|The Dark is Rising Sequence|
Omnibus edition front cover
|Cover artist||Oliver Burston|
|Genre(s)||Children's fantasy novels|
|Media type||Print (trade ppb)|
The Dark Is Rising is a series of five contemporary fantasy novels for older children and young adults, written by the English author Susan Cooper and published 1965 to 1977. The Dark is Rising, the second novel in the series, was published in 1973.
The series is sometimes called The Dark is Rising Sequence, which is the title of its UK omnibus edition (first 1984) and its US boxed set edition (first 1986). It depicts a struggle between forces of good and evil called the Light and the Dark and is based on Arthurian legends, Celtic mythology, and Norse mythology. Both magical and ordinary children are prominent throughout the series. It was inaugurated in 1965 with the U.K. publication of Over Sea, Under Stone by Jonathan Cape. The sequels were published 1973 to 1977, almost simultaneously in the U.K. and the U.S.[a] Volume four, The Grey King (1975), won both the Newbery Medal, recognizing the year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children", and the inaugural Welsh Tir na n-Og Award for English-language books with Welsh background. The concluding Silver on the Tree (1977) also won the annual Tir na n-Og Award.
The novel The Dark is Rising features Will Stanton, age 11,[b] who learns on that birthday that he is an "Old One" and thus destined to wield the powers of The Light in the ancient struggle with The Dark. In the U.S. it was a Newbery Honor Book (runner up for the medal). Its 2007 film adaptation, titled The Seeker in America and The Dark is Rising in Britain, made important plot and character changes from the book.
Simon, Jane and Barney Drew: The main characters of the first novel, the Drew siblings, are human children who have known Merriman Lyon as their "Great Uncle Merry" for years. While on holiday in Cornwall, they get caught up in the battle between the Light and the Dark and join the search for the Things of Power. In the first novel, Over Sea, Under Stone, they search for the legendary Grail of King Arthur. They also appear in the third book, Greenwitch, and the last book in the series, Silver on the Tree. In the poem featured prominently throughout The Dark is Rising, they are the ones referred to as "three from the track". Their last name is linked with Will Stanton's in British paleohistory; see Stanton Drew stone circles.
Old Ones: Ancient and immortal, the Old Ones are mystical beings who possess great magical power. They are found in all parts of the world and are of many races and cultures. Capable of performing many seemingly impossible feats, including freezing time and controlling the elements, they serve the Light in the war against the Dark. The Great Lords of the Dark have many similar characteristics and abilities but are not Old Ones. The two factions struggle to determine the destiny of mankind; while the Light fights for freedom and free will, the Dark fights for chaos, confusion and the subversion of man's agency.
Will Stanton: The main character of the second novel, and a major character in the entire series, he is the seventh son of a seventh son, in a large, close human family. His eleventh birthday[b] marks the beginning of his magical awakening and rise to power as the last of the Old Ones. The Dark Is Rising tells how he came to power, met Merriman Lyon, and accumulated the six "signs" to help fight the Dark. Will is the last of the Old Ones; no others will be born after him. In Greenwitch, he is invited to come to Cornwall by Merriman in order to help recover the Grail and cypher that reveals how to read the runes on the Grail. He later gives Jane a bracelet of gold engraved with the words, "power from the Greenwitch", which she throws into the sea as an offering to the Greenwitch in appreciation for its help. In The Grey King, Will goes to Wales to recover from sickness, where he meets Bran and awakens the Sleepers. In Silver on the Tree, Will travels with Bran to the Lost Land to recover the crystal sword Eirias, and helps to vanquish the Dark. Will is the only Old One to remain on Earth afterward, and the only one of the Light's allies who remembers the struggle against the Dark; in this, he is referred to as "the watchman", staying behind to keep watch for any attempt by the Dark to return.
