Substitute Communities, Authentic Voices: the Organic Writing of the Child



In Alan Garner’s short novel The Stone Book,3 Mary, the central child-character, wants a book. Tired of being a lad, that is of having to help her mason father at work, she craves, at one stroke, and perhaps as part of the same package, a lettered schooling and a big house full of shiny things. With the pawky, tight-lipped wisdom of Garner’s own private Cheshire, father warns of the dangers of book-learning and materialism alike, but at length relents so far as to offer Mary a deal. She is to go deep into a certain cave, see what she sees, and if she still wants a book after that, then she can have one. Duly finding the mark of her ancestors, stone-workers time out of mind, feeling the presence of the past all around her and so on, Mary returns with an apprehension more ancient and wise than any book. Father has won, as he knew he would. Nevertheless, he does give Mary a book — a book of fossil-bearing stone, which is ‘better than a book you can open’.4 For it has in it ‘all the stories of the world and the flowers of the flood’,5 on which note, this first part of the Quartet ends.


Fairy Tale Emphasis Mine Folk Tale Real Child Mere Word 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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