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Tony Grist

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Alderley Edge [Nov. 16th, 2005|09:27 am]
Tony Grist

Alderley Edge is one of those places- a great, wooded cliff rising abruptly out of the pleasant, undramatic landscape of rural  Cheshire . The rocks are full of copper- and people were mining it all the way through from the Bronze Age  to the close of the 19th century. There's a legend about a magical cavern where a great king sleeps with his army.  Occultists are drawn to the place and local author Alan Garner made it the setting for his classic children's novel The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. 

Here's a version of the Legend of Alderley Edge- as told by Snake Ardwick in my novel Mammary Hill

"A farmer is taking his white mare to market and he gets stopped by an old man at a place called Thieves Hole. The old guy wants to buy the mare. The Farmer says, No. The old man says, OK, but you won't sell the mare at market and I'll be waiting for you on your way back. Sure enough, the mare is much admired, but no-one will buy her. So the farmer is trudging home and he meets the old man again. This time he's willing to sell. The old man says follow me, takes him to the cliff face and strikes it with his staff. The rock splits wide and, lo and behold, there are a pair of iron gates. They go through the gates and down a long passage and come to a cavern where all these men in armour are lying asleep. And beside each warrior stands a white mare. Only they're a horse short. What's going on here? asks the farmer, and the Wizard- cause he is a wizard, see- pointy hat, long white beard, the works- the Wizard says, this is a great king and his knights. They're sleeping here until a time when Britain is in mortal peril. Then they will rise from their sleep and save the day.

Jonathon interrupts at this point and says, "so the Wizard's Merlin and the King must be Arthur."

I say, "Well probably, but the story doesn't actually say so. That's its subtlety."

"So what happened?"

"Well," I continue, "the farmer trips over something and makes a noise and one of the knights raises his head and asks, is it the time? And the wizard answers, No, not yet. Then the Wizard takes the farmer to a treasure chest and tells him to fill his pockets in payment for the mare. After that, he leads the farmer out of the cavern, strikes the iron gates with his staff and they disappear. Then he disappears himself. And no-one from that day to this has ever seen the iron gates again.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2005-11-16 02:49 am (UTC)
Oh. Oh, thank you so much. I was in love with that book when I was little - still am, indeed (is there really a point to reading the Lord of the Rings when Alan Garner does it so much more punchily and eerily?), and am enormously excited to actually see cave photos - and to see that, for once, image does not disappoint imagination.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-11-16 03:05 am (UTC)
Garner doesn't seem to be raved about the way other "fantasy" writers are- maybe because he's just too good.

My favourite is Red Shift. That's an awesome piece of work.
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[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2005-11-16 03:10 am (UTC)
I've never actually read Red Shift - thank you for reminding me about his existence. My favourite was the Owl Service, which is perfect for that fevered early adolescent erotic angst - I'm not sure that I could read it the same way now, though.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-11-16 04:32 am (UTC)
Red Shift runs three stories in parallel- there's a Roman story, an English Civil war story and a modern story. The Roman soldiers talk like Vietnam-era grunts. It's a tour de force.

I recently read the Stone Book Quartet and Thursbitch (his latest.) They're pretty sensational too.

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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2005-11-16 03:07 am (UTC)
I love the fist picture: it has that feeling of coming out of the darkness of the trees, and realising that you are standing on the edge of somewhere high up, and all the sunlit land spread out at you feet. Sigh...

And of course, in Britain we tell that story about Arthur, but elsewhere it's Charlemagne (and I think Barbarossa as well).
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-11-16 04:23 am (UTC)
Yes, those once and future kings crop up everywhere. I guess the latest of them is Elvis.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-11-16 09:16 am (UTC)
It's a place I keep returning to.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-11-16 06:06 am (UTC)
oh, thank you! So nice to read something you wrote!

I'm going to have to look up that author and those books, thank you for that as well.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-11-16 09:19 am (UTC)
Alan Garner is great. He seems to be rather neglected these days, but he's still alive and (so far as I know) still writing.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-11-16 11:52 am (UTC)
Oh yes, indeed- Alderley Edge is a very magical place...
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-11-16 12:52 pm (UTC)
Wonderful pictures, and a great tale!

I positively ache to go inside that doorway into the rock.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-11-16 02:06 pm (UTC)
Me too....

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From: manfalling
2005-11-16 10:20 pm (UTC)
alan garner is still writing? i have to check him out.. owl service knocked me for six. not sure i ever understood brisingamen- seemed like a LOT of crawling through caves to me. but think i`ll check that out again too...

nice.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-11-17 12:04 am (UTC)
I read his latest earlier this year- Thursbitch. It's pretty good.

But Red Shift is his masterpiece. Absolutely brilliant. One of the great novels of the 20th century.
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From: manfalling
2005-11-17 01:39 am (UTC)
yah i remember reading that but i think just being confused by it. will also move to re-check it out too. remember being impressed, and time being screwed with, but beyond that? hmmm... not much.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-11-17 03:44 am (UTC)
It's a demanding piece of writing- three stories from three different eras- running in parallel and complimenting one another- written in the leanest of styles, with all the fat trimmed away. It was marketed as a novel for the teen market- which it palpably is not.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2005-11-17 01:26 pm (UTC)
I love that first shot, and the mossy hill with the cave and the tree trunk.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-11-18 03:01 am (UTC)
I really, really want to get inside those caves.

There was a chance once- when the documentary film was mooted- that we'd get a chance to go in and explore with lights and cameras, but it never happened.
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