LAVONDYSS also titled Lavondyss: Journey to an Unknown Region is a
fantasy novel by British writer
Robert Holdstock , the second book in
Mythago Wood series.
Lavondyss was originally published in 1988.
The name of the novel hints at the real and mythological locales of
Avalon and Dis ; within the novel
Lavondyss is the
name of the remote, ice-age heart of Ryhope wood.
Despite having a new primary character,
Lavondyss is a sequel to
Mythago Wood because several characters provide links between the
novels; the events in
Mythago Wood set into motion events that drive
the protagonists' actions in Lavondyss.
Lavondyss has won, or been nominated to, several fantasy literature
* 1 Plot introduction
* 2 Plot summary
* 3 Human characters
* 4 Mythagos
* 5 Critical commentary and awards
* 6 Chronology of works in the
Mythago Wood cycle
* 7 References
* 8 Sources
* 9 External links
Tallis Keeton, the younger sister of Harry Keeton (from Mythago
Wood), is the protagonist of the story.
Lavondyss starts with Tallis's
grandfather and his efforts to write down some of his encounters with
the mythagos from the nearby Ryhope Wood; Tallis is still a baby at
this point. The story soon jumps forward a few years to where Tallis
and her development are concentrated upon - it is at this point that
the story shows her developing relationship with the land around her
house and the mythagos emerging from Ryhope wood. This development
continues throughout the book as periods in her life from baby to
child to teenager to young woman are shown to the reader. As Tallis'
shamanistic powers grow, she undertakes a quest in Ryhope wood to find
her lost brother and undergoes a metamorphosis of her own.
During her formative years, Tallis encounters the British composer
Ralph Vaughan Williams (not a mythago, but real flesh and blood).
Tallis sings him a song that she thinks she has made up herself, but
the composer identifies its tune as that of a folk song he has
collected personally in
Norfolk . Slowly Tallis's links with the wood
intensify. She makes ten chthonic wooden masks, each of which
represents one of the ten first legends in Ryhope wood. Within the
context of the story, these masks are talismans that help to engage
certain parts of her subconscious and so link her with the characters
and landscapes which are forming within the wood. When properly used
(especially later in the book), these masks allow Tallis to see things
that cannot be seen without them, and they can also be used to create
'Hollowings' — pathways in space and time which allow her to step
into far-off places within the wood which would otherwise take days,
weeks, or even months to travel to on foot. Tallis makes the masks in
the following order:
* The Hollower — made from elm, this female mask is painted red
this mask is known as "the flight of a bird into an unknown region".
* Silvering — the second of three journey masks is painted in
colored circles; this mask is known as "the movement of a salmon into
the rivers of an unknown region". The Silvering is also the name of a
short story included in Merlin\'s Wood .
* Cunhaval — the third of three journey masks is made from elder
wood; this mask is known as "the running of a hunting dog through the
forest tracks of an unknown region".
* Moondream — made from beechwood, this mask is painted with moon
symbols on its face. This mask plays a prominent role in The Hollowing
* Sinisalo — made from wych elm and painted white and azure, this
mask is known as "seeing the child in the land".
* Morndun — this mask appears dead from the front, but alive from
behind and is known as "the first journey of a ghost into an unknown
Before setting foot in the wood, Tallis has one particular encounter
that has major repercussions through the rest of the story: with the
'help' of one of the mythagos, she 'hollows' (creates a Hollowing) and
observes Scathach, a young warrior, dying on a battlefield beneath a
tree. Tallis' misdirected magic used to help this young warrior
changes both her story and Harry Keeton's story in Ryhope wood.
Deep within Ryhope wood Tallis eventually meets up with Edward
Wynne-Jones (human, not mythago) who was only mentioned in Mythago
Wood. He is now living in the wood as a shaman to a small village of
ancient people. Through his understanding of the wood (which he
studied with the scientist George Huxley from the first book), Tallis
herself gains an understanding of her connections with all that
surrounds her; most importantly, she asks him how she might find her
lost brother Harry Keeton.
