Warning: Contains Spoilers!
The holy well had become a hideous place – for the Children of the Raith Sidhe had come and left their infernal marks there.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I love the wonderfully eerie set that Ysabelle and her entourage find themselves in. This I could definitely picture in grainy 90s animation, with a bit of purply mist for good measure. If I may bring up The Black Cauldron once again, this track in particular is quite apt, I think, for the terrible scene where our heroes are pursued by the Children of the Raith Sidhe.
In the lead up to that, though, we have Pountfrey and Mahtild, a pair of rather excellent and somewhat hilarious riffs on the classic friendly medieval mouse. I don’t know if any of it was intentional, but if I’m honest, a lot about the walk through the woods in this chapter reads like a gentle send-up of medieval talking animal fantasy in general.
First of all there’s the trademark supernatural ice, reminiscent of the Chamber of Winter in The Dark Portal, along with a few heads on sticks for that grisly Robin Jarvis touch. In the hands of a gentler author, I daresay a chill breeze might blow through the wood, but nothing more untoward than that, and certainly no evil black rime or gory, charred remains.
Then there’s the mouse couple, eking out a wretched existence, hiding from cultists every night, eager to share neither information nor their warm hearth. Rosy-cheeked and welcoming they most definitely are not, and neither is that rabbit, though at least he has good intentions.
All playful ribbing aside, this is the first time the gorecrows come into the spotlight, and how marvellously malevolent they are! What terrors! Their nasty little ditty about eyeballs and ruby blood is going to haunt me, that’s for sure.
Matt’s Thoughts: The word ‘unfilmable’ was running through my head as I read this chapter. There is just so much grim stuff going on – Hobbers in the forest, the Jarvis version of The Birds and some particularly grim decapitations. Not to mention obscene scrawlings and defilings of sacred wells which are probably best left to the imagination.
Also, I can’t quite put my finger on why, but the whole forest section of these last few chapters has an immersiveness that feels even worse than the sewers in the Deptford Mice trilogy. Maybe Robin’s powers of description had grown, or the forest is less of a confined space than the old sewers, but this place gets nastier every chapter.
Frodo and Co took several hundred pages to get to the really grim parts of Middle Earth. In The Oaken Throne, we got there in just a couple of hundred pages …