Skip to main content

Welsh Heritage for Teenagers: Alan Garner, Jenny Nimmo, Catherine Fisher

Part of the Critical Approaches to Children's Literature book series (CRACL)


Chapter 5 concentrates on Pedair Cainc y Mabinogi (“The Four Branches of the Mabinogi”) and the tale of Taliesin. Alan Garner’s Carnegie Medal-winner The Owl Service (1967) is examined alongside Jenny Nimmo’s The Magician Trilogy (The Snow Spider, 1986, Emlyn’s Moon, 1987, and The Chestnut Soldier, 1989) and Catherine Fisher’s Darkhenge (2006). All three works are intrusion fantasies, in which the traditional narratives of Wales literally erupt into the primary world of the novels and become something much more powerful than just “old tales.” All three fantasy works reimagine (and have contemporary teenagers re-enact) particular scenes from Welsh legend in order to explore the transition from childhood to young adulthood in terms of personal, national, cultural, and class identity.


  • Welsh Language
  • Stone Circle
  • Mundane World
  • Mythical Past
  • Celtic Culture

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1057/978-1-137-55282-2_5
  • Chapter length: 62 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   109.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-1-137-55282-2
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Hardcover Book
USD   139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 5.1
Fig. 5.2


  1. 1.

    E.g. Eleanor Cameron, “The Owl Service: A Study,” Wilson Library Bulletin 44 (1969): 425–33; Carolyn Gillies, “Possession and Structure in the Novels of Alan Garner,” Children’s Literature in Education 18 (1975): 107–17; Ruth Berman, “Who’s Lleu?” Mythlore 4, no. 4 (1977): 20–1; Neil Philip, A Fine Anger: A Critical Introduction to the Work of Alan Garner (New York: Philomel, 1981), 65–75; C.W. Sullivan III, Welsh Celtic Myth in Modern Fantasy (Westport, CT; London: Greenwood Press, 1989), 23–33; Kath Filmer-Davies, Fantasy Fiction and Welsh Myth: Tales of Belonging (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996), 23–6; Donna R. White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature (Westport, CT; London: Greenwood Press), 73–95; Catherine Butler, Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children’s Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper (Lanham, MD: Children’s Literature Association and Scarecrow Press, 2006); Cara Bartels-Bland, “‘You Took My Spirit Captive among the Leaves’: The Creation of Blodeuwedd in Re-Imaginings of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi,” Pomegranate: The International Journal Of Pagan Studies 16, no. 2 (2014): 178–206.

  2. 2.

    White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 73–95.

  3. 3.

    For example White claims that: “Just as Celtic art is known for its interlace design, so too does much of its narrative literature weave strands of story together,” White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 79. As we have seen in previous chapters, interlace design is not an exclusively “Celtic” feature, while visual arts and literature may not necessarily be linked in such a general way.

  4. 4.

    Brian Attebery, Stories about Stories: Fantasy and the Remaking of Myth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 3.

  5. 5.

    Philip, A Fine Anger; Butler, Four British Fantasists.

  6. 6.

    Indeed, he has claimed that – apart from the “obvious” example of “pillaging” the Mabinogion in The Owl Service – “there is not a single book I have written that is not as solidly derived from Celtic material, though less obviously so,” Garner, The Voice that Thunders, 201.

  7. 7.

    Philip, A Fine Anger, 21–44.

  8. 8.

    Philip, A Fine Anger, 35, 33 (emphasis added).

  9. 9.

    Philip, A Fine Anger, 45–64. For example, as Philip notes: “The four Treasures which Garner’s children rescue, a spear, a cauldron, a sword and a stone, may be identified with the four Treasures of the Tuatha de Danaan (the spear of Lug from Finias, the sword of Nuada from Gorias, the cauldron of the Dagda from Murias and the stone of Fal from Falias), with the four main symbols of the Grail legend, with the tricks in the Tarot pack, the four Hindu castes, the contents of the Ark of the Covenant, the flesh-hook, cauldron, shield and sword given by Maedoc to Bandubh King of Leinster, with their counterparts in the list of the ‘Thirteen Treasures of the Isle of Britain’, and presumably a number of other things too. The symbolism is widespread. The physical appearance of the cauldron links it with Ceridwen’s cauldron as described in the Preideu Annwfyn ‘with a ridge round its edge and pearls.’” Philip, A Fine Anger, 56.