A 2004 paperback edition of
Lavondyss with cover art by Larry
Rostant EDWARD GAUNT An older man who is a gardener and keeper of
livestock who tends to the Keeton's farm. He is familiar with Ryhope
wood and lives in a nearby cottage. HARRY KEETON A local ex-RAF pilot
whose whereabouts in Rhyhope wood are unknown at the conclusion of
Mythago Wood. JAMES KEETON Father to Harry and Tallis. James plays a
prominent role in The Hollowing, a sequel to Lavondyss. MARGARET
KEETON Tallis' mother and James Keeton's wife. OWEN KEETON
Grandfather to Harry and Tallis. Owen dies when Tallis is an infant,
but leaves behind a book with important notes for her. TALLIS KEETON
Younger half sister of Harry Keeton and protagonist of the story.
Tallis is precocious and has innate shamanistic powers, even as a
child. Tallis was born in 1944 and is named after the early Welsh poet
Taliesin . RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS The composer appears as himself,
aged eighty-four when Tallis is thirteen. EDWARD WYNNE-JONES A
researcher in historical anthropology who teaches at Oxford University
. Wynne-Jones is a diminutive and fussy man who smokes a pipe. He is
approximately the same age as George Huxley. Together Wynne-Jones and
George Huxley study Ryhope Wood extensively in the 1930s. Wynne-Jones
makes scientific equipment designed to interact with the paranormal in
Ryhope Wood. Wynne-Jones disappears into Ryhope Wood in April 1942.
BROKEN BOY This mythago is a great stag of local legend. Broken Boy
always appears in an injured state, being lame due to an arrow
inflicted wound. SCATHACH This male mythago is the youngest of three
brothers. His older brothers are
Mordred and Arthur . This mythago is
of romantic interest to Tallis and she intervenes in his mythological
role. TIG This male mythago appeared briefly in a neolithic village
Mythago Wood and reappears with a more significant role in
Lavondyss. Tig also appears in the tale Earth and Stone, first
published in the collection titled
The Bone Forest
The Bone Forest .
CRITICAL COMMENTARY AND AWARDS
Like most sequels
Lavondyss has been compared to its predecessor
Mythago Wood, and it differs in many ways. Technically
set in the 1950s and has a third person narrative viewpoint; Mythago
Wood is set in the 1940s with the first person narrative viewpoint. In
terms of content,
Lavondyss has a 'darker tone' than
Mythago Wood due
to its relentless focus "on the earth, stone, blood, dung, and death
that are the necessary roots of the story."
John Clute describes
Ryhope wood in
Lavondyss as a "metamorphic terrain of daunting rigor,
an excremental sign-saturated inscape charged with twisting energy."
He goes on to call the final chapters "superbly deranging and
intense", concluding that "
Lavondyss begins to seem like a thing in
itself, inexplicable and gravid."
Mythago Wood and
Lavondyss have been described as being significant
because they are pure fantasy works that take place in an innovative,
yet startlingly ordinary realm. Holdstock’s writing in these works
has been described as an impressive mixture of poetic style and
sensitivity. The Rhyhope wood series is considered to be "one of the
landmark fantasy series of the late twentieth century."
Mythago Wood and
Lavondyss have been described by Michael D. C. Drout
as being two of Holdstock’s best works which, as fantasies, have an
internally consistent framework of principles. These works are noted
as dealing with the traditions of the British Isles with originality
and deftness by incorporating its unwritten culture, including the
Morris dances , the
Green Man , Shamanism,
Neolithic tribespeople, and
pre-Roman Celtic traditions. Death and mortal remains are also
prominent and disturbing parts of these works.
Lavondyss rises above the generic nature of genre fiction and
approaches literary fiction in its complexity.
John Clute gives the
work mixed praise and describes
Lavondyss as "half pedantry and
proselytizing , half an epiphany of metamorphosis that reads like
braille , it is a book whose appalling sincerity puts to shame the
Celtic junk it fleetingly resembles."
Lavondyss has won a number of awards including the
BSFA Award for
Best Novel in 1988.
CHRONOLOGY OF WORKS IN THE MYTHAGO WOOD CYCLE
The order in which the Mythago cycle works were written/published
does not necessarily correspond to the order of events within the
realm of the
Mythago Wood cycle. For example, Gate of Ivory, Gate of
Horn and the novella
The Bone Forest