starlady: (bibliophile)
[personal profile] starlady
So here's the other semi-secret reason that I wanted to finally read Sayers: Garth Nix has talked about having read her books, and now that I have finished The Nine Tailors, I am quite confident in saying that there is quite a bit of Sayers influence lurking in the Old Kingdom novels, which I love forever. You would too if you'd read Sabriel as a highly impressionable twelve-year old. And while the Sayers influence is perhaps most obvious in Ancelstierre, which is basically Sayers-land—I really should only have to write the title of the novella "Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case" to make my point, but suffice it to say that it's a 30s Golden Age country house mystery that makes a left turn into fantasy; and Prince Sameth's fateful cricket match in Lirael now seems highly suggestive in light of MMA—I think that it is palpable in the Old Kingdom too. The fact that bells are the center of the story of T9T, and that the bells are so heavily linked to death and the dead, is highly suggestive, but when this is paired with the fact that Peter, the protagonist, is identified with Death and with sending people to it, or keeping them out of it, for me that tips the suggestive over into surety.

Not only is the association between bells and death notable, but the mottoes on the bells themselves are quite reminiscent of the mottoes that the named swords made by the Wallmakers bear in the Old Kingdom. And, circling back to Ancelstierre again, the very 30s quiet despair and strain of the sequences set in that country in the later Old Kingdom books feels very Sayers too. Some interesting occurrences of slang in T9T also re-occur in the later Old Kingdom novels as proper nouns, which again seems like further evidence of influence (the Eight Bright Shiners who made the Charter against Orannis literally recall the eight named bells in this book, most tellingly), to say nothing of Nick's surname and the name of the Old Kingdom's capital, which I would warrant are both pronounced like the singular version of Sayers' own preferred pronunciation of her name (i.e. all as one syllable).

The rhyme about the making of the Charter in particular sums up a lot of these vague feelings:

I'll sing you a song of the long ago—
Seven shine the shiners, oh!
What did the Seven do way back when?
Why, they wove the Charter then!
Five for the warp, from beginning to end.
Two for the woof, to make and mend.
That's the Seven, but what of the Nine—
What of the two who chose not to shine?
The Eighth did hide, hide all away,
But the Seven caught him and made him pay.
The Ninth was strong and fought with might,
But lone Orannis was put out of the light,
Broken in two and buried under hill,
Forever to lie there, wishing us ill.
(Nix 2002, 703-04)
Speaking of Lirael, I also think that there's something of Shrewsbury in the Clayr and their Glacier. Like Shrewsbury, the Clayr's Glacier is an all-female society, and it displays the same instinctive solidarity for which Peter commends the Shrewsbury dons and which thwarts the poltergeist who wishes them ill. Like Harriet, Lirael spends a good chunk of time longing for that community, but unlike Harriet, she also suffers a good deal because of its solidarity, which she is on the outside of through no fault of her own. And like Harriet, Lirael does flourish on the outside of that community eventually (and in a romantic relationship between equals).
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