Thoughts on Garner sources I

A chance conversation with a research colleague (14.02.17) suggests that some quick guide to Garner and his sources

The books are his principal output and the engine vein of our work. Lists exist.

Beyond these are essays and commentary, some from Alan Garner and some from his critics. First Light deserves more than an honorable mention:

Many of the contributions in Wagner’s highly enjoyable book reveal as much about their authors as they do about Garner himself; it’s precisely in his impact on individual readers that his books work their magic.

The “fan page” or Unofficial Alan Garner Website contains fascinating material, including the astonishing exposition on Thursbitch, and deserves more than a nod: Erica Wagner’s Valley of the Living Dread comes so close to saying all the things I wanted to say about Thursbitch:

Garner’s method is as much archaeological as it is literary; and not just because he writes of stones. “I’ve always been attracted to trying to find an explanation of the sense of the religious,” Garner says. “I take it straight from the Latin root, religio: a fear or sense of awe. What is due – to a place, or a concept or god. That is religio. And from a very early age I became aware that wherever I looked or read, there seemed to be no group in the world that didn’t express this in some form. I didn’t go along with the notion, simply, there is a God – but there’s something. There’s a line in Horace: ‘I don’t know what god there is in him, but there is a god’.”

Alan Garner’s own talk on the valley I have cited before. Here he is at his most telling:

I wallow in research. The physical writing of a text is the cost of having arrived at it by wondrous paths, where so many apparently disparate ways are found to intertwine. In this case, at the heart of the labyrinth, I found the Minotaur.

Beyond these, and (to use the metaphors available) we are off the paved track, following our noses into Garner’s own source material.  These bogs and valleys really are a labyrinth. Just as we ended up following the map not the path into Thursbitch and losing our feet in a boggy reed bed, it is easy to be side-tracked, and far too easy to miss things we need to see. I use the word labyrinth from Alan Garner himself – and know he is making mention of bull cults in Sumer and Crete as well as the mention of bull sacrifice in Thursbitch. Research material can be “interlinked and unsafe,” as the author himself suggests.  Are we with the Bull of Heaven in Gilgamesh or the bull-dancers in Knossos or a Bronze-Age bull-cult under Taurus’ Shining Tor?