Robert Holdstock, |
(Arbor House, 1985; Avon, 1991)
As I write this, Mythago Wood is out of print -- which is a shame. It is one of the most intriguing books I've read in many a year. For anyone who has an interest in myths and legends, this is a powerful tale of one man confronting such legends and how he's changed by the experience. Robert Holdstock drinks from the same well as Neil Gaiman, and any fan of Gaiman should definitely give Holdstock a go. He also seems to be familiar with many of Jung's archtype ideas and gives them a believable place to live.
Thus the protagonist begins his journey into the heartwood of a mythic primeval forest and beyond -- a journey to find his beloved Celtic princess and the Umscrumug -- the First Myth, the Myth Before all Others. This myth so ancient, the author says, is now fading even in Mythago Wood as humanity's collective unconcious slowly forgets its past.
Mythago Wood is a forest where legends and myths from peoples of every time and every land are formed, live and breath. A lost soldier from World War I inhabits the same land as shamanic tribesmen. A Celtic princess from the days of Roman Britain walks the woods with legends out of a much later Robin Hood lore. And while it is clear that these beings are not "real" in the same sense that the protagonist is, they are still capable of feeling joy, love, pain and sorrow. They are equally capable of killing and being killed.
The characters are human, with both flaws and redeeming qualities, and the book hints at the reasons myths and legends still hold our imagination. It's all part of the entertaining story (and, if Mythago Wood were real, I'm sure Jedi Knights, Klingons and Paul Atreides would now be walking there, too).
This book won awards for good reason. If you enjoy stories of myths and legends don't fail to pick it up.