Monday, December 16, 2013

A Winter's Tale

'tis the season for whiling away the hours curled up by a fire, book in hand with the wintery chill firmly closed behind an iron door. Perhaps the fire pops, and the page crackles as it's turned...and is that shadow moving by itself in the corner of the room?
How I love the idea of winter and cold, and snow and all the magic it brings, particularly in fantasy stories, so this post is a celebration of our favorite winter tales!

First up a THE DARK IS RISING and to be honest we all love this book!

Here is Ellen Booraem on why she chose this winter scene...
'For me, the best of all possible invocations of winter is in THE DARK IS RISING. The snow is beautiful, mystical, even fun, but it has elements of menace that surface without warning. Here’s Will grinning at the window after his birthday blizzard: “In the first shining moment he saw the whole strange-familiar world, glistening white; the roofs of the outbuildings mounted into square towers of snow and beyond them all the fields and hedges buried, merged into one great flat expanse, unbroken white to the horizon’s rim.” Three-point-five seconds minutes later, life gets majorly weird. Yup, that’s winter for you.'

Anne Nesbet thought of Terry Pratchett's WINTERSMITH for some lovely cold magic: “They say that there can never be two snowflakes that are exactly alike, but has anyone checked lately?”

and, Susan Cooper's THE DARK IS RISING: "The snow lay thin and apologetic over the world . . . ."

Anne says, 'I grew up without snow, so I learned everything there was to know about winter from Cooper, from Tove Jansson's MOOMINLAND MIDWINTER, with extra information taken from my two favorite snowy non-fantasy books: Laura Ingalls Wilder's THE LONG WINTER and Arthur Ransome's WINTER HOLIDAY.

Snuggling under quilts and putting extra sweaters on just thinking about all these books!"

Anytime a story gives us a good look at snow, I'm basically happy. Perhaps that's because I grew up without much snow in my life!'

Gretchen McNeil chose the wintery scenes in the early Harry Potter books, and the first visit to the nearby town of Hogsmead, in particular from THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN.
'Hogsmead looked like a Christmas card; the little thatched cottages and shops were all covered in a layer of crisp snow; there were holly wreaths on the doors and strings of enchanted candles hanging in the trees.' (Chapter Ten, The Marauders Map)

Mike Jung chose A STORM OF SWORDS

'The Red Wedding scene in the GAME OF THRONES tv show made a big stir with those poor unsuspecting "oh I haven't read the books" viewers, but snobby book people like me feel smug about having been traumatized by that scene when reading A STORM OF SWORDS years ago. But I weirdly remember the books' closing scene with Jon Snow almost as much, although I should explain that I don't remember the specifics all that much. I mostly remember the way I felt while reading it: #$%&ing traumatized by the Red Wedding, including the aftermath involving Robb Stark's direwolf; a muted, complicated feeling of triumph when Jon Snow was named Lord Commander of the Night's Watch (was it good? Was it bad? Oh to be a non-bastard Stark!); and a strange feeling of existential despair that the unrecognized heir of the Stark family was stuck out there in the cold, on the border between kingdoms, hanging out on that damned wall. It was an oddly calming chapter to read, if that makes any sense, even more so because even MORE crazy stuff happened before the book was over. I suppose a final reason that wintry scene with Jon Snow stuck with me is because it felt like a thousand years went by before the next book, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, was published, and I, um, haven't actually read it yet. I'm sure everything's working out for Jon Snow, however, right? All the other Starks took swords to the neck or daggers in the chest and so forth, but I'm sure nobody ganged up to repeatedly stab Jon Snow!'

Lisa Green picked SHIVER
: 'The whole werewolves tied to the weather instead of the moon gives the winter in Northern Minnesota (where I've been many times, brrrr) a whole new layer (pardon the pun).'
There really is something about a wolves call that makes you feel so vulnerable and cold!

Amy Greenfield cast a vote for the opening of THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE.

'I love how we approach the Chase from on high, first seeing the snow lying “white and shining over the pleated hills,” and then the bundled-up men clearing the road, who fear “the wolves, grown savage and reckless with hunger.” As we draw still closer, we see the house itself, a glowing bastion against “the sombre sighing of the wind and the hideous howling of the wolves without.” And that’s only one of many fabulous winter scenes in the book, which include the deliciously dangerous one where Bonnie and Sylvia skate at dusk in pursuit of Miss Slighcarp, only to find themselves pursued by the wolves.'

I am feeling really cold now and need to go and read by the fire. So, I, (Keely Parrack) will leave you with one of my favorites, THE CHILDREN OF GREEN KNOWE, which I cannot really believe isn't absolutely true and so am still wary of calling it fantasy! 'In the moonlight the frozen meadows looked like sheets of frosted glass and the river like gold...'

Now, tell us, what are your favorite Winter scenes?


  1. Great choices! The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has to be one of my favorites. I always get such a great image of winter when I read that book.

  2. You beat me to "The Dark is Rising"! I also have fond memories of Astrid Lindgren's Bullerby books. There's one story where the kids have to walk home from school in a snow storm. In another, they go skating and the eldest (and boldest) boy falls into the lake.

  3. Thanks Katie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - of course, nothing but Winter there for a long time!

  4. Ruth, I think we all went there first, such a powerful book! I haven't heard of Lindgren's Bullerby Books, I'll have to look them up. Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. There is a wonderful British book from years ago called the Giant under the Snow. It's hard to recall all the elements of the story, but I do recall a sense of cold dread in the book that brings to mind the frosty chill of winter. I ordered an old, battered copy from Amazon a few years ago. I need to read it again. Hello everyone!

    1. Hi Ron! I've never heard of that book (grew up in England) but it did make me think of 'Odd and The Frost Giant,' that's a very cold book!

    2. Hi Keely, the author is John Gordon and it was published in 1968. From what I recall, it is a very atmospheric book, almost like a dream. I recommend it.

      And yes, Cheryl, Golden Compass is a good pick too. Ice bears!

  6. Agreed on Lion Witch and the Wardrobe, love that for its Wintery feel. Plus hot chocolate and Turkish Delight (which I've never had but always sounded wonderful ).

  7. Love Susan Cooper's use of the adjective "strange-familiar" to describe how the blanket of winter has turned one's homeland into something almost foreign. I wish I had thought of that word hybrid. I think winter forces us to view the immediate world around us as if we were strangers in it instead of "locals" who take it for granted. Love it. Going deep into snow country next week.

    Matthew Barratt
    Author of fairy tale novel "Dizzy with Togetherness"

    1. Have a lovely time in the snow, Matthew, and I love your novel's title!

  8. Some of 'The Golden Compass' takes part in the snow and cold.



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