University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

‘Is Our Future Set in Stone? A Discussion of Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness.’

Webb, Jean ORCID: (2009) ‘Is Our Future Set in Stone? A Discussion of Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness.’. In: Deep Into Nature: Ecology, Environment and Children’s Literature. Pied Piper Press, Lichfield, pp. 258-267. ISBN 978 0 9552106 9

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Michelle Paver’s series Chronicles of Ancient Darkness which is currently comprised of four of the six projected books: Wolf Brother (2005), Spirit Walker (2006), Soul Eater (2006) and Outcast (2007) is set in the Stone Age. The location is an indeterminate place somewhere in Northern Europe. The period is when people lived very closely with their environment. Paver’s social structure is organised into different clans associated with wild life and the landscape, for example the Wolf Clan. Torak is the young hero was raised by wolves and has a destiny of which he is growingly aware through the series. The series circulates about the organisation of society into clans; the close physical and mystical relationship with nature and the environment and the central role that the younger generation have in the mystical destiny of their peoples.

As Western culture becomes increasingly urbanised the relationship of the subject with nature and the environment is ever more that of the civilised observer, for example with zoos and nature reserves. There is also the growing threat to the natural world emanating from climate change and the destruction of, for example, forests for commercial development. Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness recount a closely researched history of life in the Stone Age combined with the fictional social world. This paper will consider the construction of Paver’s world and the implications it has for consideration by the reader of the current environmental and social problems which are faced in Western culture. Some reference will also be made to Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books which during a period of British imperialism, differently constructed the social world of Mowgli and his journey of self-discovery in order to produce a ‘moral guide book’ for the inheritors of the empire. Paver’s protagonists are also on journeys of self-discovery; their task is to save their world.

By removing the reader from contemporary ‘normality’ into a pre-historic period Paver can obliquely critique the contemporary situation in Western culture. For example, embedded in the series are considerations of racism and multi-culturalism; environmental awareness; the problematisation of the contemporary scientifically driven world where the sense of mystery and that which cannot be understood is technically removed and the situating of the child subject is one where the expectation is that ‘they ought to be able to know and understand’ unlike Torak’s world where there is a respect for mysticism and spirituality; the notion of the independence of the child subject is also a consideration since children (particularly in the UK) are increasingly protected both by institutional fear of litigation in the case of accidents and by the social fear of the hostility of the urbanised environment..

Item Type: Book Section
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Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Michelle Paver, ecology, environment, natural world, children's literature
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Jean Webb
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2010 11:29
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 16:53

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