[DWJ] News from the archive - The Spellcoats

Hannah Green hannah.green at sevenstories.org.uk
Thu May 19 05:30:08 EDT 2011

I've started into cataloguing Diana's drafts for her published works, beginning with the Dalemark series, and have found some interesting early material relating to The Spellcoats.

The archive contains a complete manuscript draft of The Spellcoats which is substantially the same as the published book in terms of plot and characterisation, although there are some differences in the structure and ordering of some passages, and of course differences in description where passages have been refined in the rewriting process.

However, alongside this complete manuscript is a fragment of what appears to be an early attempt at the story.  This fragment places the focus on Hern as the protagonist, rather than Tanaqui - the opening reads "Hern loved the River.  He did not know how much, until it was decreed he should not go near it."  There is no war against the Heathen which takes Closta and Gull away from home; indeed, Gull does not appear at all - the family consists of Closta (he starts out as Closti, but mid-way through the fragment becomes Closta), Robin, Hern, Tanaqui and Duck. Rather, when cows and children begin dying from the River fever, Closta is blamed and is eventually arrested and imprisoned in the schoolhouse.  The children find themselves besieged by the villagers in their own house, and the story breaks off, after 3 chapters, with the children wondering how they are going to rescue their father.  The fragment is only 18 pages long, which suggests Diana decided fairly quickly that she didn't like the direction the story was taking and started again.  It also contains a few more clues as to the identity and role of the Undying Ones than is found in the early chapters of the published book.

A fascinating insight into Diana's creative process and, I'm sure, the first of many!
Hannah Green
Seven Stories, the Centre for Children's Books
Design Works, William Street, Felling, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear NE10 0JP
Tel. 01914952707
E-mail: hannah.green at sevenstories.org.uk<mailto:hannah.green at sevenstories.org.uk>

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