The Duncton Chronicles – inspiration and acknowledgement

Since Duncton Wood was first published in 1979, William Horwood has received thousands of letters from readers asking about the conception and writing of what has become a fantasy classic. He has been able to provide some answers through correspondence and at a limited number of public talks. However, now that The Duncton Chronicles trilogy is published, and a companion volume, Duncton Tales, is complete, William Horwood has felt able to record the true and full answers to these questions – and the many more that lie behind the strange, sometimes painful, sometimes inspiring story of Duncton Wood’s creation.

Molelovers, and anymole else, who would like more details of his work should write to William Horwood at P.O. Box 446, Oxford OX1 2SS.

William Horwood – acknowledgements

Duncton Wood
My thanks to the Scottish University Press for permission to quote, and translate into mole language, passages of the graces and invocations in Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica; and to the University of California Press for extracts from Patrick K. Ford’s translation The Poetry of Llywarch Hen. The verse of pages 489-490 is based on a poem by the sixteenth-century poet William Dunbar.

The stait of mole dois change and vary,
Now sound, now seik, now blith, now sary,
Now dansand mery, now like to dee,
Our plesance heir is all vaneglory,
This fals warld is bot transitory,
The flesh is brukle, the dark is sle,
We that in heill wes, and gladnes,
Are trublit now with gret siknes
And feblit with infermite …

Special acknowledgement to the authors of the two standard British works on moles – G. Godfrey and P. Crowcroft, The Life of the Mole (Collins, London), and K. Mellanby, The Mole (Collins, London) – whose work is as loving as it is scholarly. Each of these authors will know where I have used artistic licence, and any exaggerations or errors are entirely my own.
I am grateful to Valerie Gilmore of Oxford and London, to whom I owe much of my knowledge of healing; to Lowri Gwilym, of Trefenter, Wales, for the translations into Welsh; to my father, Chesney Horwood, Emeritus Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, for help with Middle English; to the Trustees of Wytham Wood near Oxford for permission to carry out research on their land; and to Marjorie Edwards for typing a difficult manuscript.
Special thanks to Shefri Safran, my literary agent, and Judy Todd, my editor at Country Life, for their continued help.
Finally, no words can repay the debt I owe my former wife Janet, whose consistent loyalty and support made the writing so much easier.

Duncton Found
My thanks to the Scottish University Press for permission to quote, and translate into mole language, passages from the graces and invocations in Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica.
Readers often ask what the sources of the key spiritual and religious elements are in the Duncton Books. Although I am no longer a Christian it will be plain that the Gospels are a prime source. Two essentially Buddhist texts have been constant companions in my study and on my travels: Chogyam Trungpa’s Shambhala (Shambhala Publications, 1985) and Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Trans. Nobuyuki Yuasa, Penguin, 1966). I have also found M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled (Rider, 1985) and The Different Drum (Rider, 1987) very helpful, the latter especially with Duncton Found.
A work as long and complex as Duncton Chronicles makes exceptional demands on its publisher, and particularly its editors. My own have done far more than readers can ever know, or perhaps care to believe, to correct my many errors at manuscript stage regarding whatmole was with whom, when, where, and why, and other matters editorial. My warm thanks therefore to Peter Lavery, Ann Suster, Victoria Petrie-Hay, and to Pamela Norris, who between them turned Duncton Found from an idea into a book with such professionalism and good cheer.
Duncton Quest and Duncton Found could not have been written without the love, support and help of my partner Debbie Crawshaw, and nor would the last months of writing Duncton Found have been so happy without the presence and pleasures of our newly born son, Joshua.

Wolf Brother: the movie

The movie version of Michelle Paver’s highly successful fantasy novel Wolf Brother was first scheduled for a 2007 US release but news has been think on the ground since. Encouragingly though is the fact that Ridley Scott’s name is still attached to the film, due to be distributed by 20th Century Fox.

In getting Ridley Scott to direct the movie they have employed possibly the greatest living director, his portfolio includes Blade Runner, Gladiator, Thelma & Louise, Alien and American Gangster. Most directors would be proud to be associated with only one of the above films.

Scott’s availability may be the cause of the slow start in filming the movie as I guess that he has a pretty busy schedule and currently has eight movies in pre-production.

We will keep you updated as to any developments.