  10. 10.

    Alan Garner, The Voice that Thunders (London: Harvill Press, 1997), 196 (emphasis added).

  11. 11.

    Alan Garner, The Owl Service (London: HarperCollins, 2007), 18 (emphasis added).

  12. 12.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 7.

  13. 13.

    White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 87.

  14. 14.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 45–7 (emphasis added).

  15. 15.

    White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 92.

  16. 16.

    L.M. Campbell, Portals of Power: Magical Agency and Transformation in Literary Fantasy (Jefferson, N.C.; London: McFarland, 2010), 194.

  17. 17.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 61–2 (emphasis added).

  18. 18.

    W.J. Gruffydd, Math vab Mathonwy: An Inquiry into the Origins and Development of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi with the Text and a Translation (Cardiff: University of Wales Press Board, 1928); Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones, trans., The Mabinogion (London: Everyman, 1949).

  19. 19.

    Alan Garner, “Coming to Terms,” Children’s Literature in Education 1, no. 2 (1970): 27 (emphasis added). It should be noted that the tales of the Mabinogion are not written in Old Welsh, but in Middle Welsh, though it is not clear whether Garner uses “old” here simply to mean “archaic”/“non-modern.”

  20. 20.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 67 (emphasis added).

  21. 21.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 60 (emphasis added).

  22. 22.

    Ernest Renan, Poetry of the Celtic Races and Other Essays, translated, with introduction and notes by William G. Hutchison (London: Walter Scott, 1896), 11 (emphasis added).

  23. 23.

    Jones and Jones, Mabinogion, ix (emphasis added).

  24. 24.

    See Chapter 1.

  25. 25.

    Garner, The Voice that Thunders, 204–5 (emphasis added).

  26. 26.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 42 (emphasis added).

  27. 27.

    Gwyn is much more aware of timescales and archaeology. When Huw shows him a flint spear head which – he claims – was the spear that Lleu used to kill Gronw, Gwyn immediately remarks: “It’s older than that…It’s very old.” Garner, The Owl Service, 188. Gwyn is clearly showing an understanding that such weapons are usually prehistoric and not medieval, but in Huw’s “mythical” time, all of these periods leak into each other and become one (see also quote by Garner above).

  28. 28.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 100.

  29. 29.

    Philip, A Fine Anger, 67.

  30. 30.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 139.

  31. 31.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 39.

  32. 32.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 39.

  33. 33.

    As noted by Philip, A Fine Anger, 158, note 4.

  34. 34.

    T.W. Rolleston, Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race (London: G.G. Harrap & Co, 1911), 118 (emphasis added).

  35. 35.

    Elizabeth A. Gray, ed. and trans., Cath Maige Tuired: The Second Battle of Mag Tuired, Irish Texts Society, Vol. 52 (Dublin: Irish Texts Society, 1982), 70.

  36. 36.

    Eugene O’Curry, On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish: A Series of Lectures (New York: Williams and Norgate; W.B. Kelly; Scribner, Welford, & Co, 1873), 214.

  37. 37.

    O’Curry, On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, 214.

  38. 38.

    Gray, Cath Maige Tuired, 113.

  39. 39.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 125 (emphasis added).

  40. 40.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 136–7.

  41. 41.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 53.

  42. 42.

    Grammar schools taught an intellectually stimulating curriculum to those students that were selected for their academic performance by the eleven-plus examination.

  43. 43.

    He says that Nancy is “hoist by her own petard,” Garner, The Owl Service, 33, a phrase best known from Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4. This has been noted in Mary Hartley, Teach Yourself Literature Guides: The Owl Service (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1998), 32.

  44. 44.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 58, 127 (emphasis added).

  45. 45.

    For example: “The acceleration of a free falling body is thirty-two feet per second per second…I before E, except after C! [rule for whether to spell-ie or-ei in words such as ‘believe’ and ‘science’]…Statute of Union! 1543, Wales divided into twelve counties! Representatives sent to Westminster!…NaC2H3O4 + NaOH = Na2CO3 + CH1!” Garner, The Owl Service, 86.

