Chrestomanci's timelines

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Aug 8 17:10:23 EDT 2003


Gill Othen wrote in reply to me:

>[At the end of a long post in reply to Robyn, about conflicting
>worldviews, which I have snipped mostly because unless the terms in it
>such as "magic", "asian" and "mediaeval" are defined at least a little
>it seems not to be much use trying to follow it, so many of the words
>being far too large to fit the narrow holes they are being forced into
>- -- to say nothing of "individualist", which is bulging out like
>Throgmorten in a small wickerwork basket]
>
>LOL! You're absolutely right. Though I don't think we've used the term
>"magic" have we? I suppose it's the issue of a mediaeval mindset, which we
>both agree existed, but which I see as being overtaken by more "modern"
>individual-centred thinking rather earlier than Robyn does.

The phrase I was talking about was "divination, magic, alchemy".
Divination and alchemy are fairly specific, and John Dee would've
recognised them as concepts, but I'm by no means sure about "magic":
it's one of those.... well.  Simon Magus, anybody? Or just the witch (as
invented fairly late in the Mediaeval period, I believe...) and her poor
pacts with the devil that gave her the power of flight and the ability
to overlook the neighbour's cow?

Actually and with deference to the both of you, I think the individual
*as an individual* was very important very early, because the unique
nature of each immortal soul certainly turns up in the Venomous Bede,
and if the soul is unique, how can the individual not be deemed to be
so? If Pope Gregory, head of the most heirarchical [sic] organisation
going, was carefully instructing Augustine that each person was
different and should be judged differently according to circumstances
etc, that looks to me pretty-much like official recognition of people as
not being interchangeable spare parts.  Every sparrow, and all that.  If
the sense of self as individual is according to God's Word, it seems to
me that it is likely to have been part of the mindset of a community in
which religion was important.  (So long as one didn't take it all to
Pelagian extremes, of course, which was Heresy because it denied that
God had a part in the business of saving your soul as well as you did
yourself.)

>The Girls' School Story is obviously a Power In The Land in *The Lives of
>Christopher Chant*, and the finishing school in Switzerland is Millie's
>destination at the end of it.<<
>Is it Angela Brazil-tye stuff she admires, do you think? If so, isn't that a
>touch later?

Um. Early twentieth century, published stuff before 1910, according to
my friend at the next carrel with a web-browser.  I don't own any of
Angela Brazil's works myself.  And Blyton was earlier than I had
expected, on the occasion I looked her dates up.

[snip]
>>And Janet says that Gwendolen's clothes look "Edwardian".<<

>You're right - I'd forgotten that. Obviously time to re-read....

Always looking for a good excuse?  :-)

[snip me wondering about time moving at the same rate but things
happening at different paces because of historical differences]

>Isn't there a general sense in which History tends to pull towards the same
>big changes, however the details may vary within a particular Series?

I think that's touched on in *Witch Week*, isn't it? (Time to re-read!
Yippee!)

>>>Janet and Gwendolen and the other seven or however many of her there
>are, are obviously born at the same "time" and living in the same
>age-of-the-world even if the worlds they are doing it in have aged at
>different rates or in different ways.<<
>At the point of crossover between their worlds, yes.

So the massive differences between Janet's and Gwendolen's worlds are
maybe partly due to magic being or not-being present, and partly to some
of the historical differences like discovery or not of America by
Europeans.  And in that case the Italian States might have ended up
being Balkanised, and for all we know the Balkans didn't!

>>>I've wondered this on and off for a while.  It's very difficult to make it
>satisfactory when history is so obviously wildly off-whack but individuals
>within it are as near as makes no odds identical, with identical parents and
>so forth.  Does DWJ anywhere suggest that only a very few people are
>"identicals", in the same way that the nine-lifed are rare (though not so
>much so)?  I mean, if medicine develops at different rates, wouldn't average
>life-expectancy also be greater or lesser, and the infant mortality rates
>eliminate scads of population who in better conditions would survive and
>breed?  Things like that.<<

>Magic would make a difference, thoug, wouldn't it? Not in a simplistic,
>Madam Pomfrey sort of way, but in the sense that in Cat and Gwendolen's
>world it replaces some aspects of technology. 

Yes, that makes sense; but would that hold things back, or speed them
up?  I can't see why it would necessarily tend to slow things.  Except
that if that's the reason, then it evidently has.  Which is why I was
looking for other possible reasons to go along with it.

>I don't get the impression
>that Janet's parents are the exact equivalent of the Chants, though. Do you?

Just before the "Dear Replacement" letter is found, Janet says they are
both tall and fair like Cat's and that they were first cousins like his;
and their surname is Chant.  They sound pretty close, to me.

>Lots to think about there, though.

I wish you luck with it: every time I think I have something nailed
down, something else slithers in and I have to re-think it.

And of course re-read.

<reaches for *Witch Week*>

Minnow
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