The best fantasy characters

GandalfThe fantasy genre has always been very good at portraying characters that are good or evil. In recent times this distinction has become blurred due to the new breed of authors creating sympathetic villians and flawed heroes.

We have put together a collection of our favourite characters from the fantasy genre. We have focused mainly on the best known and loved characters. Please feel free to email us with your favourite characters and we will add them to our list.

We will begin with the Lord of The Rings. Where better to start? In the good corner we have Gandalf, a kindly, yet powerful wizard who is a friend to all Hobbits. Gandalf is possibly one of the most readily identifiable characters in fantasy, from his first appearance in The Hobbit through to his starring role in The Lord of the Rings, he became known within and outside fantasy circles.

Ged from The Wizard of EarthseaWe will stay with wizards for our next selection. Ged, or Sparrowhawk, the young boy who becomes a Wizard in Ursuala Le Guin‘s Earthsea series is an endearing character whom we follow for childhood through to old age. He is a character that we can all identify with in that although he always tries to do good, there is always a darker side to us that is fighting the other way. He is, in our opinion, the greatest wizard in fantasy after the great Gandalf. If you want to read more about The Earthsea books, we have a full review of The Earthsea Quartet on this site.

Let’s move on and look at an character that would be classified as evil…

We have gone for Lord Foul, “The Despiser” from Stephen Donaldson‘s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant to be our first evil character. In a style similar to Sauron, he never appears in the flesh in the books but his spoken word is pure venow. His aim is to break the Arch of Time and gain revenge upon his enemy “The Creator”. Lord Foul oozes unpleasentness and evil throughout the series and his harm is often more pyschological than physical in its manisfestation.

Bilbo BagginsBilbo Baggins, no further explanation is needed! Bilbo has been enchanting readers for over fifty years. A comfort-loving Hobbit and star of the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo’s reluctant adventures in The Hobbit remain with anybody who has ever read and enjoyed the books. Perhaps it his unwillingness that makes him more appealing than most, a Hobbit who would be quite happy at home with the kettle boiling, he finds himself in conversations with a dragon, meeting trolls and fighting at the Battle of Five Armies. Bilbo has indeed taken his rightful place amongst the best-known literary characters.

Druss the LegendIf you prefer your heroic fantasy characters then David Gemmell‘s Druss the Legend should keep you going for years. He is an old-fashioned hero, a man not without flaws but a great man who lives by a code of decency. He can combat unsurmountable odds and even travel into the Netherworld to help friends. In Druss, Gemmell has given us a hero worth the name.

I think that David Gemmell was the foremost writer of heroic fantasy. Druss will appeal to readers of all ages and in Sieben, his loyal friend we have a great partnership that brings humour into a world full of violence, hurt and sadness. If you have never read any eroic fantasy before, give this a try, you will not be sorry. Read our review for Druss in The Legend of Deathwalker here.

There have been a couple of excellent suggestions since this page was first published in 2008 (the date today is July 4, 2011). They were for Tyrion Lannister from the ever popular G. R. R. Martin series, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Bartimaeus, the irascible djinni for Jonathan Stroud’s wonderful trilogy for older children and young-adults. So, without any further ado, here is a little information on both. If you have any other suggestions, please feel leave to leave them in a comment below.

Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion Lannister, a character in G. R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, is a misshapen dwarf nicknamed The Imp and The Halfman. He is capable of cruelty to his enemies but capable of great sympathy for fellow outcasts.

Bartimaeus
Bartimaeus, the titular character of The Bartimaeus Trilogy is a sarcastic and cheeky djinni of the fourth level and 5,000 years old at the beginning of the first book. His many masters have included Gilgamesh, Solomon, Ptolemy, Tycho Brahe, Faust, Zarbustibal, and, most recently, the British boy magician Nathaniel (known as John Mandrake to his peers), who is his master for the duration of the trilogy. His trademark cheekiness and wry, often hilarious side comments annotate the novels. Enjoying insulting his master for appearance, emotions, and stupidity, the chapters that he narrates often contain humorous footnotes that add information on the nature of spirits and his history. Although he is only a middle-class djinni, his quick wits often save him in difficult situations. He has a fairly large ego, due to his many accomplishments over the ages and often becomes indignant when forced to work with jobs he considers “unworthy of his talents”. He is fairly powerful for a Djinn, but has often been forced to retreat against stronger foes such as Jabor. He continually boasts of his many exploits.