Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘The glorious Wyrm,’ he began, indicating the golden head on his left, ‘is called Myth. The other, unlovely Wyrm is named Sacrifice.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter was, for me, proof of that saying that different stories mean different things to different people. One person’s heart-wrenching drama is another’s sappy drivel; someone’s best childhood favourite is someone else’s worst childhood fear. To Matt, this chapter was probably fairly unremarkable, another well-written plot twist in a long line of well-written plots twists.
I, on the other hand, was deeply affected by it, and at the risk of sounding insufferably mawkish, almost felt as if it had in some way been written for me. It was like being given a glimmering, jewel-encrusted present. Having the werlings find an ancient serpent crafted all of precious metal would have been enough, but two? And the ghastly-looking one with the horns comes alive? And turns out to be, after all, benevolent? Be still my cold lizard heart, it was exactly what I’d always wanted. Here was the closure I had been waiting for ever since the idol of Sarpedon bashed his shiny brains to bits on a rock back in 1995, and if we got fascinating lore about the source of all magic in Hagwood along with it, all the better.
Scalian reunion tour aside, this chapter really holds the fundamental storytelling truths at the heart of Robin Jarvis canon: all’s unfair in love and war, heroism is about ordinary folks choosing to do right even in the face of opposition, and where there be myth, there will always be sacrifice.
Matt’s Thoughts: And so here, nearly two years later, Aufwader and I have finally arrived at the chapter that we named the blog after! Perhaps it was a bit obscure naming it after this chapter rather than something from one of the more popular trilogies, but for us, it’s a quintessential Robin Jarvis chapter.
Two thoughts on reading it: first up, I would love to know when this was written in relation to The Raven’s Knot. That book also, you might remember, had a plot twist where the ground opened up, we all thought some characters were dead but instead they end up in some sort of underground grotto with a fantastic ancient creature.
The similarity of that plot twist to this makes me wonder whether Robin thought it was a good idea in the Hagwood book, wasn’t sure if it would be published anytime soon and thus decided to use the trick in his Wyrd Museum book.
But more interesting than that is that you can begin to get a glimpse of a Robin Jarvis cosmology from this chapter – how his fictional universe all hangs together. Everything is hinted at, so any explanation readers come up with would be a theory at best, but I’ll have a crack.
If there was a Robin Jarvis Universe, I believe it started a long time ago with the First Mother story from the Witching Legacy series. To start with, there is this section from The Devil’s Paintbox where Cherry Cerise explains the origins of the world.
‘OK,’ she began. ‘Forget everything science or religion ever told you about how the universe was made. At the start, all there was was a never-ending emptiness – and the First Mother, who crawled in from outside.’
‘Outside?’ asked Verne.
‘You mean outside this dimension?’ said Lil.
‘Hun, I’m just repeating a way old tradition, and trying to keep it simple. Call it another dimension, reality, existence, beyond, whatever. Our clumsy words aren’t up to the job. Just imagine a creature, galaxies wide. She’s called the First Mother because She gave birth, but She impregnated herself, so go figure.’
‘Wait, the Lords of the Deep were Her children?’ asked Lil.
‘Yep, or three of ’em anyways; She kinda splurged out a whole mess of bambinos. That’s the cataclysmic event scientists call the Big Bang. The Big Push would be more accurate. Anyway, it killed Her and what theoffspring didn’t eat – yeah, gross – They formed the universe with.’
‘They made the earth?’ gasped Verne. ‘The solar system?’
‘Kick-started it, let it do its own thing, until it got interestin’. Then They moved in and ever since They’ve played around with it, like kids with plasticine. That’s what we’re up against: creatures so old, so powerful and terrible, we’d be out of our puny minds to even dream of getting mixed up with Them. We shouldn’t even know They exist.’The Devil’s Paintbox, chapter 6
So my theory is that this universe of ancient creatures playing around ‘like kids with plasticine’ form the layers of ancient creatures that you encounter in many Jarvis books. The most ancient seem to be ancient keepers of fate. Characters that know everything going on in the world, even if they don’t get very involved – like Nest in this chapter or the card players in Mooncaster.
Then there are characters with godlike powers, like the Lords of the Dark and Deep and the Raith Sidhe. And because we knew from the example of the Green that these gods can take on different aspects depending on who it is they are communicating with, who’s to say that the Raith Sidhe aren’t worshipped as gods by humans in some ancient savage tribe but they also had a rat version of themselves as well. (If that makes sense?)
Then there is clearly a race of ancient serpents. We can see that in the Deptford and Whitby worlds. But I’m thinking, we could possibly expand it a bit as well. One of the most striking images from The Raven’s Knot was the appearance of an angel in the form of a massive dragon-like creature. We then have Lucifer (commonly known as a fallen angel, perhaps not so strictly from the Bible but certainly in popular Christian thinking over the centuries), even though not too much of his physical appearance is described in Fighting Pax. But he is popularly known as a serpent. Is it possible that angels and demons are all aspects of the serpentine class, meaning you could then throw the Whitby series and the Mooncaster books into the same Jarvis universe?
All of these creatures – many of whom now lie dormant – have left various bits of power scattered around. So that’s why there are characters like Rhiannon and Jupiter – that tap into ancient magical power but are a relatively new blip on the horizon.
The only book that seems to operate outside of ancient magical forces on earth is Deathscent but then we never had enough books to explain the back story on the ‘special ambassadors’. They could well have been tapping into some sort of ancient power as well but it looked more like sci-fi technology rather than magic.
But what do you think?