The Dark Portal | Chapter 3


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Unnatural things walked under the stars and spread fear over the earth.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Now Audrey takes her first steps upon the path set out for her, desperation fuelling her to leave comfortable home and hearth. In the time-honoured tradition of heroic tales, she gives up something precious in exchange for information from an untrustworthy source, and so the wheels of her fate begin to turn.

This is a chapter which I still remember from the cassette version; the shadowy, furtive fortune-telling scene with Madame Akkikuyu had great atmosphere, despite that her accent was not exactly true to the book’s descriptions. I can recall my young indignation that Audrey had to forfeit the tail-bells which Twit had given her in such good faith, but the fact that Audrey is willing to believe that the likes of Akkikuyu can help her at all really shows her desperation.

Madame Akkikuyu is definitely one of those characters through which you can clearly see Robin’s background in model-making. With her tattooed ear, polka-dot shawl, and toy marble masquerading as a crystal ball, she is a perfect stop-motion specimen. It’s easy to imagine her eye-watering perfume and the filth under her long, chipped claws, and certainly in this chapter’s illustration she presents a bold contrast to Audrey’s frilly femininity.

Carrying on from the Chamber of Winter scene last chapter, there is foreshadowing aplenty in Audrey and Akkikuyu’s introductory conversation, as well as in the vision which follows. We are still in the early chapters, however, and the dread and doom are balanced with the occasional humorous moment. One that always make me chortle (and which is also a scathingly accurate summation of Madame Akkikuyu’s character) is when she admits that while her potions make her gullible patrons strong and happy, those spurious concoctions also ‘make them a little bit dead sometimes too.’


Matt’s Thoughts: Ah, Madame Akkikuyu! I don’t think I quite appreciated where Morocco was when I was younger, and so I always imagined her as having a vaguely exotic accent but I wasn’t sure exactly what it sounded like. And so, to make sure I get this correct in my head, and in case you find yourself reading this book out loud to little people, here is a YouTube of a how to speak in a Moroccan accent for reference.

This chapter is a great example of Mr Jarvis’ cinematic writing. Swirling colours in a crystal ball, flickering flames. It all reminds me of 80s animation, even though I couldn’t point to any one particular film. But a great example is this scene from The Secret of NIMH.

Also, pay close attention to Akkikuyu’s vision. Like another prophecy we’ll encounter in a few chapters, it foreshadows not just this book but the entire trilogy.

Finally, Piccadilly and Audrey meet for the first time, and it sets up two ideas: 1) Audrey’s denial about her father being dead. (Which, hey, I totally get.) And 2) Piccadilly’s crisis of faith. These may seem more mainstream now, but in 1989, there were few books aimed at kids with this much darkness, spiritual crisis and trauma going on. (And Robin hasn’t even started. He’s just cracking his knuckles in readiness for the real unpleasantness!)


2 thoughts on “The Dark Portal | Chapter 3

  1. Just a word about the accents. I try to give every character their own unique voice and patterns of speech, because it’d read very flat and dull otherwise and it’s an integral part of who they are. Also, it really isn’t just the ‘baddies’ who have these despicable accents.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I admit that until this subject came up here I hadn’t really thought about the phonetic accents in The Dark Portal in detail. Accordingly, I went back and read over a few scenes to check, and found that both Twit and Piccadilly have accents. Since we can all agree that they are fine upstanding young mice, I think the accents in this instance are more of an indicator of the character’s place of origin than of their moral calibre.

      While I do have to agree with Emmy that Madame Akkikuyu’s dialogue does read as a little dated to an audience of 2017, to be fair, it probably would not have to the 1989 readership it was intended for. (Thank you, Matt!)

      Still, I like the idea that Akkikuyu maybe hams things up for effect because it’s what her patrons expect of her. Who knows, maybe she went through a series of phoney, theatrical accents to go with a plethora of different stage personas, before deciding, as she grew older, that she no longer had the energy to maintain them and slipped back into her natural cadence.

      Liked by 1 person

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