012, 11:45am

The pictures above add so much to the lush descriptions in the book, many thanks.

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?

Nov 5, 2012, 1:16pm

#64 Kevin - In the opening section of Blood and mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain by Ronald Hutton, Hutton mentions that the entire existent ancient writings on the druids covers about 20 pages (or maybe it was 12) of text. I'm guessing there isn't much of any evidence about whether druids held daily rituals or what they were like.

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.

Nov 5, 2012, 1:33pm

Chapter 6 hovers around Sennos, who has changed in some mysterious and seemingly threatening way. We've covered a lot of geography and daily life at this point, and Sennos's apparent change adds a new tension to the regular cycles of the story, pushing the story forward a bit. Sennos discovers who Togi is as we discover who Sennos is, and what a hint of menace: "Sennos eyes were wide and dark, and the knuckles on his hand which held the knife were white with tension, but he had not moved while Togi lit the fire." And so Togi defuses Sennos for the moment.

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.

Edited: Nov 5, 2012, 1:44pm

Chapter 7 covers the spiritual trials Togi must undergo before his manhood ritual. Togi is 14, so ~ AD 74.

- 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

Nov 5, 2012, 1:47pm

64 & 65: not much evidence of any kind regarding druid rituals, but plenty of evidence for regular blood sacrifices in ancient Greek and Roman religion.

Nov 5, 2012, 1:56pm

Chapter 8 is the Togi's manhood or coming of age ritual - the ritual for 14 year-old boys who can afterward become a warriors. Note Togi's odd dream where "He could not save his people; he could not even save himself. He had not done what he was born for, and he was about to die…. Poor Togi is too young. Togi also learns about and comes to terms with how his father died, and Cunomoro's role.

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.

Edited: Nov 5, 2012, 2:11pm

Yes chapter 10 starts "The Harvest was poor..., but this chapter isn't about cycles. Romans cross some kind of line, Ivo dutifully fulfills his given prophecy, and we are led up to the war council. We also me Lucotios and Resta - who sends hormonal Tobi into brain-freezing confusion.

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.

Nov 5, 2012, 2:05pm

#68 G - Thanks!

Edited: Nov 5, 2012, 2:10pm

Chapter 11 is the war council. I don't have any comments on the council itself. I'll just note that I think it's interesting the chapter opens with Cintegos's muttered worry that "we may all go down into darkness, and be utterly forgotten…” and then closes with Sennos burning his books...

Edited: Nov 5, 2012, 2:11pm

That almost catches me up to last week. Apologies, no picture to post today. Hopefully the comments have some value (despite the typos).

Nov 5, 2012, 2:50pm

An appetizer for the next bit:

Nov 5, 2012, 5:12pm

#69 This, I think, is why I have been so slow in reading the book. Basically I am scared! I really do not like the idea of human sacrifice, and of getting my head inside the ways of thinking that made it possible. In "Truly unreal fantasy" I can be more detached, but Lindow Man was found just a few kilometres from where I live.

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, 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!)

Nov 5, 2012, 6:00pm

Hi, Tim - interjecting myself for a moment since the discussion is slow... I am not fond of tragedy myself, and yet in dealing with serious historical events some amount of it is inevitable. I have tried, for example, to make the Storyteller books relatively light from that point of view, so that they are enjoyable to read and re-read, and yet if I complete the series as planned the third trilogy will inevitably be quite dark, and will in fact include the story of Y Gododdin. The Druid's Son turned out to be a darker and more serious book than I originally expected, even allowing that the seed of it was my retelling of Lindow Man's story as Gwernin hears it in The Ash Spear; I did not realize that the final Roman conquest of North Wales would fall so heavily across my chosen time period. Similarly, it is not possible (in my opinion) to write about the Druids without considering the subject of human sacrifice (although it was hardly unique to them). I have finessed the issue as best I could, but the subject of sacrifice - in its original sense of "to set apart, to make sacred" - is central to the story. I don't think, however, that you will find the end of this book too hard to bear.

Nov 5, 2012, 6:20pm

#76 thanks!

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.

Edited: Nov 5, 2012, 7:09pm

77: True!

For those wanting to think more about human sacrifice, I recommend Miranda Green's Dying for the Gods and Walter Burkert's Homo Necans.

