Page 6, 17th August 1979

17th August 1979
Page 6
Page 6, 17th August 1979 — Children's Bookshelf

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Children's Bookshelf

The Brothers Lionheart by Joan Tate (Knight Books 95 pence), ASTRID Lindgren is Sweden's best known and probably most prolific writer for children, well known in English-speaking countries too. through many translated books. She has been compared on the one hand with Enid Blyton and on the other with Tolkein.

My own feeling is — and I have read many of her lively books — that while it is an insult to compare her with the deplorable Blyton, it is equally unsuitable to put her anywhere near Tolkein, whose breadth of spirit and powerful vision she seems to me totally to lack.

This book which has been compared with the Hobbit books, is a pleasant little tale about a pair of devoted brothers, one brilliant and beautiful, the other (the narrator) rather substandard, at least in his own estimation. When the brilliant one dies, he takes the other along to a mythical country full of beauty and adventure, with all the familiar characters of folklore and saga, dragons, witches. good and bad magic.

I said "little" tale deliberately. because although it ranges far and implies a good deal about good and evil, the nature of life and death, affection and relationships, the story remains in spirit small scale, domestic. and quite without the imaginative sweep of, say, Tolkein or C. S. Lewis in this kind of work.

Still, at a less demanding level, it has qualities of idealsim and sincerity and a good deal of unforced charm. The Hogboon of Hell and Other Strange Orkney Tales by Nancy and W. Towne Cutt (Andre Deutsch, £4.95).

THE ORKNEYS are full of folklore of an attractively Norse kiad, dominated by sea, weather, and the invasions of the distant past. Its stories involve people with sea creatures like seals and mermaids, present day schoolboys with the ghosts of medieval kings, and a girl who vanishes with some strange beings known as the Fin Folk.

Over all hangs a sense of harsh beauty and coldness, of what C. S. Lewis called, and loved as, "northernness"; the spirit of sagas and Scandinavian legend.

What is most attractive about 'this anthology is the way in which modern stories are mixed with very ancient ones, so that one has a sense of the old world of myth and nature surviving into the present. Perhaps this is partly because one of the authors is an Orkneyman and remembers the tales Of his childhood (the other is his wife, a Canadian librarian specialising in children's books).

But I think it must also be because of the isolated nature of the islands themselves, their strong sense of their own identity and of their mixed. rich past as an outpost. a northerly tip of Europe: whose culture and folk memories are based on Scandinavia and the great wastes of sea around them. rather than on familar figures of our much more southern imagination.

Isabel Quigly

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