Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Ward & a Wyrm-biblical themes nestled in a northern tale

A Review of:

The Ward of Heaven and The Wyrm in the Sea by Colin J. Cutler

Eden Books 2012 79 pages

Have you ever wondered what the biblical stories of beginnings and endings would sound like if they came covered or nestled into the imagery and words of Norse sagas? A new writer who loves, as J.R.R. Tolkien did, the ancient northern myths and legends has written a small book which does just that—The Ward of Heaven and the Wyrm in the Sea , written by Colin J. Cutler, begins with a sea storm, a mystified and scared young sailor and an ancient man of wisdom who speaks the tales. The tales begin with the Father of All who speaks into existence a hall, Mortaigh, with a hearth and a board for feasting.

From this place comes a great fall of one of the spirits created from the flame in the hearth. And a battle ensues within the hall with finally the spirit, Vrigthar, and his fellow rebels defeated. Vrigthar becomes at the touch of the Father of All’s hand “a foul wyrm writhing on the floor-boards, spewing filth out of his toothed jaws.” Next a terrestrial ball and universe are created within and from a goblet, waters and the skins of the slain and Vrigthar is chained to a great tree in the new land. Urventhil, Son of the Father of All will continue the battle began in the great hall.

From all of this one can see this is mythic telling and the truth is in the symbols not in their exact rendering. One could, I believe, wish for a clearer rendering of the eternality of the Son and Holy Spirit, but their characteristics are just right. Of the Holy Spirit, Cutler writes:
With the Father’s breath are my fiery feathers lit;
I spring from the whispers of the Son,
And in the Father’s ear wise counsel whisper:
Light and Life bear I, and loose from Death and Darkness.
The redemptive quality of the story is beautiful. Although there are warriors the battle is completed by Urventhil. The start in a boat, where Urventhil has his feet tied to the sail’s cross-beam, is ended in the sea and darkness leaving all to wonder at the outcome:
Urventhil’s oarsmen cowered by the steering oar, and aided him not. As the sun was setting, one of these, afraid for their lives, grasped his oar and gave a great stroke which pulled the ship stem-wards as Vrigthar was striking. Vrigthar missed Urventhil’s body, and struck instead at the cross-beam whereon Urventhil’s feet were tied. This he shattered and he slashed with his teeth the rope binding Urventhil’s feet, and bit off two of Urventhil’s toes, which fell into the boat. Urventhil fell into the water, grasping the broken sail-beam. Vrigthar also plunged beneath the waves. Darkness and rain fell upon the brothers, who sat sorrowful in the boat. (65)
Cutler does not give a scriptural reference to this section as he does for other chapters under “Quotations and Adaptations,” but  with Urventhil’s praise song after his sea battle, Cutler beautifully uses Jesus’ reference to Jonah. And remember in the sea Jonah prays using a psalm. So Urventhil’s praise, “Three days and nights was I dragged through the deep, the rotten weeds were wrapped about my head.” But it is Urventhil, the Son who “smote the serpent, the sea wyrm.” And he “harrowed” hell’s fields for a “goodly harvest.”

This is a beautifully told tale embodying the goodness of the gospel. Cutler is a poet, and a Presbyterian, who hopefully, will in the future, give readers many delightful and serious stories uplifting the redemptive themes of scripture.


Colin said...

Mrs. Larson,

Thank you much for your review, and I'm right glad you enjoyed it! Grace to you.

Colin Cutler

Viola Larson said...

Grace back to you Colin, and thanks for commenting.But more, thanks for writing, please keep writing.