  46. 46.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 192.

  47. 47.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 68.

  48. 48.

    Alan Garner, “Beyond the Tenth Kingdom,” School Librarian 42, no. 1 (1994): 4.

  49. 49.

    Cited in White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 76–7.

  50. 50.

    Garner, The Voice that Thunders, 124.

  51. 51.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 159.

  52. 52.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 110.

  53. 53.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 107.

  54. 54.

    White has come very near to making this point: “The Owl Service… represents the height of Alan Garner’s own conflict between his working-class heritage and his elite academic training, between his intuitive non-rational self and his intellect – a conflict seeking resolution but not yet resolved.” White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 77. However, she only adds that “It is not surprising, therefore, that the same conflicts appear in the book,” rather than going on to explore the implications and significance of this crucial observation, or to apply it to an analysis of characters and major plot points in the novel.

  55. 55.

    A typical example is Rees’s reaction: “The ending is, by any standards, confused…many readers feel the wrong boy gets the girl, and they may indeed honestly feel that they have been cheated, as they have been asked by the author throughout the book to identify with Gwyn, to be inside his thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears and to regard Roger as wet, humorless, and repugnant.” D. Rees, The Marble in the Water: Essays on Contemporary Writers of Fiction for Children and Young Adults (Boston: Massachusetts: Horn Book, 1980), 63. For a strong defence of the novel’s ending see Philip, A Fine Anger, 71–2.

  56. 56.

    Butler, Four British Fantasists, 155.

  57. 57.

    Garner makes this clear in one of his essays, in which he remarks that Gwyn’s weakness is “his Welshness” which locks him into resentment and anger, while Roger seems to recognize his complicity in the “bondage” of this fantasy pattern by putting aside his pride: “OK, I will not take this any further. It is my fault…I will absorb into me all you can give and I will not spew it out. I will not be Welsh.” Garner, “Coming to Terms,” 28–9 (emphasis added).

  58. 58.

    Garner, “Coming to Terms,” 28–9 (emphasis added).

  59. 59.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 24.

  60. 60.

    This is a significant term, originating in Ancient Irish and Gaelic Law, defined by the OED as “the successor apparent to a Celtic chief, usually the most vigorous adult of his kin, elected during the lifetime of the chief.”

  61. 61.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 318.

  62. 62.

    Although the team originally wanted to film at Bryn Hall, the real location Garner evokes in the novel, they did not get permission and therefore ended up shooting all interior and some exterior scenes involving the house at Poulton Hall, Cheshire. Other scenes were shot on location in Wales. See Ellen Garner, Adam Garner, and Katherine Garner, Filming the Owl Service: A Children’s Diary, with contributions from Alan Garner and Peter Plummer (London: Williams Collins, 1970).

  63. 63.

    Garner et al., Filming the Owl Service, 63.

  64. 64.

    Garner, The Owl Service, 101.

  65. 65.

    Graves is following (very loosely) the translation by R.A. Stewart Macalister and John MacNeill, eds., Leabhar Gabhála: The Book of Conquests of Ireland: The Recension of Micheál O’Cléirigh (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, 1916), 262–5.

  66. 66.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 205 (emphasis added).

  67. 67.

    Recent scholarship interprets these statements as a (boastful) display of learned knowledge. See Marged Haycock, ed. and trans., Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin (Aberystwyth, Wales: CMCS, 2007), and also below.

  68. 68.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 81.

  69. 69.

    Garner et al., Filming the Owl Service, 67.

  70. 70.

    Garner et al., Filming the Owl Service, 67.

  71. 71.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 41–2.

  72. 72.

    Philip, A Fine Anger, 65 (emphasis added).

  73. 73.

    White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 75 (emphasis added).

  74. 74.

    Butler, Four British Fantasists; Philip, A Fine Anger.

  75. 75.

    Garner, The Voice that Thunders, 62.

  76. 76.

    Garner, The Voice that Thunders, 110.

  77. 77.

    Garner et al., Filming the Owl Service, 47.

  78. 78.

    Jenny Nimmo, “Authorgraph No. 146: Jenny Nimmo,” Books for Keeps 146 (2004):

  79. 79.

    This is a common Welsh word for “grandmother.”

  80. 80.

