Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Gilman, Greer Ilene

(1951-    ) US writer whose Moonwise (1991) remarkably attempts to compose an entire long fantasy at a pitch and density of language reminiscent of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1899). It is a work of quite mind-clouding complexity, whose narrative is literally its most superficial layer. Deeper, it describes a mythology of the cycle of the Seasons, with the light and dark of the Moon characterized as warring sister-goddesses; they are also a thorn-tree and a standing stone (representing life and death). The dark sister has sought to turn a circle of world-dancers from time's beginning into stone in order to freeze Time in winter and give her eternal victory. On another level the entire novel is a web of wordplay and symbols, of doublings and mirrorings and correspondences that spell the pattern of the text. GIG's deep knowledge of English etymology (including dialectal variations) charges every word with all its possible meanings.

Protagonists Ariane and Sylvie form a Duo whose sobriquet "silly sisters" connects them directly to the folk album Silly Sisters by Maddy Prior and June Tabor; Ariane and Sylvie are thus explicitly marked as singers, artists. (Traditional folk music is another significant layer of the text.) They are also themselves aspects of the Witches Malykorne and Annis. In one explicit doubling, Ariane and Sylvie go Into the Woods once and return to Sylvie's house, then go back to the woods to enact a solstice Ritual calling forth the Otherworld of Cloud which they had invented as childhood friends. Ariane's much-commented-on clumsiness causes her to be left behind when Sylvie crosses the Threshold.

There follows a nearly fatal stasis of narrative with Ariane sleeping, dreaming, waking, sleeping again; she dreams of finding in the woods a Liminal Being she names Craobh, whom, when she wakes, she indeed finds; Craobh is the last dancer not turned to stone, and she gives Ariane her soulstone to carry. At great length they set forth on a Quest (accompanied by a tinker, Cloudwood) to find Sylvie in Cloud and prevent Annis's victory. The final wedding is a Licenza which firmly roots the mythological back into the everyday.

Moonwise is a work of inexhaustible richness. [DK]

Greer Ilene Gilman


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.