Wyrd - Analysis of the Novel


This essay will discuss the novel Wyrd. It will explore some of 
the concepts that are found in the novel and attempt to extend the 
issues to a point at which they become more clear, and prove the 
assertion that, just as Wyrd is a fast moving narrative that spans 
continents and ages, it is a novel of ideas.

 Wyrd was, in length, a short to medium length novel that was 
written by Sue Gough. Briefly, it was the story of Berengaria, 
Saladin's daughter and wife of King Richard. After her husbands death, 
she was moved to a French nunnery with her handmaiden and son, the 
prince (incognito). There she kept an explicit and wise diary, 
recording the events in her life. She founded a healing order, and 
invented a cordial that was surprisingly popular among the village 
folk. She continued to practice Viking religion in subtle ways, and 
encouraged spiritual openness, as opposed to the dogmatic teachings of 
the time, vesting confidence and a sense of worth in her fellow 
devotees. However, she was plagued by her evil anti-thesis, the Abbe 
De Ville, who encouraged her son to join in a 'children's crusade' -- 
and unwise and dangerous religious march. Pat, her son, was eventually 
sold as a slave in the middle east, but the Abbe did not know this and 
told Berengaria the 'news' of his demise. Unable to cope with such a 
revelation, she died and was entombed, as a mummy, with her book 
beneath the priory. Found by two archaeologists in modern times, her 
book was recovered and her tomb destroyed. Sent to a group of 
Australian women (in order to keep it out of the claws of the modern 
De Ville, Professor Horniman), the book found it's way into the hands 
and heart of Trace, a street kid from Sydney, come north as part of a 
modern children's crusade. Unwilling to return to the slums of 
Kings Cross, Trace had found her way to the women's homes and beguiled 
herse-lf of them. To conclude the story, Professor Horniman attempted 
to steal the book, and it was destroyed. All of this was spoken by one 
Dr Renouf (a possible future Trace and modern day Berengaria), in an 
attempt to draw together the warring factions of the middle east. 

 One of the most primary themes in the book, apparent even in the 
summary, is the repetition of events: recurrence and echoing of past 
events and people. The binding threads of time, so to speak, are 
constant and absolute: even in different times, the same forces are 
still at work throughout the novel. The change of setting is 
incidental, and the characters are a constant equalling force. The 
children's crusade, the concepts of war and peace, good and evil 
are all tied together in the plot, past mirroring future. However, 
another theme that is important is the power of the undecided (* - 
wyrd, the blank Viking rune, is the rune of 'maybe'), and the outcomes 
are different -- Professor Horniman was defeated, De Ville was not. 
Although this only lead to Horniman's defeat, it was substantial, and 
the cosmic superbeing could have turned to favour the powers of 'good' 
(Berengaria, Trace, the wyrd sisters/the three women) or 'evil' (De 
Ville/Horniman, war, etc). The future is merely a continuation of the 
past, but events may be replayed. Change only occurred with respect 
for the future, the past remained stained, but was a valuable lesson. 
The repetition of events occurred mainly because lessons of the past 
were unheeded, and present changes are the force behind the it's 
cessation. The blank rune, the undecided future, the last, blank 
page in the old Queen's diary, are all a means by which these events 
can occur: change and exploration of possibilities is vital to allow 
continuation. Who controls the past controls the future only in that 
the past is part of the present and the present is what controls 
future events.

 Another theme, discussed mainly in the book's feminist undertones, 
is one that is heavily discursive of the rules of society. Religious 
dogma, meaningless legal writings, unwritten rules placing different 
people in situations beyond their control, and the concept of elitism 
-- our class system, are all discussed, if briefly, in the texts. Non 
conformity was all but preached: it clearly stated that the rules of 
society, the laws we make for ourselves, are not compatible with the 
needs of the people. Religious laws were obeyed to the letter in the 
main time frame and our own, to a lesser extent because times have 
changed: Berengaria was a nun, and De Ville was an Abbe. The laws that 
govern Christianity are mostly good, but intervention on the part of 
the church, often with the best of intentions, can lead an uneducated 
and oppressed society (like that of, say, medieval England or France) 
into ruins. In the novel, Berengaria was seen to actively opposed 
rules she thought were 'wrong', and refused to submit to the system: a 
self perpetuating autocracy, in which the supreme power lies in the 
ability to bluff and blunder through situations, and keep a crowd 
entertained. Her major disadvantage, at least at that time, was the 
fact that she was a woman: strong, intelligent and a leader, yes, but 
existing in a time and reality that did not judge a person by such 
qualities. Power in our society is driven by corruption, in many 
cases, and hope for the future lies in the powers that be. The same 
was true, to extremes, in Berengaria's time, but her knowledge and 
charisma were not about to be bound by half-truths and lies (the lies 
seeded by her time's power system). In any time and any system 
there are the high, the middle and the low. The aim of the high is to 
stay there, the middle want to get there, and the low want to survive. 
With a few exceptions, a system that acknowledges and works with this 
social and economic hierarchy is one that allows for very little 
personal growth: true now and then. Her system and ours are clearly 
corrupted by this and the novel clearly demands that we do something 
about it. The unwritten, unknowable future is a powerful force here: 
the future is the right place to escape to.

 Another powerful and recurring issue is that of knowledge: it's 
power, importance, and ultimate truths. Learning and self healing are 
important factors discussed by Berengaria in her life and writings, 
factors that affected people in many different ways. She understood 
the importance of understanding and wisdom and shared it with others, 
who gained those qualities and shared it with others.....etc. Learning 
is a mighty influence that can heal wounds and spread enlightenment. 
In many ways it is the only force by which to fight corruption, but 
seeds must be planted. The complete amalgam of knowledge discussed in 
the novel is contained almost wholly in Berengaria's book, which 
planted it's seeds in many ways. It shared it's message of healing and 
medicinal lore with nurses and other assorted healers; it shared it's 
knowledge of love and spirituality with the emotionally recluse, 
encouraging growth and healing; it shared it's artistic beauty and 
knowledge of the assorted wonders of our planet with the artistically 
inclined, enhancing their lives and through them: ours. The concept of 
the search for the self is another constant in this novel: people with 
no identity grow and learn to become their own person, unique and 
independent: through knowledge. It is through knowledge and 
understanding that peace can be won: the hope lies not only in the 
unknown but in the ability to make it the known: through knowledge. 

 This novel is very fast moving. The constant swapping of time 
frames and scenery are affective in drawing the reader in and swiftly 
making the novel's compact point. It is also a novel of ideas: the 
concept of recurring history and unknown future, the rules of law and 
the laws of nature, and the importance of knowledge. Even having 
unravelled the threads of metaphor and elusive historical reference 
that the author has woven into the story, the message remains the same 
at the outset. Times change but people don't -- despite the uplifting 
mores of this novel, the battle of good versus evil continues. 

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