Edited: Nov 5, 2012, 10:29pm

Tim - despite your greatest fears, I think you'll be able to handle Lovernos fate within the novel. (but goodness, you might have some trouble with 20th-century history... : ) ). I'm intrigued by your dislike of tragedy...literature is practically always tragic (or should I remove "practically" from that?), even if it isn't always so obvious.


note to self - find a good translation of Y Gododdin

Nov 5, 2012, 10:48pm

79: Y Gododdin: There's a good translation in The Triumph Tree along with a lot of other early poetry, including some of the historical Taliesin material. My favorite is the A. O. H. Jarman bilingual version, but it's out of print.

Nov 6, 2012, 12:12pm

A couple more pictures:

Nov 6, 2012, 12:29pm

That last picture is awesome.

Nov 7, 2012, 1:32pm

The legionnaire's crest isn't red!

But yes, an awesome picture: doesn't have the chintzy character that so many re-enactments do, to my eye.

Edited: Nov 8, 2012, 1:28pm

I finished re-reading today, but only have notes through chapter 13. Working on the rest of my notes.

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

Edited: Nov 8, 2012, 2:24pm

Chapter 13 continues the same battle. Togi joins the attack on Caer Seint back across to the Wale mainland. Pondering the captive Roman soldier's escape from sacrifice, I was entertained that Togi asks the gods for help for a way to save this poor guy...but when the Roman escapes Togi thinks, "The wonderful thing was that he had not planned any of it—it had simply happened at the will of the God".

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.


Nov 8, 2012, 1:46pm

84: Rhiwlas redirect: odd. Don't know why. Possibly left over from when Anglesey was part of Gwynedd administratively???

85: I could comment on this, but I'd like to see what other people think first.

Edited: Nov 8, 2012, 2:40pm

>85 dchaikin:

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.

Nov 8, 2012, 2:37pm

What it says of Togi perhaps is that although he respects his elders he has a mind and a will of his own. In this episode he had gotten "the thing unexpected" that he asked for and is smart enough to refrain from bragging.

Nov 8, 2012, 3:05pm

#87 - "I think Togi is deluding himself a bit" - that's a big question. Does Togi realize what he's doing? I tend to disagree with you, thinking instead that he knows exactly what he is doing, but it's not clear.

#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.

Edited: Nov 8, 2012, 5:07pm

My 2 cents, then... in both cases Togi makes use of circumstances he didn't cause. In the first case he didn't summon the mouse, but having caught it, he uses it and his wits to save himself. In the second case, although he asks the god for a storm, he doesn't directly cause either the downpour or the lightning, or plan ahead of time to slip in the mud and knock Sennos down: he simply goes with the opportunity that the god has sent him.

And yes, he is beginning to think for himself and work his own will.

Nov 9, 2012, 9:25am

...or that. :)

Nov 9, 2012, 11:03am

It's that "makes use of" that amounts to delusion, I think. Either he believes in his magic / Druidic powers, in which case he had some part in its causality; or, it's entirely coincidental, and he's merely putting on a facade when he thinks of his role as a Druid.

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.

Nov 9, 2012, 11:33am

92: No question but that he believes. I think what I'm clumsily trying to convey in the second case is the difference between praying for a wind and using it to steer your boat when/if it arrives, and making the wind yourself (or rowing).

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.

Nov 9, 2012, 12:00pm

"I think we're drifting into a discussion of the nature of religion vs the nature of magic."

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.

Edited: Nov 9, 2012, 1:36pm

Erasing my teaser, since it's the wrong lake (see post #98). You find the (wrong) image I had originally post here on the following link:

Edited: Nov 9, 2012, 1:39pm

In chapter 14 cools the adrenaline for a bit as Togi searches out his fathers burial place at Black Lake (Welsch llyn ddu - hence Lindow). Their meeting in some kind of spiritual world (which could, of course, be all inside Togi's mind) is fascinating.

note 1:
was I removed my comments. See post #98 for the Black Lake.

Nov 9, 2012, 1:30pm

note 2:

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:
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:

Edited: Nov 9, 2012, 1:33pm

I think you have the wrong lake, Dan (it's not an uncommon name). Try this one:


Edited: Nov 9, 2012, 1:37pm

note 3:
We have gwernin's poetry, which I won't comment on as I'm not a poetry critic. But it's worth highlighting

note 4:
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.

