Friday, December 15, 2017

Malcolm Savile, Seven White Gates and the Wild Hunt

I saw some discussion of the Wild Hunt on Twitter today and was reminded of Seven White Gates by Malcolm Saville.

Here are Peter (Petronella) and Jenny on the Stiperstones one night during World War II:
Then the atmosphere became cold and clammy as the fog swirled round them. suddenly Jenny gave a stifled little scream and pointed up the track which led to the mines. Shadowy in the thickening mist, the two girls seemed to see a figure on horseback waving ghostly arms but no sound of hooves came to their straining ears. Then far away on the hilltop, it seemed to Peter that tiny, gnome-like figures flitted in uncanny procession. 
Jenny turned and wailed into Peter's shoulder. 
"Peter. It's true. It's them. They're riding again. What shall we do, Peter? We must hide our eyes. We mustn't even see them. Don't look, Peter."
There is more about the Wild Hunt on Wikipedia and more about Malcolm Saville and the legends of the Stiperstones in  The Singular Stiperstones by Tom Wall and Peter Francis.

Wall and Francis's claim that Saville's discovery of the Stiperstones was, unusually for him, made through other writers' books rather than by visiting the place for himslef is born out by a talk I once heard the late Revd Jeremy Saville (Malcolm's younger son) give.

He said he was pretty sure that his father had not visited the Stiperstones when he wrote Seven White Gates. and that the book owed a great deal to the novels of Mary Webb.

Seven White Gates, incidentally is a remarkable book. Again unusually for Saville, there are no villains to thwart or buried treasure to find. It is a story about the reconciliation of an estranged father and son.

And that reconciliation can be made to stand as a metaphor for the reconciliation of Britain and the USA. Seven White Gates therefore has much in common with films of the period like The Man in Grey of A Matter of Life and Death.

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