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The Minotaur Trilogy by Thomas Burnett Swann

The Minotaur Trilogy

by Thomas Burnett Swann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Minotaur Trilogy ( Omnibus 1-3)

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Swann was the poet laureate of a fragile paradise

Thomas Burnett Swann is one of my favorite authors, despite the fact that most of his stories are identical in plot and structure: at some point in the distant past, a human stumbles into an enclave of mythical beings-dryads, centaurs, sprites and roanes--with whom humanity has an uneasy truce, or of whom our race has hitherto been unaware. It is as if a corner of a pagan Garden of Eden, occupied by strange beings, was allowed to exist for just a little while longer after our exit. Swann somehow found the way back in.

Unfortunately, this bit of the garden is always in danger: the action almost always hinges on a threat of war with the human race, and there is often a threat of civil war among these beings as well. The narrative, then, usually takes place during a moment of transition, in which the protagonists are trying to preserve that fragile paradise which they have carved out of the world for themselves, and mourning its passing as it is destroyed from within and from without. This collapse is often accompanied by the loss of innocence on many levels by a young man in the story: as he is forced to take on the duties of adulthood, he is also initiated into sexual experience, usually at the hands of a woman older than himself. While these sexual adventures are eagerly welcomed, the male protagonist accepts adult life and responsibilities reluctantly, and the paradise in the woods and the embrace of the woman often help him escape from these obligations, however temporarily.

My wife Fayaway, who introduced me to these books, read them in high school, and they have lost none of their charm for her. I enjoy them too, especially when she recites them aloud to me. Cry Silver Bells, and the other stories of the Minotaur Trilogy, are among Swann's finest work. There are flaws, such as his reliance on puns for humor, his sentimentalism (a feature which I must confess at times I find to be not a flaw but a virtue in his work), and his sudden, pat endings. Nonetheless, if we see his stories not as narratives, but as modernist poetry--a subject on which Swann wrote several works--in prose, then his stories are easier to appreciate. What matters is not how the narrative flows, but the moment he has captured. That the subject he portrays is not a work of art or a natural object but rather a moment in a mythical past is irrelevant; like de la Mare's poetry, his works put us in mind of other worlds that may have existed; his stories capture the fleeting moment of youth, that moment that will not stay put, the time defined by movement even as it looks for static eternity. Some of his work I may never read again, but the books in this trilogy, as well as Lady of the Bees, Green Phoenix, and especially The Gods Abide, I will re-read for as long as I am able, because of their beautiful portraits of a fragile paradise, in a history that never was, but ought to have been. ( )
1 vote Hermester | May 3, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Burnett Swannprimary authorall editionscalculated
Barr, GeorgeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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