    Jenny Nimmo, The Snow Spider, The Snow Spider Trilogy (London: Egmont, 2003), 1–2.

  81. 81.

    Despite the similar sounds, the two names are not related and one does not serve as the diminutive of the other in modern Welsh.

  82. 82.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 13.

  83. 83.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 2.

  84. 84.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 1.

  85. 85.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 17–18.

  86. 86.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 17.

  87. 87.

    Jenny Nimmo, e-mail message to author, 18 April 2016.

  88. 88.

    Julia Farley and Fraser Hunter, Celts: Art and Identity (London: British Museum Press, 2015), 37, 44; Sandra Kellner, “Battersea shield,” in Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. II, edited by John T. Koch (Santa Barbara; Oxford: ABC-Clio, 2006), 188.

  89. 89.

    E.g. Proinsias Mac Cana, Celtic Mythology (New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1991), 79.

  90. 90.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 19.

  91. 91.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 34.

  92. 92.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 35.

  93. 93.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 36.

  94. 94.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 46.

  95. 95.

    Sioned Davies, trans. The Mabinogion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 47.

  96. 96.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 97.

  97. 97.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 98.

  98. 98.

    White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 136.

  99. 99.

    See Dimitra Fimi, “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens,” in The Literary Encyclopedia, ed. Robert Clark (2008),

  100. 100.

    Sir John Rhŷs, Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901), 197–234. The pale skin and hair of the otherworldly children in Nimmo also seem to echo Bran Davies’s albino characteristics in The Dark is Rising Sequence; see Chapter 6. Significantly, Bran notes that he is often feared because his strange phenotype invites comparisons with the Tylwyth Teg.

  101. 101.

    Jenny Nimmo, e-mail message to author, 18 April 2016.

  102. 102.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 5.

  103. 103.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 96.

  104. 104.

    Davies, Mabinogion, 24.

  105. 105.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 103.

  106. 106.

    White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 132.

  107. 107.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 115.

  108. 108.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 63–4.

  109. 109.

    Jenny Nimmo, Emlyn’s Moon, The Snow Spider Trilogy (London: Egmont, 2003), 266.

  110. 110.

    White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 131.

  111. 111.

    Nimmo, Emlyn’s Moon, 219.

  112. 112.

    Nimmo, Emlyn’s Moon, 127.

  113. 113.

    Nimmo, Emlyn’s Moon, 223.

  114. 114.

    Jenny Nimmo, e-mail message to author, 18 April 2016.

  115. 115.

    Jenny Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, The Snow Spider Trilogy (London: Egmont, 2003), 300.

  116. 116.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 305.

  117. 117.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 306.

  118. 118.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 378.

  119. 119.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 396.

  120. 120.

    Proinsias Mac Cana, Branwen, Daughter of Llyr: A Study of the Irish Affinities and of the Composition of the Second Branch of the Mabinogi (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1958), 8.

  121. 121.

    See Sioned Davies, The Four Branches of the Mabinogi: Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi (Llandysul: Gomer, 1993), 71; Jeffrey Gantz, trans., The Mabinogion (London: Penguin, 1976), 28; Andrew Breeze, Medieval Welsh Literature (Dublin: Four Courts, 1997), 73.

  122. 122.

    Tomás Ó Cathasaigh, “The Sister’s Son in Early Irish Literature,” Peritia 5 (1986): 128–60.

  123. 123.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 336–7.

  124. 124.

    Jenny Nimmo, e-mail message to author, 18 April 2016.

  125. 125.

    Caitlín Matthews, Mabon and the Mysteries of Britain: An Exploration of the Mabinogion (London: Arkana, 1987), 41 (emphasis added).

  126. 126.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 287.

  127. 127.

    Davies, Mabinogion, 23.

  128. 128.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 360.

  129. 129.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 309–10 (emphasis added).

  130. 130.

    Nimmo’s decision to associate Efnisien with red hair, as already stated in the first book (see above), was “because it seems to be considered a particularly Celtic feature, and partly because of its association with fire, and Efnisien’s fateful act,” Jenny Nimmo, e-mail message to author, 18 April 2016. For the stereotype of the red-haired “Celt” see Chapter 3.

  131. 131.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 444.

  132. 132.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 448.

  133. 133.

