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The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is a children's fantasy novel by English author Alan Garner, first published in 1960. The novel is set in and around Macclesfield and Alderley Edge in Cheshire, and tells the story of two children, Colin and Susan, who are staying with some old friends of their mother's while their parents are overseas. Susan possesses a small tear-shaped jewel held in a bracelet: unknown to her, this is the Weirdstone of the title. As its nature is revealed the children become hunted by the minions of the dark spirit Nastrond who, centuries before, had been defeated and banished by a powerful king. The children also have to compete with the wicked shapeshifting sorceress, Selina Place, and the evil wizard Grimnir, each of whom wish to possess the weirdstone for themselves. Along the way Colin and Susan are aided by the wizard Cadellin Silverbrow and his dwarven companions. The book was followed by a sequel, The Moon of Gomrath, published in 1963.

Plot synopsis

The book's introduction concerns the origin of the Weirdstone. Following the defeat of Nastrond, it was decided to take steps to prevent what must otherwise be his eventual return. This involved bringing together a small band of warriors of pure heart, each of which must be partnered by a horse, and to gather them inside the old dwarf caves of Fundindelve, deep inside the hill of Alderley. The caves were sealed by powerful white magic which would both defend Fundindelve from evil, as the ages passed, and also prevent the warriors and their horses from aging. When the time was ripe, and the world once more in mortal peril, it was prophesised that this small band of warriors would ride out from the hill, trusting in their purity of heart to defeat Nastrond for good. Fundindelve was provided with a guardian, the ancient wizard Cadellin Silverbrow, and the heart of the white magic was sealed inside a jewel, the Weirdstone of Brisingamen.

At the beginning of the story, however, the Weirdstone has been lost, stolen centuries before by a farmer whose milk-white mare Cadellin had bought to complete the numbers in Fundindelve. The stone became a family heirloom and eventually found its way to Susan's mother, who passed it on to Susan, who is oblivious as to its history and purpose. Although the children become friends with Cadellin, the wizard fails to notice the bracelet, even when the children come to visit him in Fundindelve. However, its presence does not go unnoticed by Selina Place and the witches of the morthbrood, who send their minions to steal it. Susan finally realizes the identity of the Weirdstone, and fearing its destruction, sets out to warn the wizard. The children return to Fundindelve but Cadellin is nowhere to be found, so they set out to reclaim the stone on their own. They are successful but become lost in a labyrinth of mineshafts and caverns. As the minions of the morthbrood close in on them, they are rescued by a pair of dwarves, Fenodyree and Durathror, who are close companions of Cadellin. After passing through many perils the group returns to the farm where Susan and Colin are staying to spend the night. They set out with the farm's owner the next day to return the weirdstone to Cadellin before it can fall into the wrong hands. Their travels take them through forests, mountains, and snowy fields while striving to avoid the watchful eye of the morthbrood.

At the climax of the story, a great battle takes place on a hill near Alderley during which the children and their companions make a desperate last stand to protect the weirdstone. However the enemy forces prove too strong and Durathror is mortally wounded. Grimnir takes the weirdstone for himself and, in the ensuing chaos, Nastrond sends the great wolf Fenrir (in some editions Managarm) to destroy his enemies. As the remaining companions begin to despair, Cadellin appears and slays Grimnir, whom he reveals to be his own brother. The Morrigan flees in terror while Cadellin uses the power of the weirdstone to once again subdue the forces of darkness.

Background

The story borrows extensively from Celtic, Norse and Arthurian legends, as well as the folktale "The Legend of Alderley", which Garner was told as a child by his grandfather. A version of the legend serves as the introduction to the novel. The author claims that all names of legendary beings were taken directly from mythology, although some are used with vastly different meanings from their traditional roots - for example, Nastrond and Grimnir. Durathror is a deer in Norse mythology, whereas he is depicted as a dwarven warrior in the book.

Many of the locations in the book and its sequel are actual places which Garner knew from his childhood. These include the sandstone escarpment of the Edge, the Wizard's Well and its inscription, the open mine pits, and the Beacon.

Characters

  • Susan - A young girl who inadvertently becomes the guardian of the 'weirdstone', for this reason she is sometimes referred to by the other characters as "Stonemaiden".
  • Colin - Susan's brother who shares in her adventures.
  • Gowther Mossock - A farmer whom the children are staying with while their parents are away overseas.
  • Bess Mossock - Gowther's wife, years ago she was nurse to the children's mother.
  • Cadellin - The ancient wizard who was long ago entrusted with the guardianship of the weirdstone and the sleeping knights of Fundindelve.
  • Fenodyree - An ally to Cadellin who watches over the children in his stead.
  • Durathror - Fenodyree's cousin, whose pride lies in his strength in battle.
  • Selina Place - A local witch, also known as the Morrigan or Shape-shifter, she is the leader of the morthbrood.
  • Grimnir - An evil magician who wishes to keep the Weirdstone for himself, he forms a reluctant alliance with Selina Place in order to gain the stone from Cadellin.
  • Nastrond - The great spirit of darkness who was defeated by the King in Fundindelve, but is ever waiting to return and conquer the mortal world. He is mentioned in the book but never appears firsthand.
  • Svart alfar - dark elves
  • Lios alfar - light elves

Locations

File:Weirdstone.journey.jpg
File:Weirdstone.Edge.jpg

A number of Cheshire locations are mentioned in the story:

Adaptations

In the 1970s, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was also adapted as a musical (written by Paul Pearson) and was staged in Manchester and Essex. The cast included Hugo award-winning artist Sue Mason, who also designed the programme book. The songs from the show were recently re-arranged by Inkubus Sukkubus with hopes of resurrecting the musical for a modern audience, however copyright restrictions have made such a venture unlikely. Both the novel and its sequel have also been dramatised as a pair of BBC Radio productions.

See also

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