Nov 9, 2012, 1:34pm

#98 - darn! Thanks for the correction.

Edited: Nov 9, 2012, 1:52pm

chapter 15 gets us back to fighting. The first Roman forces are wiped out, then the sense adventure changes to a slow sense of loss as the Romans overwhelm our Ordovices and allies. Poor Vindex again, but tragically this time.

The attack is factual. In AD 77 or 78 Gnaeus Julius Agricola finally conquered Anglesey.

from wikipedia:
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.

Edited: Nov 9, 2012, 1:54pm

In Chapter 16 we meet the historical Agricola. Ynys Môn soon falls again and then Togi leaves home and gives us a look at the ruined Ynys Môn and the dying Sennos. Sennos sends Togi inside the Hill of the Black Grove (Bryn Celli Ddu, see post #61). There we enter a magical world again. Inside Togi leaves the real world even while touching a real wall. He hears in the darkness, ”This is the place where all things stop, the place where all things end.”

It's conceivable the book could have ended here.

Poor Tagia
What to make of Sennos?
Finally, Togi’s mom is named…she is Vera.

Nov 9, 2012, 1:54pm

That's all I have for today.

Nov 9, 2012, 2:04pm

Regarding #97, contemplate this one:

Source: British Museum collections

Nov 9, 2012, 2:30pm


Nov 9, 2012, 2:57pm

#98 I have some more photos of and near this lake - if I can find them! (it is not very far from my home)

Edited: Nov 9, 2012, 3:08pm

106: Cool! Please share!

Nov 9, 2012, 3:28pm

#107 I know I spent a day cycling round the area, on a bank holiday while the rest of my family were away.... but I cannot remember which year, and did not tag the photos, so it may take me a while to find them

Edited: Nov 9, 2012, 3:46pm

found them - I have uploaded them to taken on 28th March 2005

When I have time I will link one or two here (or do feel free :) )

Nov 9, 2012, 3:57pm

Great pictures, Tim. Certainly gives me a sense of a feel for the place.

Nov 9, 2012, 4:14pm

Very nice - thanks!

Nov 9, 2012, 4:49pm

Tim, I agree: very nice photos, both technically and in presentation. I really like that mallard on the stepping stones!

Edited: Nov 9, 2012, 5:02pm

>93 gwernin:, 94 and magic ...

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.

Nov 9, 2012, 10:13pm

113: It's quite an interesting exercise, intellectually and emotionally, to try and put oneself into the mind of a 1st century Druid, or indeed of any early Celtic pagan. The assumptions and values are so different from 21st century Western life. In some ways the Storyteller books were a halfway step - the things which are important to Gwernin and his friends can also seem pretty strange by modern standards. I've made, I hope, a good attempt at this imaginative leap, and at conveying what I think I've found and experienced. I hope I've also done a good job at conveying a sense of place, and an understanding of the marginal nature of existence in such an early society. Regarding the interaction between religion and magic, there's still quite a good discussion going on today in the modern neopagan community!

Nov 9, 2012, 10:26pm

For the next chapter: Emain Macha:

And Togi's view from the top:

(My photos, taken on two different visits.)

Nov 10, 2012, 10:03am

I'm curious to see if anyone is following this thread other than the few of us who are commenting...

Vote: I'm following but not commenting.

Current tally: Yes 4, No 0

Nov 10, 2012, 1:49pm

>114 gwernin:

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.

Edited: Nov 10, 2012, 5:40pm

Go back a little ways to the discussion about Togi saving the Roman.

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.

Nov 10, 2012, 10:23pm

#115 - G - love these pictures. That second picture especially since the book leaves me wondering about that view.

#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...

Edited: Nov 10, 2012, 10:43pm

I'm reading Druids : A Very Short Introduction by Barry Cunliffe, which I recommend because it is actually very short, and yet it covers the main points, is well structured to discuss the archeology and classic references separately, summarizes many interesting "conclusions", where a conclusion is really worded something like, "it seems likely that such and such could have happened"

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.

Nov 13, 2012, 7:32am

I'm hoping to post on chapters 17 -20 this Thursday or Friday.

Nov 13, 2012, 1:18pm

fyi, The Druid's Son (paperback version) is on now. It's not available yet for order there, but should be soon.

Nov 13, 2012, 4:12pm

It's there now.