    White, A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature, 135.

  134. 134.

    E.g. Rolleston, Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race, 349; Charles Squire, The Mythology of the British Islands, 269.

  135. 135.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 450.

  136. 136.

    Davies, Mabinogion, 52–3.

  137. 137.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 466, 448.

  138. 138.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 345, 374, 442.

  139. 139.

    Nimmo has noted that her description of the attire of Efnisien, as well as Gwydion, Math and Gilfaethwy, in the trilogy was “probably” inspired by “the wonderful details in Prince Culwch’s appearance in ‘Culwch and Olwen’ when Culwch sets out for King Arthur’s Court,” Jenny Nimmo, e-mail message to author, 18 April 2016.

  140. 140.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 442–3.

  141. 141.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 334 (emphasis added).

  142. 142.

    See Sioned Davies, “Mabinogi/Mabinogion,” in Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. IV, edited by John T. Koch (Santa Barbara; Oxford: ABC-Clio, 2006), 1207.

  143. 143.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 345.

  144. 144.

    See also Chapters 2 and 4.

  145. 145.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 470.

  146. 146.

    Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain, 46–59.

  147. 147.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 419.

  148. 148.

    Peter E Busse and John T. Koch, “Caratācos,” in Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. I, edited by John T. Koch (Santa Barbara; Oxford: ABC-Clio, 2006), 343.

  149. 149.

    Busse and Koch, “Caratācos,” 343.

  150. 150.

    Nimmo, The Snow Spider, 102.

  151. 151.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 422.

  152. 152.

    Bruce Lincoln, Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 47–75.

  153. 153.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 404 (emphasis added).

  154. 154.

    Although Garner has called The Owl Service a “ghost story,” he has also remarked on the moment when the book took a different turn: “I thought it was going to be another jolly little fantasy romp with poltergeists as the main theme, but it wasn’t. No, it was going to be something more than that and it was. The mythology helped there.” Garner, “Coming to Terms,” 26–7.

  155. 155.

    Nimmo, The Chestnut Soldier, 309–10.

  156. 156.

    Butler makes this point too, giving examples of Fisher’s novels set in Wales, especially “around her native Gwent and the Welsh marches,” Catherine Butler, “Children of the Stones: Prehistoric Sites in British Children’s Fantasy, 1965–20,” in Written on Stone: The Cultural Reception of Prehistoric Monuments, edited by J. Parker (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009), 148. Indeed, when Fisher writes intrusion fantasy (rather than invent new secondary worlds) she tends to use various locations in Wales as her (initial) setting, like, for example, in Belin’s Hill (1997), The Lammas Field (1999), and Corbenic (2002).

  157. 157.

    Catherine Fisher in discussion with the author, February 2016.

  158. 158.

    Catherine Fisher, Darkhenge (London: Random House, 2005), 49.

  159. 159.

    Catherine Fisher in discussion with the author, February 2016.

  160. 160.

    Catherine Fisher in discussion with the author, February 2016.

  161. 161.

    The canonical translations that have followed have not included this tale as it is much later than the rest, early modern rather than medieval. See Jones and Jones, Mabinogion; and Davies, Mabinogion. See also Chapter 4.

  162. 162.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 25–7; Lady Charlotte Guest, trans. The Mabinogion (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1877), 472–3. In fact Fisher has altered the order of these transformations as they appear in Guest, in which the bird and hawk are the last shape-changing, preceded by hare and greyhound and fish and otter. In the mundane setting of Avebury it is far less intrusive to have Rob see the fish and otter become human beings in the hazy atmosphere of rain and water, rather than have a bird and hawk rather more spectacularly descend from the sky and turn into a man and woman.

  163. 163.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 28.

  164. 164.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 28, 73.

  165. 165.

    Guest, Mabinogion, 473, 495.

  166. 166.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 89.

  167. 167.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 136.

  168. 168.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 113.

  169. 169.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 113.

  170. 170.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 51.

  171. 171.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 148–9.

  172. 172.

    Matthew Champion, Seahenge: A Contemporary Chronicle (Aylsham, Norwich: Barnwell’s Timescape Pub, 2000), 41–65.

  173. 173.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 73.

  174. 174.

    See Chapter 1.

  175. 175.