Merriman Lyon: Merriman is the first Old One. He and Will Stanton have a special bond as each of them is one end of the long line of Old Ones. It is said that with the birth and coming to power of Will Stanton, the circle of Old Ones is complete. A friend of the Drew family for over a generation, he assisted Barney, Jane, and Simon in their quest for the Grail, in addition to protecting them until their task was completed; they occasionally refer to him as "Great Uncle Merry" or "Gumerry". Throughout the series Merriman is portrayed in numerous historical periods, but particularly as King Arthur's chief adviser, the mythical Merlin, as Arthur calls him "Mer Lion", old English for "my lion", in Silver on the Tree.
The Lady: The Lady is the most powerful of the Old Ones. Gentle, wise and enigmatic, she is a pivotal figure throughout the series, appearing usually at important moments to turn the tide in the Light's favor. She is a especially a friend and mentor to Will and Jane. At one point in The Dark Is Rising, Will Stanton makes a critical mistake during a battle with the Dark and is saved by the Lady. Merriman tells Will that the Lady on her own is the only Old One able to overcome the full power of the Dark, although at a great cost. The sacrifice by the Lady is a critical point in the Story because she is a key element of the battle. At a later high ceremony of Old Ones, the Lady is missing and Merriman tells Will that her depleted power prevents her arrival, and she is beyond their magic to rescue but will return. She represents the Lady of the Lake, or the Lady of Avalon, King Arthur's sister, as they both embark on Arthur's boat Pridwen in Silver on the Tree. The Lady, like King Arthur, is affiliated with The Light and the High Magic. In Silver on the Tree, she initially can only communicate with Jane Drew, the one girl among the Six, telling Jane they share a special bond in being female, and calls her "Jane, Jana, Juno", referring to Jana (in Roman mythology, a variant form of Diana) or Juno, the queen of the gods.
The Black Rider: One of the great Lords of the Dark, comparable to Merriman in power and influence. The Rider is the major nemesis of Will during his many trials. He patronises John Wayland Smith's establishment, where he meets Will for the first time and attempts to bring Will over to the Dark. He is given one name by the humans in the story: Mitothin (a name connected with the jötunn Loki, who helps bring about Ragnarok).
The White Rider: Another servant and Lord of the Dark, introduced in Silver on the Tree. The White Rider is almost equal in power to the Black Rider, and despite being feminine in her true form, often affects a masculine guise while attacking agents of the Light. She is revealed as disguising herself as Blodwen Rowlands, an "aunt" figure to Bran Davies. She acts kind and caring, to keep an eye on Bran while developing emotional bonds, while controlling events around Cader Idris, which means "chair of Arthur", and the Sleepers. Will Stanton hypothesized that the monochromatic 'color' of the White Rider's robes, like those of the Black Rider, reflected the extremism of their evil—either darkened by their ignorance, or blinded by the brightness of their ideas.
The Walker: A human who betrayed the Light and was cursed to carry the Sign of Bronze, one of six Things of Power that repel the Dark, through the centuries until the last Old One claimed it from him. The Walker was once Hawkin, a liege man and foster son of Merriman during the 13th century. His betrayal of the Light stemmed largely from Merriman's acceptance of Hawkin's willingness to sacrifice his life to protect the Book of Gramarye, the secrets of which the human Hawkin can neither possess nor partake of. In The Dark Is Rising his appearance in Will Stanton's town precipitates Will's "awakening" and rise to power. He presents Will with his second sign.
The Sleepers: Ancient knights who served during the time of King Arthur. In The Grey King they are awakened from a mystic slumber by the Harp of the Light, to ride against the Dark during the final battle in Silver on the Tree.
Pendragon: This is a reference to two characters. First, it is the figurative title referring to status as a leader, of several traditional Kings of the Britons, notably King Arthur. It is also his son in this series, Bran Davies, who is predestined to wield the Crystal Sword of Light that is vital to the final conflict with the Dark. Bran Davies is brought forward in time by Merriman at the request of his mother, Guinevere, who feared that Arthur would reject Bran as a true son because of Guinevere's affair with Lancelot. Bran is an albino, meaning he has very pale skin and white hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, but his eyes are an unusual tawny color. Will meets him in Wales during The Grey King, where they wake the Sleepers using the Harp. In Silver on the Tree, Bran and Will travel to the Lost Land and recover the sword Eirias. In the same book, it is hinted that he likes Jane, as he tells Will indirectly that he thinks she is pretty.
