Series Week VII: Wrap-Up Of The Dark Is Rising Sequence

Series Rating: 4/5

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence is beautifully mythical, with a dash of British adventure that reminds me of C. S. Lewis and E. Nesbit. Cooper strikes a nice balance between the mythical aspect of the series and the more “natural” aspect so that they flow smoothly from one to another, although at times things can get a little strange.

One thing that puzzled me throughout the series was Cooper’s attempts to distance her symbolism from its obvious place in Christianity. She does this by brushing aside the significance of the crosses in the Signs, by having Merriman state that there’s no “second coming,” and by making everything centered on the importance of man and the charity and good that stems from man, rather than from the Light. What was so puzzling to me is that she ultimately fails to distance the two, even with her not-so-subtle attempts: she has a line in Silver on the Tree which talks about hope not lying dead in a tomb and has blatant symbolism lying in the Signs that can drive back the Dark and in the entire concept of the Light versus the Dark, good versus evil–with good ultimately winning and completely driving back evil. If the series was a person, it would be basically saying, “No, no, don’t read too much into this. Crosses don’t mean Christianity. Look, this is how the Light and the Dark actually work,” but while saying that, it’s wearing a T-shirt that reads “Look at all the symbolism that’s rooted in reality and Christianity!”

Puzzlement (and quibbles about the representation of the Light and the Dark) aside, I do really enjoy this series. I would probably enjoy it even if it didn’t have that odd back-and-forth between “this is Christian symbolism” and “no, this isn’t Christian symbolism.” The books are beautiful fantasies that, yes, are slightly odd at times, but have a nice grounding with the presence of Simon, Jane and Barney. And although they all read a little similarly and Will and Bran sound much older than they are, the books stand out as unique, classic fantasy for their audience.

As always, my favorites, ranked from most to least:

1.) The Grey King

2.) Silver on the Tree

3.) Greenwitch

4.) The Dark is Rising

5.) Over Sea, Under Stone

Next week I’m back to my normal schedule of Tuesday and Thursday, with fairy tales on Friday!

2 thoughts on “Series Week VII: Wrap-Up Of The Dark Is Rising Sequence

  1. The Dark is Rising Sequence actually incorporates on PAGAN symbolism. Not Christian. The sun wheel (a circle quartered by a cross) has been a symbol used since the Bronze age and Susan keeps bringing up the fact that this isn’t Christianity because she knows that Christians do this thing where they take Pagan beliefs and customs then claim they’re Christian. Similar to how a good 90% of Christmas celebrations were taken directly from Yule. I suppose you also think that Christ just happened to be born during the Winter Solstice for instance? Things like the Mari Llwyd and Herne the Hunter come straight from European pagan beliefs. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    • Yes, I am aware of the pagan and mythological background of the series. But I also think that Christian symbolism abounds, regardless of whether or not it’s “really” pagan. And the Christian symbolism is, perhaps, more familiar to most than the pagan and always springs more readily to my mind.

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