The Weirdstone of Brisigamen (1960)

Alan Garner’s debut novel, The Weirdstone of Brisigamen (1960) is set mostly in Alderley Edge, in Cheshire, and features a version of the Sleeping King legend, where the wizard of the Edge watches over a sleeping troop of knights who would one day save the world from an untold evil. To do so, though, requires the titular weirdstone, which was lost, but conveniently comes back to the Edge on the wrist of a visiting girl. She and her brother get embroiled in the machinations of a coven of witches, led by Selina Place (actually the Morrigan) and an evil sorcerer Grimnir, who both wish to possess the stone. The siblings wind up lost in the caves and mines of the Edge, are saved by two dwarves and eventually traverse the Cheshire countryside to deliver the stone to the wizard and provoke a final confrontation between the forces of good and evil.

The underground portions of claustrophobic and terrible—any dungeoneer would think twice about spelunking after reading Garner’s descriptions of stumbling through perfect darkness, squeezing through narrow openings and, worst of all, getting stuck. Nightmarish. The later portion in the Cheshire countryside is deeply strange—mundane fields and woodland becomes overlaid with a fantastic world, populated by witches and terrible creatures—this comes across in Jack Gaughan’s bizarre cover art. The focus on landscape, and its dual nature, is something just about all of Garner’s novels ponder.

The Moon of Gomrath (1963, cover by Jeffrey Catherine Jones) sees the siblings again embroiled in a supernatural conflict with the vengeful Morrigan, an evil spirit called the Brollachan and the Wild Hunt. As an adventure yarn, Moon is probably superior, but it lacks the raw strangeness of Weirdstone. A third novels was meant to wrap things up, but Garner decided he didn’t like the protagonists, so the sequence remained incomplete until Boneland came out in 2012 (which is weird in completely different ways).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *