Here, Neil Gaiman writes about the kind of process I’ve tried to describe, the way stories become part of our psyches and change the way we see the world. He talks about watching Dr. Who as a kid, and becoming “infected” with the notion that there are other worlds, just a step away, just out of reach, all around us. He picked up this infection and passed it on, to me among millions of others, as I’ve already described here. Of course, this virus is not original to Dr. Who – the notion of an Otherworld is, I believe, as old as humanity, and perhaps older.
I just started rereading Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. They were some of the books that I read obsessively as a kid, checking them out of the library over and over again. Since I’ve recently gotten interested in Welsh mythology, I thought it might be time to revisit them. I remembered that Alexander used names and ideas from Welsh mythology, but his stories and characters were his own. I reread “The Book of Three” last week, and realized why it is that Gwydion from the Mabinogion always, in my head, has wolf-grey hair and green eyes flecked with gold. Alexander also wrote the Westmark books, which I have always thought of as the sort of Platonic ideal of adventure stories.
I was back at the library today to return the book and get “The Black Cauldron,” the second book in the series, only to find that it had been checked out. I was a little disappointed, but I was happy imagining that it had been checked out by a ten-year-old girl who was hungry for other worlds, and that the virus was being passed on as it should. I found a Clive Barker book that I hadn’t read yet instead, and came home to the news that Lloyd Alexander died the other day.
I’m sorry I never got to thank him. He didn’t live very far from me, and I always sort of hoped I would run into him someday and thank him for showing me Prydain. I suppose he heard that sort of thing all the time – I hope he did – but I’m still sorry I didn’t get to do it myself.