A Psychological Interpretation

CARYS – trapped between childhood and adolescence.

Carys’s journey to adulthood has stalled.

She wears black because it’s neutral. It isn’t how a child dresses, for children love colour. But it isn’t how fashion-conscious adolescents dress either, unless they identify with the goth culture, which Carys doesn’t. Carys is caught between childhood and adolescence. With her father and elder brother gone and her mother losing her mind, Carys’s journey from child to adult has stalled.

This is why she feels instantly drawn to Bethany and Zach. She likes Beth ‘despite her silliness’ because she is a link to the childhood that Carys can never recapture, while she likes Zach because of his maturity beyond his years – intellectually, at least. He knows what he wants to be – an archeologist – and is already working towards his adult goal. Suzy, his dog, is a link with Carys’s childhood, for it reminds her of her games with Vala.

Adulthood looms like a black hole trying to suck Carys into a world she’s not prepared for and the Rod is a key to that world, since it seems to offer a link to her missing father. When she goes down the well, facing up to the black hole of her nightmare fears, she finds the ‘key’ and is reunited with her father. From that moment she is on the road to freedom out of the neutral, black zone she’d been trapped in. She will have setbacks – there’s a lot to learn and she’s on a crash course, but she particularly impresses in her interviews with her mother and her brother, and then in the way she takes full responsibility for the final solution.

In the last chapter, when she comes down dressed in blue jeans and a yellow top, everyone cheers. I cheer as well because Carys is making a statement that she’s moved out of neutral and is on her way, a statement which she echoes when she says she doesn’t need a bigger swing. The swing belongs to her childhood and she’s putting away childish things.

One could say that the story is Carys’s odyssey to find her father, to re-establish her relationship with him as no longer child-parent, but adolescent-parent. This is a huge step in father-daughter relationships, when the father sees for the first time the truth, that his little girl will one day be a woman. Maybe that’s why Bryn never got round to making the swing bigger – it symbolises how he wanted to keep Carys always as his little girl.

So maybe Dad was never ‘gone’ at all. Maybe the whole story can be interpreted as a parable, a dream of a girl’s journey from child to adolescent, a quest to find her father – but he’ll have to be a ‘new’ father. And she will also have to face her own dread of no longer being Daddy’s little girl.

Somebody told me the cover is misleading. I presume she meant because of the girl, who one assumes is Carys, but she appears to have a little child’s figure – though her legs are too long and her hair reminds one of the 13-yr-old Carys’s long hair. What’s going on? It is certainly confusing, but is it misleading? Not at all. For besides being seen as the moon shining down, the silver circle, as we learn in the story, is also a well. The cover picture can be seen as though Carys the child is at the bottom of the well, the black hole of her fears, on her childhood swing, being battered and pulled (and literally stretched) into an adolescent. The silver circle of the ‘moon’ can therefore be seen as the hole at the top of the well, the light of adulthood to which she should be aspiring – that’s why it is such an inspiring moment when the Rod sends a column of light up the well, and she ascends where it had led.

The role of Balimm bears close examination in the light of these interpretations.

In a rite of passage book like this, time is obviously of supreme significance. The action happens almost in ‘real’ time, with very few gaps. One hugely unrealistic element is how little sleep the protagonists get. Especially Carys. So the ‘real’ time is clearly ‘fantasy’ time – three days and nights, climaxing at dawn on Sunday. That rings bells for me.

Aranrhod was a moon goddess, which is why there are 30 chapters … and we see her tripping daintily across the sky as we turn the chapters of the story. Carys loved to watch the old apple tree as it changed appearance through the seasons, from the security of her bedroom, and so can we, since the apple tree that heads each chapter goes through the four seasons.

All of the above might be psychobabble and The Legend is simply a ripping yarn – which of course it is as well! But I do like stories that have many layers of interpretation. None of the above is ever explicit in the story, but maybe adults in particular, maybe fathers with daughters or women who remember being daddy’s little girl, do subconsciously register Carys’s psychological odyssey as a journey they have witnessed or experienced. As the father of a grown-up daughter, I certainly do and it’s one reason my eyes are never completely dry, no matter how many times I read the last chapter.

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