The Back of a Shadow

We have been looking at fatherhood and (not quite a coincidence) looking at the work of Alan Garner, and for me they came together here, in Ludchurch.



I am not going to draft out a whole history of Lud, or Ludd, or delve into the speculation the Internet loves of sun-worship and pre-Christian themes in some kind of Ur-Gawain, tempting though they are, but in trying to make sense of Ludchurch in the Garner landscapes I need at least to find a place for  Lud.

There is a useful site here for the Gawain literature, and a good ME text here.  From these I have picked out some of the points about the Green Knight.

Half etayn in erde I hope þat he were…

For wonder of his hwe men hade,
Set in his semblaunt sene;
He ferde as freke were fade,
And oueral enker-grene.

An Ettin, the other kind of giant from a þurs but clearly from the green world of magic, “he carried himself in hostile fashion,” or “as a Fay-man fell he passed.” Not someone to tangle with, his holyn bobbe in one hand, an axe in the other. The scene is about colour and movement and threat – while Ludchurch, although “oueral enker-grene” is enclosed, and (when we visited, and when the Man visits in Boneland) silent -a cultic space, not an agent.

The location of the Green Chapel has been discussed by others, including Alan Garner, and with more re-reading after visiting Ludchurch  I am drawn to its cliffs and rocks and  “knokled knarrez with knorned stonez.”    In Gawain it is a place of an evil cult, maybe more than an echo of un-Christian practice.

Here my[gh]t aboute mydny[gh]t
Þe dele his matynnes telle!
‘Now iwysse,’ quoþ Wowayn, ‘wysty is here;
Þis oritore is vgly, with erbez ouergrowen;
Wel bisemez þe wy[gh]e wruxled in grene
Dele here his deuocioun on þe deuelez wyse.
Now I fele hit is þe fende, in my fyue wyttez,
Þat hatz stoken me þis steuen to strye me here.
Þis is a chapel of meschaunce, þat chekke hit bytyde!
Hit is þe corsedest kyrk þat euer I com inne!’

But in this place, and from the encounter with the half-Ettin Bertilak -and through the magic of the powerful Morgan –

(“Þe maystrés of Merlyn”…”Weldez non so hy[gh]e hawtesse
Þat ho ne con make ful tame–“)

– Gawain learns his lesson.

Do we meet in the Green Man a father principally as instructor and law-giver?  And where does this father “sit”? I began to speculate on the landscape way back in my research proposal in 2010; perhaps I was too glib to write earlier about ” the world of the dad, not the desert of the Patriarch”? To move into my present concern for Alan Garner’s real-and-mythic landscape, how does an author concerned with real places manage their mythology while keeping them recognisable, in some sense “true”?


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