CA 2013- The Romans in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence

Abstract

In the final book of Cooper’s teenage fantasy series, Will Stanton time-travels to a Roman encampment in order to fulfil part of his mission and end the ancient battle between Light and Dark. This paper investigates the position of the classical past and classical knowledge in a series consciously steeped in Celtic and Norse mythology. It suggests that understanding of Latin and the study of archaeology is used to signify education and understanding throughout the series. It also demonstrates how the segment in the last book aims to evoke some of the key themes of the book.

Across the series small references are made to archaeology. One of the key characters is represented as being a professor and various items and artefacts are described as going to or being seen in museums. Although insignificant to the plot this intimates a respect for and familiarity with antiquity which permeates the novels. The author even notes that she has deliberately transplanted Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s excavation of Caerleon to the contemporary period for the key sequence and thus allows her readers to connect real scholarship with the realm of the magical.

Whilst describing the trip to the Roman period in Wales, Cooper chooses to highlight the dichotomy between native and foreigner but despite her discussion of Welsh opposition to English encroachments the tone is non-judgemental. Instead the key turning point of the section is the sensation of homesickness which draws on the ideas of connection to one’s land and family. Furthermore, the speaking Roman soldier both recognises the changes in society he represents but also that he is alien to his setting just like Will is displaced in time.

Overall, this paper shows that even in a British mythology steeped in Celticism there is a place for the Classics.

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