Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Tom Doherty, New York,1984

I own this one and it is my first read for Once Upon a Time VMythago Wood won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1985, it  started out as a novella first published in 1981.

Set in the years just following World War II, Mythago Wood is the story of Steven and Christian Huxley and the house and land they have inherited following their father’s mysterious death.  Steven returns from the war to find his older brother enthralled and obsessed by Ryhope Wood, an ancient forest that appears to be no more then about three miles square.  But it is much bigger on the inside…

The wood is actually a parallel world, inhabited by mythagos, monsters, animals and humans created by the unconscious memories of the humans that surround it.  These mythical beings are archetypes that vary depending the time period, thoughts and imaginings of the humans creating them.  Steven and Christian’s father, George, spent years studying the woods and he has populated it with a great mix of creatures, some peaceful, some dangerous.  When Christian finally disappears into Ryhope , and Steven meets a mysterious girl named Guiwenneth, he reads his father’s notes, discovers the truth about the place and eventually journeys into the deep darkness to save Guiwenneth and  his brother.

The whole idea of the woods, held apart from interference and protected from change by its own defenses and the mythical beings that inhabit it is an interesting bit of world building.  In some ways it reminds me of Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson.  I found the wood and the mythical beings capturing my attention far more than the human characters, but I always did have a soft spot for monsters.  This fantasy is well constructed if somewhat dated.

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9 Comments

Filed under Fantasy, Review, World Fantasy Award

9 responses to “Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

  1. Wait, what is Green Mansions about? I think I must have the absolutely wrong impression of it. I love the plot synopsis of this book, but it sounds like you didn’t love it altogether. Should I read Green Mansions instead?

    • If I remember correctly Green Mansions is the story of a young man who runs into the jungle somewhere in South America and meets a strange wild girl. It is a very early 20th century, civilized British subject meets and falls in love with nature girl romance. Stick with Mythago Wood!

  2. I have nothing against monsters, but that cover creeps me out. It reminds me of one of those old war helmet thingies.

  3. This sounds interesting, post WWII. I like the idea of the wood. I always love these forests in fantasy stories.

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  5. I wanted to love this book, the idea of mythagos appealed to me so much – it’s the way I feel it *ought* to be – but I had to really battle my way through it. Maybe he shouldn’t have expanded it from a novella!

    • You know, I think you are right. There were parts that I struggled with and it would have been more enjoyable as a shorter work!

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