Saturday 17 September 2016

The Old Magic (from Alan Garner's Moon of Gomrath)

The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner is one of the great fantasy novels - and what raises it so far above the earlier Weirdstone of Brisingamen is its sub-plot about The Old Magic. Its wonderful climax and ending involves the saving of the world by the Old Magic and its liberation 'forever'.

The Old Magic is moon magic and sun magic, and it is blood magic, also, and there lies The Hunter's power and his need. He is from a cruel day of the world. Men have changed since they honoured him. 

You keep saying the Old Magic has been woken, said Susan, but if it's as strong as this, how did it ever come to die out? 

That is the work of Cadellin, said Albanac, To wizards and their High Magic of thought and spells, the Old Magic was a hindrance, a power without shape or order: so they tried to destroy it. But it would not be destroyed,: it would only sleep...

So there's nothing bad about it at all, said Susan. It just got on the way. 

Yes, you may even say that the wizards acted without right. But then, as ages pass, the world changes; so it is true that the Old Magic is wrong fro these times. It does not fit the present scale of good and ill. 

But it is more natural than all these spells, said Susan. I think I understand it better than anything here... What does the Hunter do? 

Do? He is, Susan: that is enough. There you see the difference between the Old and the High. The High Magic was made with a reason: the Old Magic is a part of things. It is not for any purpose.


William Wildblood said...

It's years since I read this and all I can remember about it is that it was one of my favourite books around the age of 10-12. And that Cadellin was one of the best wizard names! I must look at it again since I now have a son of that age. Is the Old Magic linked to Nature and High Magic to the Creator or is there a subtler difference than that?

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - " Is the Old Magic linked to Nature and High Magic to the Creator or is there a subtler difference than that?" - Yes and no - Alan Garner seems implicitly anti-religious, despite being pro-magic; and he doesn't refer to the creator anywhere I can recall.

William Wildblood said...

Ah, the usual error then! That is what takes the Narnia stories to a quite different level to the majority of children's fantasy books.

Nathaniel said...

A different book, but Harry Potter's mother's sacrifice is also called "old magic" and is clearly distinct and more natural than the usual spells.