The rooks: The majority of these birds are servants of the Dark and attract their forces wherever they are seen.
Farmer Dawson: An Old One who lives near Will Stanton and presents him with his first Sign.
John Wayland Smith: Another Old One who lives near Will Stanton; he is also a skilled smith. Though he is affiliated with the Light, he aids all who pass in his smithy. It is suggested that he might be the legendary Saxon smith, Weyland, the Saxon equivalent of the legendary elf smith Volund.
Things of Power: The Old Ones have four Things of Power that will be used in the final battle which will allow them to defeat the Dark: the circle of Signs, the Grail, the Harp, and the Sword. They are obtained in The Dark Is Rising, Over Sea, Under Stone, The Grey King, and Silver on the Tree, respectively. Greenwitch is the story of the recovery of the stolen Grail.
The Book of Gramarye: The ancient Book of the Old Ones, it is an Old One's rite of passage, while also teaching everything about their powers, and through it, they experience the magical spells. Gramarye, or grimoire, from the Old French word grammaire and the Old English word grammar, initially referred to all books, most written in Latin, which almost no one could read, and perceived by the masses as "magical". The Book of Gramarye is protected by an enchanted device of a pendulum in a longcase clock, that if touched, will detonate and destroy any human that attempts to gain access to the book. This powerful book is further protected in that it is written in the Old Speech, which only an Old One can read and understand. It is blasted out of existence by Merriman after Will has read it.
The Doors: A set of carved oak doors that lead through Time. Old Ones can summon these doors to appear at will to transport themselves through time and space. The doors disappear when the Old Ones pass through them, accompanied by the haunting bell chime music of the Light. Their origin is not explained in the books.
Midsummer's Tree: In Chiltern, England, The Tree produces a silver flower, which blooms once every 700 years, and is the final challenge for the Six of the Light. The person who obtains the silver flower gains control of the High Magic, to put out of Time the Dark or the Light forever. Bran Davies, the Pendragon and heir of King Arthur, wields the Crystal Sword to cut the fully blossomed silver flower on the Midsummer's Tree, which is caught by Merriman, making the Light victorious.
Old Magic: A powerful elemental magic, of which the Light and the Dark are the two opposite extremes.
Wild Magic: The magic of nature, first used in The Dark Is Rising to provide strength to the forces of the Light in the book's final battle. In Greenwitch, we learn that the Wild Magic is equal in strength to both the Dark and the Light, but that it stands apart and is unaffected by either.
High Magic: The most powerful magic, being of the Cosmos. A spell of this type is used by the Old Ones in Greenwitch to be able to communicate with Tethys, the Queen of the Sea, and plead for her help in obtaining the scroll that will help translate the writing on the Grail. In The Grey King, Will Stanton and Bran Davies obtain the Harp of Gold from a place guarded by the High Magic after being tested by a Lord of the Dark, a Lord of the Light, and a Lord of the High Magic.
Old Speech: This is the spoken form of the ancient language of the Old Ones. When an Old One comes to power, this language is used instinctively by the Old One when speaking to members of the Light or the Dark. Will Stanton begins to do this without even realizing it. When an Old One speaks the Old Speech in front of a normal human, it will sound like gibberish. Some agents of the Dark, such as the Rider, can also speak Old Speech, but with a distinctive accent which gives them away to the Old Ones.
Small rhyming prophecies serve to guide the protagonists throughout the series. Science Fiction author and filker Julia Ecklar has set these rhyming prophecies to music, and the resulting song, also called "The Dark is Rising", won the 1997 Pegasus Award for Best Sorcery Song.
The characters in this book, which was published several years before the others, are younger than those in the rest of the series, and the issues are presented as less cosmic. Overall the book is aimed at younger readers more than the other four books in the series.
