The final book of the space trilogy by C. S. was for me the most absorbing. I found That Hideous Strength to be a true page turner. It describes a cosmic battle between diabolical sterility (symbolized by the moon and championed by a secretive organization) and the blessed messiness of life (championed by a group of inspired refugees in an old English house with a resident bear named Mr. Bultitude).
The conflict is waged in an English university town which serves as a microscosm for the world. The characters and the plot take the reader through feelings of apprehension, fear, introspection, relief, and elation.
Some masterfully timed humor precedes a satisfyingly climactic resolution. As any good fantasy should be, this is a very human story, and its impact is enhanced by supernatural elements. Featuring sinister entities known to certain characters only as Macrobes, the Oyeresu from multiple worlds, a resurrected Merlin, and a nearly perfected Elwin Ransom, this is a story unlike any I have ever read. So slow down, dig in, and enjoy the ride.
Edward Burne-Jones was a well known pre-Raphaelite painter from England. I will feature a number of examples of his work. The painting I have chosen for this week is The Beguiling of Merlin from 1874. As is the case with many paintings of stories from mythology, the full impact comes from knowing the back story (i.e. that which is understood but is not shown).
There are various versions of this account taken from Arthurian legend. Without going into too much detail, the Lady of the Lake, Nimue, captivates Merlin’s fancy and persuades him to teach her his secrets of magic. Once she knows enough, she entraps him in the trunk of a tree while reading aloud from his book of spells.
The painting depicts that stage at which the tree is in the process of closing around Merlin, who is either unable or unwilling to resist his infatuation with the Lady. Merlin, whom we often think of as possessing a white beard, is shown with a clean shaven face of intrigued and perhaps suspicious expression. The tall, striking woman looking down at him while holding an open book away from him serves as the centerpiece of the composition. And, of course, an informed viewer who knows what is in progress might feel a sense of dread.