    For examples of prehistoric sites associated with medieval or modern folklore in Ireland see Chapter 2.

  176. 176.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 113.

  177. 177.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 57–8.

  178. 178.

    See also Chapter 1.

  179. 179.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 136.

  180. 180.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 143.

  181. 181.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 138.

  182. 182.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 298.

  183. 183.

    Haycock, Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, 434.

  184. 184.

    Haycock, Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, 434; Sarah Higley, trans. “Preiddeu Annwn: The Spoils of Annwn,” in The Camelot Project, edited by Alan Lupack and Barbara Tepa Lupack (Rochester, New York: The Robbins Library, University of Rochester, 2007),

  185. 185.

    We will return to Graves in Chapter 6 on Susan Cooper.

  186. 186.

    John Matthews, Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2002).

  187. 187.

    Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 144.

  188. 188.

    Mircea Eliade, Shamanism, Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972). It should be noted, though, that the terms “shaman” and “shamanism” have come under attack recently because they tend to simplify and homogenize a range of phenomena that are culture-specific. E.g. see Alice Beck Kehoe, Shamans and Religion: An Anthropological Exploration in Critical Thinking (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 2000).

  189. 189.

    See, for example, Haycock, Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, 167–9.

  190. 190.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 21.

  191. 191.

    Matthews, Taliesin, 50. Butler has also read Chloe’s journey as that of a shaman, following Matthews’s summary of the shaman’s experience. See Butler, “Children of the Stones,” 149–50.

  192. 192.

    Matthews, Taliesin, 254.

  193. 193.

    Matthews, Taliesin, 255; also reproduced in Butler, “Children of the Stones.”

  194. 194.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 127.

  195. 195.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 173.

  196. 196.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 4.

  197. 197.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 80.

  198. 198.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 109.

  199. 199.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 184.

  200. 200.

    Matthews, Taliesin, 253.

  201. 201.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 207.

  202. 202.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 204.

  203. 203.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 295.

  204. 204.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 106.

  205. 205.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 237.

  206. 206.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 263, 270.

  207. 207.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 295.

  208. 208.

    See Matthews, Taliesin, 256.

  209. 209.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 38.

  210. 210.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 135, 137.

  211. 211.

    Robert Graves modified these lines into a separate poem he called “Hanes Blodeuwedd,” the very same poem that provided some additional lines for Alison in the TV adaptation of The Owl Service (see above).

  212. 212.

    R.A.S. Macalister, The Secret Languages of Ireland (St Helier: Armorica Book Co, 1937).

  213. 213.

    See Damian McManus, “Irish Letter-Names and Their Kennings,” Ériu 39 (1988): 127–68.

  214. 214.

    See also Chapter 3.

  215. 215.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 223–44.

  216. 216.

    Matthews, Taliesin, 81.

  217. 217.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 124.

  218. 218.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 278.

  219. 219.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 305.

  220. 220.

    Graves, The White Goddess, 46.

  221. 221.

    Every second chapter is headed by an epigram, for which Fisher has selected lines from a number of poems from the Taliesin tradition, including “The Battle of the Trees” and the poems in the tale of Taliesin. Fisher did not translate any of these texts, but she rather used previous translations, many of which are found in Matthews, Taliesin and Graves, The White Goddess, which she paraphrased for poetic effect. Catherine Fisher in discussion with the author, February 2016.

  222. 222.

    Fisher, Darkhenge, 234.

  223. 223.

    Haycock, Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, 174.

  224. 224.

    I borrow this phrase from Garner, who uses it to describe The Owl Service. See Garner, “Coming to Terms,” 27.

  225. 225.

    Garner quotes, while Nimmo adapts, extracts from the Jones and Jones translation.


  • Garner, Alan. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. London: Collins, 1960.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garner, Alan. The Moon of Gomrath. London: Collins, 1963.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garner, Alan. Elidor. London: Collins, 1965.

    Google Scholar 

  • Matthews, John. Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2002.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rolleston, T. W. Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race. London: G.G. Harrap & Co, 1911.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Copyright information

© 2017 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Fimi, D. (2017). Welsh Heritage for Teenagers: Alan Garner, Jenny Nimmo, Catherine Fisher. In: Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy. Critical Approaches to Children's Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Download citation