In this tale, Susan Cooper introduces us to Merriman, a pivotal character for the forces of the Light and also ties him with Simon, Jane and Barney Drew, three young mortal children, in a quest by the sea which will lead them over sea and under stone to find a grail of legend to help the Light in its struggle against the Dark.
In this book, Will Stanton begins to have strange experiences on his eleventh[b] birthday, just before Christmas. He soon learns he is one of the Old Ones, a guardian and warrior for the Light. He learns that he must help find the four Things of Power for the Light in order to battle the forces of the Dark. The first of these Things of Power is the Circle of Six Signs. This book is the key book for the main character, Will Stanton. It is in this book that he collects the six signs which become the Circle of Signs, one of the Things of Power, by finding the additional five mandalas (he has been given one earlier) and uses the completed Circle to ward off the forces of the Dark. The book features elements of English folklore that are especially associated with the Thames Valley, with Herne the Hunter making an appearance. This book received the 1974 Newbery Honor. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." It was one of the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.
Quotation: "You are the seventh son of a seventh son, Will Stanton. You step through time. One by one, the Signs will call to you. You will gather them and gain the power of the Light. You are the Sign-Seeker."
This story returns to the characters introduced in Over Sea, Under Stone, uniting them with Will Stanton, and involves a quest for magic from beneath the sea.
Jane Drew witnesses the creation of a ritualistic offering known as the 'Greenwitch', and senses both great power and great sadness in it. She wishes that the Greenwitch could be happy, and that wish has important consequences later when it turns out that the Greenwitch possesses something that will unlock the secrets of the Grail.
The Grey King was awarded the 1976 Newbery Medal.
Welsh folklore is an important theme in the book.
All of the main characters from the other books in the sequence come together in this book, some meeting for the first time, and the current struggle between the Light and the Dark is resolved. After the Light wins the battle, Bran is offered a chance to rejoin his father, but chooses to give up his immortality to stay with his friends and his mortal adoptive father. All immortal characters except Will Stanton leave the Earth forever. All the mortal characters lose all memory of any dealings with magic and the Old Ones, though the Drews and Bran have snatches of something come back to them in dreams.
Nearly all the locations mentioned in the books are based on real places. Over Sea, Under Stone and Greenwitch are set in Trewissick, which is based on a village in southern Cornwall called Mevagissey. Susan Cooper used to visit Mevagissey as a child. The Dark Is Rising is set in the part of Buckinghamshire where Cooper grew up: Huntercombe is based on the small village of Dorney, and the Great Hall is Dorney Court. The Welsh setting in The Grey King and Silver on the Tree is the area around Aberdyfi, the village where Cooper's grandmother was born and where her parents lived.
Following the successful film adaptations of other fantasy classics, it was announced in 2005 that the Dark is Rising series was being developed as a major motion picture. The Seeker was a joint venture between 20th Century Fox and Walden Media. John Hodge wrote the screenplay and the film was directed by David L. Cunningham and produced by Marc E. Platt. Ian McShane played the role of Merriman Lyon while Alexander Ludwig played the young Will Stanton as an American. Frances Conroy and Christopher Eccleston (as The Rider) also star. Filming began in February 2007 in Bucharest, Romania. The film was released on October 5, 2007, in the U.S. and the U.K. It was not successful.
Screenwriter Hodge made substantial changes to the novel's plot, tone, and characters. For example, to differentiate him from Harry Potter, the film version of Will Stanton is a 13- to 14-year-old[b] American living in Britain. Hodge also felt that the "lyrical, poetic, kaleidoscopic fashion" of the book could not be filmed and felt compelled to add action for Will where "he doesn't actually do very much."
Cooper was disappointed by changes in the screenplay from the book and requested that some be undone. For example, she considers it crucial that Will is only 11 because that is before puberty. The film portrays, and one of its trailers featured, Will as an adolescent teased for and preoccupied with his shyness and inexperience with girls.
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