Pinhoes and Patriarchs

The Pinhoe Egg, by Diana Wynne Jones – I assume The Chronicles of Chrestomanci includes the books about Chrestomanci in the order in which they were written, rather than chronological order. The mention of Christopher Chant helping an Italian boy implies that this one takes place shortly after The Magicians of Caprona. Not sure when it occurs relative to Witch Week, however. That one has to take place after Charmed Life, but otherwise I don’t think it’s too clear. Not that it really matters, but I’m curious about that kind of thing.

The story itself involves the Pinhoes, a family that uses magic and tries to keep it secret from Chrestomanci, despite the fact that their town is quite close to his castle. Part of the tale is told from the point of view of the young Marianne Pinhoe, the only one who seems to realize that the clan’s Gammer is carrying on a war of witchcraft with the neighboring Farleighs. The rest of it focuses on Eric “Cat” Chant, the protagonist of Charmed Life. Marianne gives Cat an egg that turns out to be that of a griffin, and the resulting hatchling ends up threatening the status quo for the Pinhoes and Farleighs. It’s a quite good story, and features griffins and unicorns, which gives it points in my book. There’s also a lesson about sticking to traditions that you don’t really understand, just because they’re what you’ve always done.

One thing I wondered about after finishing this book was the nature of religion in Chrestomanci’s world. We know that he and his family are regular churchgoers, but I don’t think they’re ever specifically identified as Christians. In The Pinhoe Egg, Millie mentions the coming of a religion “full of zeal and righteousness” that “hated witches and hated the hidden folk even more.” This sounds like Christianity, but Millie goes on to say that the adherents of this religion “were conquered themselves, probably by the Romans,” which suggests otherwise. Then again, we ARE looking at an alternate world here, so who knows what order things happened in there, and whether some other religion took on the trappings that we consider Christian in our own world. Millie would certainly know something about bloodthirsty religion, though, being a former living incarnation of the goddess Asheth.

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4 Responses to Pinhoes and Patriarchs

  1. This was one of my favorite Chrestomanci books (although I can’t be sure, maybe they all are), and it was curiously the first one I ever read (while being aware that I was reading a Chrestomanci book– the time in childhood I read The Lives of Christopher Chant and then promptly forgot about it doesn’t count). So it was funny getting to know Cat here when he’s already aware of his power, and then going back and reading about him in Charmed Life– I do like that the sudden revelation that he’s a hugely powerful enchanter didn’t warp his ego in any noticeable way.

    And I appreciated that the Christians weren’t the bad guys to magic in this universe. Even with historical precedence, the concept is a little old, and it’s nice to see reference that OTHER philosophies can be anti-magic, too. The religious practice in Chrestomanci’s world seems pretty typical C of E, or at least the version of it you usually see on British shows on PBS. And it makes sense that in a world where magic is known to the point of being almost commonplace, it would just sort of be assimilated into the rest of culture like that.

    • Nathan says:

      I always get annoyed when I see someone assume that stories about magic are trying to subvert Christianity, when a lot of them make magic more of an occupation than a belief system.

      • vilajunkie says:

        T. A. Barron’s The Great Tree of Avalon trilogy, a sequel series to his earlier Lost Years of Merlin five-part series, has an antagonist that occasionally seems to be based on Christian priests and monks, but he’s really more like Saruman the White. As in trying to stamp out the magical creatures of Avalon through industrialization in order to raise up humankind as the “true” rulers of the world. But like Saruman, this guy isn’t strictly a mortal human either, more of an incarnation. The religion of Avalon is technically polytheistic, with the Dagda as the head god, but the pantheon functions more like the Powers That Be in Diane Duane’s books and the Valar/Ainur in the Silmarillion. So it’s a group of “good” deities led by a patriarchal figure opposed to an “evil” deity, in this case Rhita Gawr.

  2. Pingback: In Memoriam: Diana Wynne Jones | VoVatia

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