Edited: Nov 13, 2012, 4:27pm

124: It's available from two other sellers (one of whom is me), not amazon itself. That part should come live within the next few days.

eta: Oh, you meant the review! Thanks!!

Nov 14, 2012, 11:42pm

Togi's view from Black Mountain (without the city of Belfast, obviously)

This photo of Black Mountain is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Nov 14, 2012, 11:51pm

and one more...

Nov 15, 2012, 9:03pm

I must say I'm enjoying all the pictures - it might be fun to save them into a separate thread connected (somehow?) with the book.

Nov 15, 2012, 10:20pm

I has turned into a nice collection.

Nov 15, 2012, 10:48pm

Yes you has (she said, teasingly!)

Nov 16, 2012, 8:18am has... oops.

Nov 16, 2012, 8:19am

I won't edit that one for the entertainment value.

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.

Nov 16, 2012, 10:27am

I'm still following with interest! -- but have seen my reading time curtailed in the past week or so, along with focusing on an LTER title. I've completed that and hope to pick back up on Druid's Son tonight!

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!

Nov 16, 2012, 1:21pm

back to the chapter-by-chapter bits and pieces...

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.

Edited: Nov 16, 2012, 2:13pm

Chapter 18 takes us from a discussion of Druid Fences to Togi's planning to make one despite the risks and his lack of readiness. After giving king Lugaid mac Eogan an entertaining hard time, Togi makes the plan. He speaks with his Gods - Manannan & Lugh, and adds a new local god, Ériu - goddess of Ireland. His price in a ten year exile in Ireland.

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 climbs in the, oops, I mean sees the Wicklow Mountains.

Nov 16, 2012, 1:51pm

In Chapter 19 we see the power of the Druid Fence, as it ends the Roman Invasion.

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.

Nov 16, 2012, 1:54pm

Did Rome try to invade Ireland?

From wikipedia:
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.

Nov 16, 2012, 1:56pm

Elsewhere I found this: (I forgot to keep track of links, wikipedia again, but I don't remember where)
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.

Nov 16, 2012, 2:00pm

Chapter 20 – End and Beginning

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...

Nov 16, 2012, 2:01pm

I need some suitable final thoughts...

Nov 16, 2012, 2:06pm

134: Temair is indeed the Old/Middle Irish version of Tara, as you've linked to it. Here's one of several pictures I took the last time I was there:

And a classic aerial shot:

from the Knowth website, which has some great links.

Nov 16, 2012, 2:10pm

In any case, when you finish, be sure to read the Afterword, which is quite fascinating. It's not usual for a author to be so forthright and thorough about what was real and what is fiction. Here we have details, even an admitted is anachronism (although it merely pushes a fort's life back a few years).

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 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.

Nov 16, 2012, 2:11pm

#141 - thanks! Wow...

Nov 16, 2012, 2:12pm

A lovely shot of the Wicklows, but Togi doesn't actually reach them yet - they are visible on a clear day on the southern horizon from Tailtiu (according to Máire MacNeill's Festival of Lughnasa. (don't take it down, though, Dan - it's something to look forward to later...)

Nov 16, 2012, 2:14pm

#144 - I edited #135, picture saved. :)

Nov 16, 2012, 3:16pm

Adding the pictures to this thread has been so much fun that I might do it for some of the other books, even without a group read. I wonder if I'd get in trouble if I created a group to keep them all together?

Nov 17, 2012, 2:25pm

I'd assume you can create groups for any purpose, other than spam / marketing. I suppose it might be seen as marketing / soliciting, perhaps that's your concern.

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.

Nov 17, 2012, 2:36pm

147: I sent an email to jeremy, haven't heard anything back. But no, I don't think it would really be a problem, particularly if it wasn't only me doing it. I just participate in the spam hunters threads and know what sort of things set people off ;-) A separate group wouldn't be as visible as threads in hobnob, but on the other hands our threads wouldn't disappear into all the drive-by posts, and we might even be able to attract a few other participants who don't visit hobnob. I like your suggestion on the other thread of something like "dark ages Britain" - wouldn't mind other people starting some more general threads on that topic...

Nov 17, 2012, 6:10pm

>142 dchaikin:: Dan, I for one was impressed with gwernin for sticking within the known facts while creating a compelling story filled to the brim with details and realistic feeling of the landscape and time period. Also, impressive that she would acknowledge waht is and isn't known about the Druid's and the early history of Wales.

