Remembering Mythago Wood (RIP Robert Holdstock 1948-2009)

Over the years, I’ve read many fantasy books. Most of them have pretty much spiraled into the black abyss of my mind known as unmemory. Occasionally they would emerge without warning, especially if I’m reading a book that’s similar in plot (hey, didn’t I read this same thing some time ago? What was the name of that book? Ah, it’s just on the tip of my tongue…I know I read it!)

But there are other books I remember instantly, the entire plot, the author’s name, heck–even some of the passages.  These are books that I return to every ten years or so (which reminds me, it’s been a while since I read The Innkeeper’s Song by Peter S. Beagle.  Better get that on my reading list). Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock is one of those books.

How old was I when I first read it? Had to be my senior year of high school. Maybe even younger than that. By the time I got into college, I had read it so many times, I could see it as a movie in my head. Sean Austin would play Stephen Huxley, I forget who I had as the evil older brother. Most likely Corey Feldman, back when he was still cool. And the fae-like Guiwenneth would be played, of course, by me–so what she was of Celtic origin and had red hair? It wouldn’t be hard to make a few changes. Hollywood does it all the time!

I even had the ending theme music and the subsequent music video with Seal’s "Kiss From a Rose"–because every movie in the 80s and 90s had to have a music video showing the best and/or emotional scenes from the movie. (Hey, I still remember the entire movie music video for the Lost Boys…don’t remember the song’s name, but man, awesome video. That had both Coreys in it–Feldman and Haim. Remember when the Coreys were cool? Stop looking at me like that!)

What I loved about Mythago Wood was the wood itself. I’ve always loved forest stories, especially when they involved unusual beings living in them. Fairies, wood sprites, elves. Part of that stems from my own childhood–our backyard was next to a trainyard, with a thicket of wood separating the two. It didn’t keep the noise out (ah yes, there were days when my room literally shook when the trains rumbled by–when I had friends over and they freak out, I’d look at them and go, "What?" Didn’t faze me at all), but it did hide our view from the train tracks. The best part was that the forest growth extended into our backyard about 10 feet, so it was like having our own tiny forest preserve. My sisters and I played there for hours, playing Robin Hood and King of the Castle.

So you see how a book like Mythago Wood could be so magical to me. I had a copy of the book that I read over and over, then just like that, I lost it. Since then, I barely thought about the book, not until Monday, when I heard that Robert Holdstock died. It saddened me to hear that.

My extent of reading Holdstock’s work was that and a short story collection he did (which had a memorable tale of a science experiment of observing two people age far beyond the normal span of human years. That creepy tale always stuck with me). Then, I just sort of forgot about Holdstock, just like I forgot about his book. Just now, while I was doing research to write this blog, I learned that there were more books after Mythago Wood, including a couple of sequels.

That saddens me even more.

But only for a little bit. I think the best homage I can do for Mr. Holdstock is to go get me another copy of Mythago Wood. Then to actually read the sequels. It would be good to go to the woods again and see what myths sneak up this time around.

R.I.P. Mr. Holdstock. and thanks for stirring up this girl’s imagination.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi … I loved your posting. I hope you do read his “sequels”. I have a hard time calling them that because they don’t really rely on one another. One book is very different from another. However, Lavondyss seems to be the one that really grabs the attention.

    I just learned of his death yesterday but his books are as much a part of my soul as my friends and family.

    It is too bad he wasn’t better known, but I have found that those who do know and like his works are of a very special sort.

  2. Thanks! yes, I definitely got the sequels on my reading pile.

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