Last year I travelled to Cornwall. The idea was to visit locations used in the book, to get a feel for the places. Three were on the Berkshire/Oxford downs: the Seven Barrows, the Uffingham White Horse, and Weyland’s Smithy. I’ll come back to them in later blogs.
The plan was to go on to St Michael’s Mount, or Dinas Magog (“City of the Magog”) as the Mharos giants know it I my book, or Kharrikh Llus to the Goblins. Then back home via Tintagel.
Unfortunately – a better word is carelessly – I drove very lightly into the back of a big Range Rover on the Hayle bypass. It would have been virtually harmless but for the trailer hook puncturing my radiator and disabling the fan. Long story short, the other fellow drove off undamaged, the RAC towed my car away, and I went by train and taxi to Tintagel. I’ll write about that later too. Never made it to St Michael’s Mount.
For now, I want to say why the Mount was important. It is the location of the novel’s denouement and climactic scene, first in caverns below, then on the causeway as the tide rises to cover it. I chose this location because it is iconic in its own right, and also because it’s where Jack the Giant Killer, or Jack the Slayer as the Mharos know him, deceived Cormoran, leader of the Magog. Jack was too canny to take on any giant face to face – he always used trickery.
Gwern tells Cormoran’s tale in the book, and I have no intention of spoiling my own plot, so I’ll say no more. But I will report that it was satisfying to use a real place, add imagined tunnels and lakes beneath it, and retell a folk tale from a new perspective.
The novel has its own narrative throughline, but about a quarter of the wordcount covers similar retellings of what are folk tales to us, but history to Gwern. Most readers enjoy the stories-with-the-story as much if not more than the main thread. The digressions aren’t too long to divert the reader from the plot, and are usually relevant anyway. More like flashbacks than detours.
I think they enrich the tale. More then this, some of them are culturally essential. Most people have only the vaguest idea of what Albion is, and the founding myths of Britain have been forgotten. I’m pleased to be able to revive them. The video on the home page covers this too.