Edited: Nov 18, 2012, 12:56pm

For those familiar with the time period: did those alive at the time refer to themselves by the tribe names (e.g. Ordovices), or for that matter, to "Britain" ... or are these only terms we use today to refer to those tribes / that group of islands?

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.

Nov 18, 2012, 1:20pm

Although the people in the various subdivisions of Britain probably thought of themselves first by their tribal names (hence my use of them), an earlier form of "Britain" is attested by the Greek Pytheas c. 325 BC. According to Koch (An Atlas for Celtic Studies) the Celtic group name was probably "Pritani", the precurser of Welsh "Prydain" (Britain) and Roman "Britanni" (Britons) and Britannia.

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".

Edited: Nov 18, 2012, 1:22pm

Removing my guessed explanation, but keeping the link to the list of all the tribes, (but not the origin of the names) :

Edited: Nov 18, 2012, 10:00pm

152: Most of the tribal names are indeed from the Roman record, starting with Caesar, but also from coin inscriptions from the southeast / lowland area.

Nov 18, 2012, 10:12pm

For those following along on this thread without posting, or anyone else I've missed - we now have a new group for future Storyteller-related threads and other associated topics: Roman and Dark Ages Britain. Check it out!

Nov 19, 2012, 12:20am

By the way, I'm not suggesting we move this discussion to the new group.

Nov 19, 2012, 11:20am

Agreed: both groups have their place.

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?

Nov 19, 2012, 12:29pm

It surprised me a bit, too - my expectations were somewhat similar to yours - but as you will have noticed, Togi has a mind of his own!

Nov 19, 2012, 12:50pm

#157 - lol!

#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.

Nov 19, 2012, 12:52pm

G - will make it over to the new group soon. Looks promising.

#149 - Kevin - I agree completely.

Nov 19, 2012, 1:10pm

158: Mulling over your comment, I think there's something here which might make a nice thread in the new group. I think most of us are historically conditioned to consider the Romans as the good guys, bringing civilization to the backward Celts. But the Celtic peoples were not primitive in many ways - despite their lack of such Roman amenities as public baths and central heating - and I have tried to express their point of view more in this book.

Edited: Nov 19, 2012, 3:11pm

#160 your respect for the Celts sophistication comes across clearly. I was going to say your "grudging" respect of the Romans, to clear up your point of view, but I don't think it's grudging respect. I sense you admire both in their own way.

Nov 19, 2012, 9:44pm

I was glad to see that the Togi and the Roman never quite became friends or friendly toward on another, far more compelling dynamically that way.

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.

Nov 21, 2012, 11:55pm

I've enjoyed this group read, and I hope the rest of you have, too. Since we seem to be getting to the end, a few thoughts, as they occur to me...

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!

Nov 22, 2012, 9:49am

...rebirth...goodness, I'm clueless... Togi is captured heading toward some kind of execution, grabbing a piece of wood and getting dunked in water and then getting a new name...and I missed the whole Christ-baptismal sequence of references until just now...more to think about now...

Nov 22, 2012, 9:53am

Gwernin - I'm really happy to know that you enjoyed this.

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.

Nov 22, 2012, 11:08am

164: er... No. Definitely not Christian symbolism. Something older common to many of the mystery religions, perhaps... but not that. The wood and water are definitely not there for any sort of overt symbolic reasons. Trust me on this ;-)

Again, happy Thanksgiving ;-)

Nov 24, 2012, 11:47am

well...I have been trying to think about how to respond...through holiday distractions...but I think what is in the text is in the text, and that readers may notice the comparisons...even if they are not there by intention.

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.'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.)

Nov 24, 2012, 12:09pm

167: Well, as you say, people will draw whatever comparisons they will. I think the importance of the wood to Togi was that it floats, and he sneakily got it from the Roman by suggesting that it was something religious, but I'll leave it there. I just hated the idea I had been indulging in that sort of heavy-handed symbolism. :)

Nov 27, 2012, 12:54pm

I didn't notice upon first reading, but then ... I tend to miss a lot of obvious symbolism. I like knowing it is there, I like knowing it wasn't intentionally put there! -- and certainly see the sense of the mystery religion theme. But in the end, it's there, take it as we will.

Nov 28, 2012, 10:21am

I'm posting now on the new thread now: