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Mythago Wood

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The mystery of Ryhope Wood, Britain's last fragment of primeval forest, consumed George Huxley's entire, and long, life. Now, after his death, his sons have taken up his work. But what they discover is beyond what they could have expected. For the Wood is a realm where myths gain flesh and blood, tapping primal fears and desires subdued through the millennia. A realm where love and beauty haunt your dreams -- and may drive you insane.

Mythago Wood won the World Fantasy Award on its first publication in 1984, and secured Robert Holdstock's reputation as one of the major fantasy writers of our time. Now it returns to print in America for the first time in nearly a decade.

332 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1984

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About the author

Robert Holdstock

114 books354 followers
Robert Paul Holdstock was an English novelist and author who is best known for his works of fantasy literature, predominantly in the fantasy subgenre of mythic fiction.

Holdstock's writing was first published in 1968. His science fiction and fantasy works explore philosophical, psychological, anthropological, spiritual, and woodland themes. He has received three BSFA awards and won the World Fantasy Award in the category of Best Novel in 1985.

Pseudonyms are Chris Carlsen, Robert Faulcon,Robert Black, Steven Eisler and Richard Kirk.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 919 reviews
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,630 followers
April 17, 2019
Enraging misogynist heaving bullshit. Won the World Fantasy Award in the 1980s. Why am I not surprised.

The premise of this book is that archetype creatures, mythagos, arise in the wood plucked from human minds. You will be staggered to learn that all of the humans in question are men, and all but two of the mythagos are...men. Women are almost completely absent from what I regret to report is called "the racial unconscious" (why yes, everyone in this book *is* white, since you ask) except for two.

One of these is a barely pubescent soothsayer. We know about her state of puberty because the narrator makes a point of describing her naked body and especially the barely formed breasts. The other is "The Girl". The girl has a name but who cares. The girl is, we are explicitly told, born to suffer and inspire men to fight because of her suffering and sacrifice. She is fought over and kidnapped. She is allegedly a warrior princess (not queen) but she does absolutely nothing except be protected by men. She is called a girl despite two of the main characters having sex with her, because "woman" is probably a scary word to authors with that much interest in 11-year-olds' tits. There are multiple conversations where two men argue about which one of them she "belongs" to. We can tell which one is the good guy because he on one occasion suggests she might have a choice, but there is no choice in the book because The Girl has no personality and no role that doesn't include being there for men to fight over who gets to fuck.

There is *no other female archetype* in a world populated with all shades of male ones. In the entirely of British and North European mythos and folklore, the author couldn't think of a single female figure except sexy soothsayer and sexy princess-object. That's your lot. Oh, and there is a third woman with a speaking part in this 300pp+ book: a woman who is defined only by being a daughter and a wife, who is literally described as looking "like a spinster" because women only exist in relationship to men.

In the intro to this book Neil Gaiman relates a charming story about the author. Apparently, when he was given the WF Award (a bronze head sculpture) it was presented by a woman, and he made a hilarious joke about how he was going to write in his diary that she gave him head. Because why not use your award win to sexually humiliate a woman in public. I should have stopped reading at that point, it really ought to have told me everything about the oblivious smug sexism that pervaded fantasy for so long.

I would add something about the story and the magic forest and stuff but tbh I couldn't see the wood for the penises.

Fuck this book, its author, everyone who gave it an award, and whoever thought it was worth republishing. I want my money, time, and peace of mind back.
Profile Image for carol..
1,575 reviews8,228 followers
April 18, 2019

I am not the ideal audience for this book. This is a book that takes the idea of fantasy very, very seriously. There is little love, or sense of joy in the magic; this is obsession and wildness, and while I'm a fan of pursuing passion and all things wild, this is the dreamscape extreme that occurred after a few too many tipples before bed.

Mythago Wood feels like a gothic fantasy, as if Jung and perhaps one of those Victorian spinsters got together and wove a tale about a small English family, ancient myths and estrangement. This is a book about obsession, first with the wood, then with self-creation, and finally with a woman who embodies both that wildness and creation.

The synopsis: Steven returns from the war to his family home, to recover and reunite with his brother, some time after his father's death. He soon discovers his brother has been drawn into the mystery of the wood, and its not long before he is disappearing for weeks at a time while Steven keeps house and waits. Needless to say, it was only a matter of time before Steven enters the wood as well. Of course, there is a mysterious woman. In pursuing explanation and mapping of the wood, he heads to a local airstrip and hires Harry Keeton to fly over the wood. Without going too much farther, Harry becomes involved in the mystery of the wood as well.

I struggled with the disturbing undertone of the males' fascination with Guiwenneth, the mysterious female. In each incarnation, she has been created out of the male mind, acting as the uncertain object of his affection. Steven is no exception, quickly becoming convinced he loves her, and that this time, it is their destiny. I get the underlying mythical undertones, and that psychology about creation, determination, etc., but frankly, it's unpalatable reading about male obsession with his vision of what love is. Yawners. Steven is particularly ignorant and selfish when he initially pretends to be 'conversing' with her when it is clear that he has no idea what she is saying. I don't have the book in front of me, but its only a short period of time before he starts muttering about 'forever.' As I said, I get that it's an archetype. I'm just not that interesting in reading this dark, deeply sexist (woman=native=other) fantasy manifestation of Jungian theory.

For a world fantasy award, the writing surprised me; there is a great deal of 'showing,' as one of the brothers delves into the mystery of the wood, but because of the legends and the angle of psychological creation, there is a great deal of telling as well. I remember a long section of walking, an encounter or two, then the meeting of a mysterious shaman who explains all. Or at least half of it. Reminds me rather unfortunately of The Bridge Across Forever: A True Love Story and it's ilk, usually discovered in New Age-y actualize yourself bookstores. Honestly a two-star read for me, maybe worth a bit more for its historical importance and underlying idea.

Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...

many apologies to Richard for not being a more ardent fan of this book

Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
557 reviews142 followers
April 10, 2019
I avoided this book for a long time, but I'm not sure why now because overall I really enjoyed it. The central magic of the forest is great and the way myth and magic play off each other is an endlessly generative idea. I can see how this turned into a long series.

There are some dated aspects, especially the blah gender politics. Too many straight white post-war British dudes being very serious and lusting after the one (possibly underage?) mythical woman. But I'm probably making that sound worse than it really was. It wasn't the worst, especially for that era of fantasy? And she at least had a back story and sort of a motivation. That's a general issue here. There are unnecessary sections of lengthy exposition, and the characters themselves feel more like flat myths than anything real (possibly intentionally?). But that also lets the characters be twisted and changed as they interact with the myths. So I guess that aspect was both bad and cool?

But overall I enjoyed this book and can feel its influence even on recent fantasy literature. And again, I loved the mysteries of the magical forest and how the book plays with myths. In particular, there are some ancient myths (the idea of human migration after the ice age) that made for thoughtful good images.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books249k followers
May 17, 2012
I accepted the notebook. "My life is full of diaries."

Steven Huxley had just been handed the diary of his sidekick companion Harry Keeton. I am personally fond of Harry because our names are one letter away from being the same Keeton/Keeten. I am actually an impostor, my great great grandfather Thomas Newton Keaton changed his name to Keeten when he was conscripted into the Confederate army. Family lore states that he had a dispute with his older brother Major William Henry Harrison Keaton and that had caused the name change. So despite the fact that I am going to be talking about the Huxley family a lot in this review, because they are the designated heroes of this book, I think we all know that Harry is the understated, but true hero of this tale.

Harry's diary was not the first diary that had impacted Steven's life. The first was written by his father George Huxley. Steven has just returned to the family home after convalescing in France from a bullet wound received in the war. He expects to find his brother, Christian, who is recently married, happily luxuriating in domestic bliss. Instead Steven finds a neurotic brother obsessed with Ryhope Woods, a three mile square section of pristine old world forest that has never been properly explored since the last Ice Age.


This gloomy, compelling stand of forest butts up against the family home, and had also been the obsession of their father. Steven finds Christian's wife in a shallow grave with an arrow through her eye. In the immortal words of Kevin Bacon in the movie Tremors What the hell is going on? I mean what the hell is going on?


Christian in an attempt to explain what IS going on to Steven has him read their father's diary which is filled with stories and observations that barely make sense. Christian disappears into the woods and each time he reappears he is a different, less civilized, unrecognizable form of the brother Steven knew.

Robert Holdstock was a student of the Carl Jungian theory of the archetype hero. Jung defined his concept of the archetype as a formula that is the result of "countless experiences of our ancestors".


Ryhope Woods is full of mythological creatures, familiar heroes such as Robin Hood, and Hercules, but also mythological creatures that existed before written memory. They are the manifestation of our collective memories of heroes that have been encoded into our unconscious mind by the memories and experiences of our ancestors. As Christian, Steven and Harry spend more time in the woods mythagos are being formed from their own unconscious minds. They exist as ghosts at the peripheral of their vision, but the longer they stay in the woods the more substantial these manifestations become.

Did I mention there is a girl? She is called Guiwenneth. All three Huxley men become intoxicated with her. "Her face was quite startling, pale-skinned, slightly freckled. Her hair was brilliant auburn, and tumbled in unkempt, wind-swept masses about her shoulders. I would have expected her eyes to be bright green, but they were a depthless brown. Her arms and legs were thin, but the muscles were wiry; a fine blonde down covered her calves and I noticed that her knees were badly scarred." Not exactly the typical girl next door that I had a crush on in high school. "Guiwenneth had a woodland, animal aroma that was startlingly unpleasant, yet strangely erotic." She does seem to exude a potent musk that the Huxley men were particularly susceptible to. As the story unfolds we discover that the father, though he had died, has merged with a large angry mythical creature from ancient times. An epic battle between the brothers and the father unfolds for the possession of the girl.

I'm having to hold myself back from giving away too many details. For only 252 pages this book manages to convey an epic story. There are many layers and I'm sure I missed some key points. I can see myself rereading this book in a few years and gleaning more wonderful insights. I have a feeling that the books in the series build on each other and my appreciation for the first one will only deepen as I read the rest of the series. Highly recommended to those that like a heavy dose of Jung with their fantasy. The book is elegantly written, and does not bog down with weighty psychological preponderance, but you will find yourself needing to pause in your reading ever so often so the blocks in your brain have a chance to shuffle.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
April 25, 2010
6.0 stars. This book is a MASTERPIECE and will likely be on my list of "All Time Favorite" novels before too long (though I always try and wait a little while after reading the book to see how long it stays with me).

In brief, the story revolves around a primeval forest that has survived intact since the Ice Age (if not before) and where archetypes of Man's universal myths and legends exist and the story of one family's exploration of this forest over two generations.

In describing my reaction to this book, the first thing I have to say is that it is ORIGINAL (something that is very hard to say when it comes to Fantasy novels these days). When reading this book, I did not ever think, "Oh I have read this before" or "this reminds me of [insert other book title:]...."

The originality of the story itself deserves high praise, but it would be wasted if the story was not well-written, with well drawn characters and memorable supporting players. Fortunately, this book has all three of those things. It is brilliantly (and beautifully) written with some absolutely classic characters and creatures.

This is high level, adult fantasy at it best. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

Winner: British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel
Winner: World Fantasy Award for Best Novel
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
Named to the Locus "All Time Best" Fantasy Novel list.

Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,978 reviews1,989 followers
May 18, 2013
Rating: 5 thrilled stars of five

The Book Report: Go look at Jeffrey's review. I'll never be able to improve on that.

My Review: I have to add a few points to it, though.

The mythopoetic roots of the story are clear, and the entire experience of reading the tale is one of immersion into a vivified version of The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life & Work. Jung's brilliant conceptualization of "The Collective Unconscious" provides the underpinnings of Ryhope Wood, of course, but man-alive does Holdstock do the magisterial idea justice with his fabulation and his enrobement of the ideas in perfectly chosen words.

I don't like that the book is called "fantasy" fiction, since it has none of the horrible cliche crapola that identifies fantasy in my mind. It's mythic fiction. It uses, and reuses, and synthesizes, the myths that support all the ideas you and I have about the world. This is a profoundly creative book, and should not be lumped in with ninety-three volume series books about teenaged girls with Special Gifts and serious badass 'tudes.

This is literature, not writing.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Profile Image for Ivan.
436 reviews284 followers
August 8, 2018
As I get more experienced in fantasy genre I rarely have "Well this is unlike anything I have read before" moments. Luckily I still get them and Mythago wood is one of those books. Inspired by British and Celtic myths and legends with added just a tiny bit of late Gothic flavor this book builds it's story slowly and methodically. Despite it's slow pace it was never a dull book because in those slow parts atmosphere is being created, characters developed and world more shaped out.

I can't really find a flaw in this book but something is lacking for 5 stars. Also I can easily see this boring some people out of their minds even if they are fantasy fans. Despite it it this book is easy to recommend. It's low page count and the fact makes it fast read and if description above has piqued your interest than you have a potential gem on your hands.

Profile Image for Mangrii.
899 reviews261 followers
April 2, 2018
Imprescindible. Si os gusta la fantasía, tenéis que leer esta novela si o si.

La historia nos narra como cuando Steven Huxley vuelve a casa tras luchar en la 2ª Guerra Mundial donde teóricamente le esperan su hermano Christian y una misteriosa joven llamada Guiwenneth; en realidad se encuentra con un persona descuidad y solitaria, aquejada por los miedos y las obsesiones que también había tenido su fallecido padre, tanto con el bosque que rodea su hogar como por la joven desaparecida. Con ciertas explicaciones bastante incomprensibles de su hermano y un diario de su padre, Steven empezara a comprender que sucede en el bosque Ryhope, el porqué de que su familia está obsesionada con él y su papel en esta misteriosa historia.

Una lectura espectacular. Narrada en primera persona a través de Steven Huxley y a través de un lenguaje directo y sencillo, pero sin dejar de lado un aspecto literario cuidado y poético en ocasiones; nos adentramos en la historia poco a poco, conociendo conceptos y descubrimientos de primera mano, pero sin establecerse tales como verdades absolutas, sino más bien ideas simples bastante incompletas que podemos ir teorizando a lo largo de la novela. La narración pasara por momento de realidad y el mundo que conocemos para meterse en la historia de algo que sucedió hace miles de años, siendo su trama algo que no se alcanza a vislumbrar o ensamblar hasta el final, por lo difuso que es todo.

No creo que sea una lectura fácil y no creo que le vaya a gustar a todo el mundo, mucha gente abandonara en las primeras páginas probablemente y a su pesar. El libro está cargado de narraciones y descripciones, con muchas páginas exentas de diálogos, y eso no es algo que todo el mundo soporte o le guste, para mí, es una absoluta maravilla todo lo que llega a transmitir, y realmente, hay dos puntos especialmente que me han encantado de la novela. La primera, por supuesto, todo lo que tiene que ver con los mitagos, todo el concepto y lo que vamos descubriendo de ellos, sensacional e innovador. Esa paradoja donde todos los recuerdos de héroes y leyendas que han estado presentes en la humanidad siguen vivos, renacen y se van transformando en un ciclo sin fin, es fantástico y muy original. Y segundo por supuesto, los personajes, todos desarrollados y algunos muy complejos, donde sin duda me quedo con Guiwenneth por esa ternura y dulzura que desprendía, aunque fuera tan ruda.

Una lectura de fantasía para mi obligatoria y que me arrepiento de no haber leído nunca antes. Una obra distinta con toques de mitología y realismo mágico, con ambientes inquietantes y gran profundidad onírica.

Reseña en el blog: http://boywithletters.blogspot.com.es...
Profile Image for Panagiotis.
297 reviews113 followers
July 24, 2018
Υπάρχουν μέρη όπου οι μύθοι παίρνουν σάρκα και οστά, τροφοδοτούμενοι από το συλλογικό υποσυνείδητο των ανθρώπων. Ένα από αυτά τα μέρη είναι το δάσος αυτού του βιβλίου. Ο Holdstock χρησιμοποιεί πράματα όπως την ανατριχιαστική εκδοχή πως είμαστε διαμορφωμένοι από όλα αυτά που ξέρουμε και δεν θυμόμαστε, πως κουβαλάμε χιλιετίες τώρα αρχετυπικές εικόνες μέσα μας. Και σε όλα τα μήκη και τα πλάτη αυτού του κόσμου, θρύλοι, θεότητες και ήρωες έδρασαν με ένα παρόμοιο τρόπο. Γιατί υπάρχει ένα κοινό ορμέμφυτο στους ανθρώπους: έχουν προσδοκίες, φόβους, ελπίδες και περιέργεια - τα υλικά που δημιουργούν την παγκόσμια μυθολογία.

Ο πρωταγωνιστής, George Huxley, επιστρέφει μετά τον πόλεμο στο σπίτι του, εκεί που μεγάλωσε, δίπλα στο δάσος του Ryhope. Τούτο το δάσος είναι ένα από αυτά τα μυστήρια μέρη, για το οποίο μόνο ο πατέρας γνώριζε και είχε γίνει ένας εμμονικός εξερευνητής του στην προσπάθεια να ξεκλειδώσει τα αινίγματά του.

Ο Holdstock έχει βασικά ατού, τα οποία γλυτώνουν το βιβλίο από τα κλισέ, τις εύκολες συγκινήσεις και την κακογουστιά των συμβάσεων που κατατρέχουν συχνά την φανταστική λογοτεχνία: προσεγγίζει την ιστορία του από την αρχή μέχρι το τέλος, με μόνη επιδίωξη να την πει όσο πιο καλά γίνεται, χωρίς ουδέποτε να χρησιμοποιεί πολυφορεμένα σχήματα genre. Αυτό αποτυπώνεται στην γραφη, η οποία έχει μια ποιότητα σπάνια για μια περιπέτεια φαντασίας. Δεν θα συναντήσετε ήρωες να φωνάζουν και να κλαψουρίζουν σαν καρικατούρες, αλλά ανθρώπους με αδυναμίες, πάθη και αντιδράσεις τούτου του κόσμου. Επίσης θα συναντήσετε μορφές ανθρώπων από άλλες οι εποχές (από τον μεσαίωνα μέχρι τον άνθρωπο των σπηλαίων), να αντιδρούν και να φέρονται με έναν τρόπο που με ανατρίχιασε: ένιωσα πως αν συναντούσα ποτέ ένα πρόγονο μας, η συμπεριφορά του θα ήταν πολύ κοντά σ' αυτό που αποτυπώνει ο Holdstock.

Για μένα το βιβλίο ήταν μια αποκάλυψη και για αυτό ευχαριστώ τον χρήστη Yorgos St. που μου μίλησε για το βιβλίο. Όσοι αγαπούν το φανταστικό, αλλά δεν θέλουν να διαβάσουν μια από τα ίδια, όλοι εσείς που δεν κάνετε εκπτώσεις σε συγγραφικές αρετές που φαίνεται να θυσιάζονται στον βωμό του αδηφάγου, απρόσωπου τέρατος της εκδοτικής βιομηχανίας, όσοι τέλος πάντων ξέρετε να διαβάζετε σωστά, διαβάστε Mythago Wood.

Εγώ ακόμα περιφέρομαι στα δάση των Mythago και για την ώρα δεν θέλω να βρω την έξοδο. Ξεκίνησα τον δεύτερο τόμο, με ζωντανή την εικόνα των δέντρων του αρχαίου δάσους να καίγονται, να σκάνε σ΄ έναν ατέρμονο κύκλο από τις απαρχές του ανθρώπου.
Profile Image for Terry .
402 reviews2,148 followers
November 25, 2011
What a great read! Holdstock managed to come up with something completely new and incredibly old at the same time with his Mythago Wood series. By mining the rich vein of British myth and tying it to both the Jungian subconscious and the magical influence of an acient living forest he managed to create a fantasy work that was both epic in scope and personal in its resonance. It's a work that truly stands the test of time.

In the first volume, _Mythago Wood_, we follow the story of Stephen Huxley who returns home from the war to his ancient family home in the countryside of Britain to find his brother, Christopher, a changed and haunted man. The family estate borders the enigmatic Ryhope Wood, a forest whose mysteries had obsessed their father, and now threaten to consume Christopher as well.

As the story progresses we begin to discover some of the mysteries uncovered by the elder Huxley and see that the wood is much more than a simple forest...it is somehow a nexus for the mythical imagery of humanity and, when people come into close contact with it, can generate 'mythagos', or living embodiments of their mythic figures. In addition we soon discover, through the journeys of the brothers, that the forest distorts both time and space, becoming larger as you go inside and taking you further back into mankind's prehistory.

The story itself becomes a complex family conflict as first the Oedipal battle between Christopher and his father is acted out and then, inevitably, that of Christopher vs. his brother Stephen. All of these battles are undertaken in the name of Gwyneth, an alluring mythago whose charms manage to enamour all of the Huxley men. In addition the desire to uncover the ultimate meaning behind the forest's mysterious power push the Huxley's to overcome the obstacles and traps that the forest constantly puts in their way.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,105 followers
May 7, 2020
I generally have an "um.. okay..." to a "hate" relationship to most 80's fantasy. I tend to love the era's SF and horror, so I often feel like I'm poo-pooing it unnecessarily. Aren't they all an interrelated tapestry?

Hmmm. I usually think so. But in this case? No. I don't want to go there. The '80s are a time of huge psychological infusion in literature and I always tend to like the IDEA of that more than the actual works that use it.

In this book, we're treated to an IDEA of fantasy that is part-Jungian but mostly a Freudian obsessional extreme. Or, if you want to look at it in a different way, it's the Grail quest motif as a symbol for the generative impulse. Maybe a bit like this: San Greal = Sang Real. The quest for the mythological not-girl, brothers killing brothers.

Or here's a big concern: regular people becoming myth and thereby gaining... and losing quite a bit in the process. The obsession cuts away at all the other things that make a person real until they are both bigger than life and much, much less.

So why did I give this four stars instead of five, if I like the basic idea so much? Especially since it won the World Fantasy Award in '85?

Because it got wonky.

I mean, I probably would have enjoyed it MORE had it gotten REALLY wonky with some better self-referential, partway meta core myths to work from, but this one hearkens back to a mix of Grail and directly-earlier influences... and then only took them so far.

I wound up wanting to like the IDEA behind this novel much more than the actual tale or the subject of the idea.

Now I want to go back to reading American Gods again.
Profile Image for L.S. Popovich.
Author 2 books341 followers
January 4, 2020
Mythago Wood's strength was its intense atmosphere, and the author's use of language to build a forest in the reader's mind. The setting is convincing, though there were distracting missteps and aggravations that had me rolling my eyes. One example should suffice to make my point: One of the characters receives an arrow in the shoulder. A little while later, the first person narrator feels the need to explain that if this character decided to strap on his pack with the strap across that very shoulder, it would cause him great discomfort and possibly harm. (Really? I never would have guessed.)

To be fair, there are many enchanting set-pieces, and a lot of action to keep the book from being too droll. The author's priority is exploring his mythologies. While fascinating in healthy doses, the indulgence in historicity creates a lack of character development. Guiwen isn't a real character. You could argue that mythagos are created out of the minds of men, but that also makes it more difficult to sympathize with them. Steven and Christian's relationship plays out like a see-saw, and the other characters are very one-note, in my opinion. Their decisions rarely extend beyond bestial desire or morbid fascination. Acting irrationally and in an unmotivated manner is par for the course. As fantasy goes, Holdstock delivers on enough levels to satisfy most peoples' tastes. However, I am not in agreement with the blurbs that make use of the terms "genius" and "masterpiece."

Selfish love, the possession of the love object, the damsel in distress are the disappointing propulsive factors. Pagan freedom versus Christian Western societal and historical constraints is the prevailing theme. By cavorting with nymphs the narrator begins to transgress, blaspheme and in the weakness of human nature, sins and enters into a complicated existence, fraught with danger that reaches beyond his ken. Allegorical but not the most original.

The seduction of the woods is the seduction of myths. Our ancestors were more connected to the primeval wilds than are we, and we are called to explore that past. Mythago Wood posits a fascinating scenario revolving around the creation of popular myths, their incarnations, change, and reincarnations throughout history, and uses alluring mysteries to tempt the reader forward. It is full of enticing shadows, and reminiscent of the dream-like aura we fondly remember in childhood confrontations in the face of incomprehensible Nature. It is the urge to return to the Idyllic past.

The romance was tedious, but central to the plot and pacing. I found it trite. The author is trying to express a form of forbidden love, I thought, But the logistics of the relationship were silly, and were utilized deceptively in service to advancing the plotless exploration.

Thankfully, the book is saved by exquisite trees, vines, roots, creatures, crumbling towers, and a virulent whirlpool of intoxicating imagery.
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,584 reviews403 followers
April 16, 2009
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

After his post-WWII convalescence in France, Steven Huxley is returning to his family's home on the edge of Ryhope Wood, a patch of ancient forest, in Britain. For as long as Steven remembers, his father, who recently died, had been so obsessed with the forest that it destroyed their family.

Upon returning home, Steven finds that his brother Christian is quickly following in their father's footsteps -- both figuratively and literally -- for he has also discovered that this is no ordinary forest! It resists intrusion from Outsiders, time and distance are skewed there (so it is much larger inside than the 6 miles it covers in modern Britain should allow, and time seems to expand), and strange energy fields interact with human minds to create mythagos -- the idealized forms of ancient mythical and legendary creatures, heroes, and villains formed from collective subconscious hopes and fears. So, for example, if you strolled through Mythago Wood (if you could get in) you might encounter Robin Hood, King Arthur, Talos, Freya, or perhaps some more generic version of a popular legendary ideal. You might walk down a Roman road or stay in a medieval castle or a Germanic tribe's hut. And when you come out, you may have been gone only half the time you spent inside Mythago Wood.

The destruction of the Huxley family has been caused by the creation, out of father Huxley's mind, of Guiwenneth, the mythago of an idealized red-haired Celtic warrior princess who occasionally comes out of the woods. Mr. Huxley was obsessed with her (and this is what eventually led to both Mrs. and Mr. Huxley's deaths) and, when Steven arrives, Christian, who has become similarly obsessed, has been making forays into the forest in search of Guiwenneth. Before long, Steven gets pulled into the drama and the strange goings on in Mythago Wood.

I was entranced by Mythago Wood from the first page. The writing is clear, lovely, and unpretentious. The story is told from Steven's viewpoint (first person, with diary entries and letters from a couple of other characters), so the reader feels emotionally involved. The pace is quick. The forest setting is beautiful.

The first two thirds of the novel flew by. During this time, Steven is figuring out what's going on in the woods and he meets and falls in love with Guiwenneth (yes, the same girl that his father and brother loved). All of this was fascinating and highly emotional. I loved the premise of the story -- the wood that forbade entry to modern humans and was bigger in time and space inside than could be explained by it's physical dimensions. The existence in the wood of archetypal heroes and villains from across the ages, all living together at the same time, each in his own clothes and weapons. Cool stuff. I also thought the recollections of Steven and Christian about their father's work and coldness toward their family was poignant.

But, somehow, when Steven and his companion Harry Keeton actually managed to get beyond the defenses of the forest and were traveling through Mythago Wood, it was not as exciting as when Steven was only learning about the forest from his father's notes and his experiences with the mythagos who came out of the woods. Suddenly, it turned into a quest and struggle for survival that was not quite as fascinating as the learning process was, though there were definitely some fun parts.

I did not understand how mythagos, if they are not real, can kill, be killed, or fall in love. Steven and Harry come up some revelations (about mythagos) that seemed to come out of nowhere. I am also not sure why these men are falling for Guiwenneth. The explanation is that she's the mythago of the Celtic warrior princess, and thus men can't help but fall in love with her. Steven mentions that she may be his mythago, but his father and brother fall in love with the same woman. She doesn't do much but giggle. Is that ideal? She has red hair, fair skin, she's slender and uses a knife. Maybe that's it?

I never fully understood Harry Keeton's situation, which was wrapped up much too quickly, but I'm thinking that this will be addressed in a sequel. There were a few elements that seemed thrown in without purpose -- myths that didn't seem to fit, characters who Steven was told had to be "left behind" when he didn't even know they were with him. Perhaps we'll see them again.

So, while I was quickly pulled in and I absolutely loved the first two-thirds of the book, I experienced moments of confusion in the last section. I'm sure I'd benefit from another reading of Mythago Wood -- it's that kind of book. Perhaps some of these things would be cleared up. Or, perhaps not. I believe that the novel was composed of three separate novellas, and that may explain some of the disjointedness.

I'm going to read Lavondyss, the sequel to Mythago Wood. I loved this setting and the characters, and I'm hoping further reading will clear up my confusion.

This review originally published at Fantasy literature's Robert Holdstock page.
Profile Image for Krystal.
1,654 reviews385 followers
October 17, 2022
A wonderfully unique fantasy novel that probes the boundaries of the imagination.

The mythological aspect of this story hooked me completely, and yet the majority of these myths were so foreign, or spun in such a unique way, that I could never predict what was coming.

The story sees Steven returning to his family estate, where his brother has taken over the work of their father in exploring the mysterious wood that lies on their doorstep. Strange people and creatures have been sighted, and the wood seems to have a life - or several of them - of its own.

I really enjoyed how darkly whimsical this was. There's a unique blend of psychology and mythology that brings this story to life, and it's all set in the creepiest wood I've ever read about. The atmosphere of this novel is heavy with malice, and I enjoyed how there was danger lurking even when Steven was 'safe' at home.

The creatures that live in these pages are magnificent - inspired by myths, but mutated into something threatening and grotesque. There are also what I believe to be novel myths - otherwise myths I've certainly never heard of. I enjoyed reading about these old legends that were completely new to me, and seeing how they transformed into something tangible within the wood.

The obsession with Guin was a bit disappointing (why is it always men obsessing over a woman?) but I guess there had to be a driving motivation somewhere and what motivates more than love? But it still bothered me that, if you strip away all the fantastic, novel ideas of this story, it ends up just being the same old story of a man driven to do extreme things all in the name of love.

Still, there was plenty of other bits and pieces to keep me entertained, and there's enough of a grim vibe that it almost feels necessary to read on.

The dark fantasy of this really won me over, and this fantastical wood where all manner of creatures and myths lurk was such a character itself. I loved journeying through it with these characters and witnessing the various transformations.

An exceptional fantasy story with an element of horror that will stay with you for the duration. A fantastic read and one I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Mladen.
Author 20 books81 followers
January 17, 2020
This book is, simply put - wonderful. I heard of it sometime in the early 2000s. I had wanted to read it but for one reason or another it would just remain on the reading list, waiting.
If only I had known how wonderful it is I would have read it a long time ago.
The idea of crating a world in the misty areas where imagination, myth and dreams overlap and the resulting story kept me mesmerized from the first to the last page.
The narration is wonderful, it is so stylistically polished that it deserves to be foregrounded as an example of lyrical fantasy - yes, there should be such a genre.
I love how Holdstock managed to make the story of so little action and so much description actually work - it never gets too slow, never boring.
And it delves deep into the areas of subconsciousness and I believe that it manages to do that even if the reader is not much into Celtic mythology - it talks directly from the unconsciousness to the unconsciousness. No, correction. It does not talk - it sings the most wonderful melody of imagination.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews258 followers
February 4, 2012
5 Stars

This will now sit in my all time favorite shelf as it an amazing piece of literary fiction, which just happens to be a fantasy. I am not going to summarize the story as much better reviewers than I have already done so, many times before. This nearly 30 year old novel that was first published in 1984, by Robert Holdstock, is still relevant today. I want to reiterate that this is truly a piece of literature first and a novel of fantasy second. It would sit better on the shelves about psychology, philosophy, religion, and history, than it would next to Hobbits, elves, dragons, and sorcerers.

Holdstock pens a story that is written with quality in mind. He paints a complex canvas where most details are made vivid and real. The plots and themes are extremely deep and thought provoking, and at times a bit mind bending too.

“Guiwenneth rose to her feet, motioned me to stay where I was, and stepped out into the clearing. Against the brighter torches she was a small silhouette, walking confidently to the middle of the glade, her spear held across her body, ready to be used if necessary.”

The only author and book that came to my mind as I slowly read through this masterpiece was Willows by Algernon Blackwood. That classic piece of literature is a good reference to the feel of this book. The prose and the buildup of suspense and terror are similar. Even the themes between the two cross some lines. Blackwood is a world renowned classic writer that has won countless awards. To me, Holdstock outdoes the master with his book here.

Mythago Wood is a deeply philosophical novel that will have you scratching your head and spending long amounts of time digesting the subtext. I was moved from the very beginning and sucked into this amazingly crafted landscape. Blackwood is not afraid to ask the tough life questions and as a result some may be offended. Mythago Woods is a book that explores tough questions. It is a religious story that is at the same time quite pagan. It will expand your mind with the deep themes and plots.

This next passage is a good feel for the book and possibly a small spoiler too:
“For my part I find it continually fascinating to think that Steven has become a myth character himself! He is the mythago realm's mythago. When he kills C the decay of the landscape will reverse. And since I am with him, I suppose I am part of the myth myself. Will there be stories told one day of the Kinsman and his companion, the stigmatized Kee, or Kitten, or however the names get changed? Kitten, who had once been able to fly above the land, now accompanying the Kinsman through strange landscapes, ascending a giant bridge, adventuring against strange beasts. If we do become legends to the various historical peoples scattered throughout this realm . . . what would that mean? Will we somehow have become a real part of history? Will the real world have distorted tales of Steven and myself, and our quest to avenge the Outsider's abduction? I cannot remember my folklore well enough, but it intrigues me to think that tales -of Arthur and his Knights, perhaps (Sir Kay?) - are elaborate versions of what we are undertaking now!”

I have to say that this book deserves more praise and garner than it has achieved. It demands your attention, stretches your imagination, and leaves you wanting…I loved this book and have no doubt that so too would you!!!!!!!!!!!!

Profile Image for Jared Logan.
11 reviews9 followers
May 4, 2011
What starts as an intriguing concept begins to unravel due to poor pacing and plotting.

The premise of this one is really, really high-concept and it is thus:

A family lives near an ancient 'old-growth' wood. This is a small forest that has existed since medieval times and even back before that. The father, a scholar, is obsessed with the wood and often disappears for weeks at a time to plumb its depths. Why he is gone for that long is a mystery to his family because, you see, the wood is not very big. After his death, his sons discover his journals and learn of the paranormal nature of the wood. The forest generates "mythagos", which are basically legends come-to-life: dangerous Robin Hood-type archers, celtic folk heroes, slavering beastmen. The world inside the wood is much larger than it appears from outside. When both brothers fall in love with a nature goddess mythago that strays from the wood, things get even weirder (and more nasty!)

The writer Holdstock produces good solid prose but the very nature of the fantastical premise leads to sloppy plotting. The wood changes according to the perceptions of those traveling through it. The Mythagos, if destroyed, return later, alive and well. Basically, the entire tale is a journey into the collective unconscious. Very Jungian. Very Joseph Campbell. But I tend to dislike stories where the line between real and imaginary is too thin because there are no rules, so there is no meaning and there are no stakes. That's the problem here.

Also, the characters aren't extremely believable. The principle protagonist learns of the unbelievable powers of the wood and believes it immediately. His love for the nature goddess seems coerced by her magical animal magnetism and not a real relationship, so it was hard to care about them being together.

Many pages are spent delving into the past of the father but we learn early on what has happened to him. His backstory seems kind of moot after we learn his final fate. I kept thinking there was some revelation waiting in this back story but there wasn't.

The author is good at atmosphere and building a mood. The book definitely has a sense of the creepy and mysterious. That's the best thing I can say about it.

It may have won a World Fantasy Award in the 1980s, but I say give this one a pass.
Profile Image for Chris Berko.
471 reviews117 followers
April 10, 2019
You know how you just sort of fit with some books like fingers in a well worn glove? That's how I feel with this book, it just fits. This is everything I enjoy about reading. Mythago Woods is a dark book, not grimdark dark, more like dirt under your fingernails, sweat streaming down your face, salt stinging your eyes, gritty kind of dark. There are definite heroes and villains, running around in one hell of an original setting, acting out an amazingly original story-line. The whole "am I becoming a myth myself" aspect of the main character's part of the story was awesome and there was level of straight up cool-ness in everything going on that I rarely find in my reading these days. I felt the flames, I felt the cold and the snow, and I felt real emotions in what was happening. I have not been this engaged in a book in a long time and it is great to know it is just the beginning of a multi-book series.
Profile Image for Carmine.
593 reviews59 followers
March 31, 2019
La forza del mito

"Non era viva, non aveva un'esistenza reale. È vissuta mille volte, e non ha mai vissuto."

Nel panorama fantasy è sempre più difficile trovare un'opera originale, o che non vada a riproporre in maniera pedissequa canovacci già letti decine di volte.
La foresta dei Mitago, primo di una tetralogia di volumi autoconclusivi, scongiura questo pericolo.
La concezione del mito, nonché il fascino dello stesso nella sua perpetua rielaborazione durante il tempo, è il cardine principale su cui si delinea la foresta di Rhyope, autonoma realtà spazio-temporale che sfugge alla comprensione umana.
L'intensa matrice antropologica e storica, unita ad una efficace componente psicologica - impossibile non ravvisare le analogie con Solaris, tralasciate le evidenti differenze derivanti dal genere -, rendono l'opera particolarmente complessa e sfaccettata nella sua linearità di fondo.
Il finale è contemporaneamente pregio e difetto del libro: da una parte esplodono tutte le pulsanti idee (potenzialmente infinite) circa i Mitago e il ruolo che ricoprono nel preservare questo magico luogo; dall'altra parte, e questo era anche preventivabile, si osserva una certa difficoltà nel tirare le fila della storia e definire con maggior chiarezza il contesto.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,926 reviews386 followers
January 12, 2015
I wish that I had liked this book more. After all, the dude in the helmet on the cover is cool. It has so many good ideas in it, avenues that I would have been interested in pursuing. But I just didn't connect with the characters. I don't get it. Why do none of these men, father & two sons, talk to each other? They all know that the woman whom they are fixated on isn't real--the author goes to great pains let us know through them that she is made of branches, leaves and soil. And yet, they all focus on her and ignore one another. Why all the silence? I may not see eye to eye with my sisters all of the time, but the ties between us are strong--I just couldn't find the rivalry of Chris and Steven to be believable. And they ignored all of the things that I found intiguing: ancient languages, lost peoples, a potential way back to the Ice Age....all of that potential ignored. Maybe some of this will be addressed in the six sequels? (Really? Six?) Do I dare read the next one in hopes of improvement?
Profile Image for Andy.
428 reviews67 followers
November 3, 2014
Rating in the high 3's, so round upto 4 stars as tis summit different & for the most part engaging.

Lion, the witch & the wardrobe for adults perhaps......? As it has mythical elements, enchantment & aspects of time travel through a wood. I think my updates along the way will let you know whats involved & how the journey unravels..... if it's mythical figures through time, touch of paranormal, heroic figures, a damsel..... one more of a Celtic nature though so defo not a fairy princess to be rescued..... an evil character or two.... then this is a read for you friends.
Profile Image for Oscar.
1,974 reviews490 followers
January 3, 2017
Steven Huxley, poco después de finalizar la Segunda Guerra Mundial, regresa a Refugio del Roble, en Inglaterra, la finca en la que pasó la mayor parte de su vida junto a su hermano Christian, su madre enferma, y su padre, obsesionado con sus investigaciones sobre el cercano Bosque de Ryhope. Ahora, tras la muerte de sus padres, se encontrará con un envejecido y desmejorado Christian, aquejado de la misma obsesión que su padre. Tras investigar en los escritos de este, Steven llegará a la conclusión de que algo misterioso se oculta en el bosque, un lugar donde tiempo y espacio se distorsionan.

‘Bosque Mitago’ (Mythago Wood, 1984), del británico Robert Holdstock, es una maravillosa novela, en la que es mejor adentrarse sabiendo lo menos posible, dejándose envolver de su melancólica atmósfera. La historia está muy bien escrita (o traducida), y es una delicia dejarse llevar con cada párrafo. En mi opinión, una joya imprescindible.
Profile Image for Ieva.
1,050 reviews80 followers
March 6, 2021
Vēl viens robs fantāzijas literatūras lauciņā aizpildīts un pilnīgi dubultprieks, ka tā nebija vilšanās. Mīti, kuri izrādās dzīvi vārda burstiskajā nozīmē un mūžīgi klīst mežā tepat mums blakus - vienkaŗša, bet efektīga ideja fantāzijas romānam. Mežs aprakstīts tik labi, ka nav grūti noticēt tāda eksistencei, lai gan pašu mitago dabu gan varētu varbūt izsaidrot nedaudz labāk - tā arī līdz galam nesapratu, vai mitago rada kāda konkrēta cilvēka zemapziņa, vai tie pastāv paši par sevi, pāri laikam. Lai gan, ja citi atsauksmēs saka, ka šis esot darbs par psihoanalīzi, tad varbūt daļa mitago ir no Junga kolektīvās zemapziņas un daļa - no konkrētu cilvēku zemapziņas, un nekādas pretrunas nav. Lai nu kā tur nebūtu, darbā ir precīzi tāds galvenais pasīvais varonis, kuru uz darbību piespiež pastākļi un tāds notikumu temps, lai man tiešām patiktu lasīšanas process.
Profile Image for Miquel Codony.
Author 11 books265 followers
January 11, 2017
Me resulta muy difícil valorar este libro en caliente —me va a ir de fábula poder discutirlo en The Spoiler Club—. Por un lado me parece un hallazgo y una magnífica utilización de la literatura fantástica para explorar del significado del folclore y la mitología para el desarrollo de la cultura humana, y de nuestra psicología. La idea en la que se cimenta el libro es brillante. Es una lectura estimulante, sugerente llena de buenas ideas y, en muchos sentidos, imaginada en estado de gracia. Lo fundamental es eso, y creo que es una de las lecturas fundamentales del género, si es que eso existe.

Por otro lado, la ejecución es irregular y tengo la sensación de que pasa demasiado tiempo poniendo las piezas necesarias para resolver la tercera parte del libro, que de hecho ocupa cerca de la mitad de las páginas y es alucinante de principio a fin. La segunda parte, sin embargo, tiende a perder el rumbo y a caer en la redundancia, y aunque nunca llega a aburrir no vuela tan alto como el resto del libro. Para mi lo más interesante del planteamiento inicial es, curiosamente, la parte menos narrativa, la recuperación de diarios y cartas en los que se investiga la naturaleza de Bosque Mitago.

Creo que es uno de esos casos en los que el resultado final es mayor que la suma de sus partes o, como diría ese otro héroe de leyenda, "is bigger in the inside". Una imagen, por otra parte, que le viene que ni pintada a Bosque Mitago.

Creo que ponerle 5 estrellas es un error pero con 4 tengo la sensación de quedarme corto. Me reservo el derecho a cambiar de idea.
Profile Image for Andrew.
2,232 reviews
January 3, 2016
This has been sitting on my TBR pile for longer than I care to admit to - and now I have finally got around to reading it - its becoming a bit of a tradition my Christmas binge reading.

Anyway the book - it pretty much follows the plot outlined on the back of the cover. Okay so how does that work well the story itself is pretty straight forward, what the real mystery is and really the most intriguing character are the woods themselves. Strange things go on here and its hard to talk about them without giving the storyline away just to say that the book plays on the primal fears and imaginations of what goes on in the deep dark works just over the way.

There is a lot of mythological references both real and imaginary but do not let it put you off the story really is how we deal with the unknown and how we deal with it when forced to face it.

The book itself is often listed as a modern classic - that and the subsequent sequels are listed in the top titles (as shown by their recent reprinting in the Fantasy Master series - still think the cover of my copy is better). So make your own mind up if you think it should be or not but you cannot deny that there is a lot more going on in this book than what you first thought.
Profile Image for Laure.
134 reviews68 followers
February 4, 2017
This is a different story and I enjoyed reading it. I liked the Lovecraftian overtones at the start of the novel and I wish they had been sustained throughout the whole story. The world and myth building was excellent. The only drawback was the lack of empathy I felt for the main characters. The love story was (in my opinion) quite phony - I could not relate to Steven falling for this 'caricature' of a woman, and knowing she is just after all a feminine ideal he created just add to the sense of distance. If we had had a female protagonist with her own mythago creatures, I might have thought differently but this felt very 'male' to me. I am curious though to see what happens in the rest of the series and I will be checking it out.
Profile Image for Tijana.
766 reviews206 followers
April 8, 2020
Mythago Wood je jedna od onih knjiga. Znate da važi za savremenog klasika žanra i stalno obećavate sebi da će uskoro doći na red i stalno odlažete. Da nije bilo kombinacije dva sasvim različita trenutka - ovog prikaza (hvala Mladenu) i sedenja kod kuće - teško da bih je i sad pročitala.
I bilo bi šteta. U pitanju je retko atmosferičan roman koji gotovo neprimetno uvlači čitaoca u priču i zarobljava ga, gotovo kao čarobna šuma oko koje pripovedač kruži veći deo knjige, a koja namami i njegovog oca i brata. Holdstok je majstor evociranja neodređene ali intenzivne tuge nad nečim izgubljenim, bilo da su u pitanju detinjstvo, doba kad je porodica bila na okupu ili voljena žena. Postepeno i neumitno, tuga prožima čitavo pripovedačevo biće, a s njim i čitaočevo. Uživljavanju doprinosi ponajviše Holdstokovo majstorstvo da dočara neko okruženje putem mirisa: svaki ambijent i svaka ličnost, ma koliko letimično inače ocrtani i ma koliko nestvarni, odišu specifičnim jedinstvenim mirisom koji ih prati i često najavljuje, i to je toliko živo i upečatljivo sprovedeno kroz čitav roman da je na mahove takođe i dosta neprijatno.
Šta još reći? Mislim da je u ovu šumu najbolje zaći bez previše predznanja, tako da vam se sve postepeno otvara i raskriljuje. U središtu radnje je kompleks motiva koji su sjajno kombinovani iz Frojdovog i Jungovog učenja, tako da se može reći da je sve zasnovano na pojmu kolektivnog nesvesnog (plus anima), ali i da su lične priče glavnih likova određene vrlo frojdovskim razvojem psihe ;) Ali, takođe, nijedan ljubitelj visoke fantastike neće ostati gladan i žedan, može mu eventualno zasmetati izvesna (vrlo namerna i brižljivo sprovedena) snolika nedorečenost i nezaokruženost pojedinih momenata.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,931 reviews438 followers
April 25, 2018
Most forests today and in the recent past are only a few centuries old or less. But there still remain a few forests which have been on earth for millennia. In these deep dark old places it is rumored beings which can only live in the most ancient impenetrable deep woods can yet be occasionally seen. It is said the mythological creatures of old deep woods need to be placated and bribed with gifts of blood and flesh if you live near such a forest. People also carve magical symbols into the rock and wood of ancient forests, hoping to magically confine these spirits of Nature away from the homes of people, but some people seek out these dangerous ghosts of rock, tree, mud and flora. Such a one was Steven Huxley's father, George Huxley.

Steven never knew what his father was doing in the woods near his parents' house, Oak Lodge. Steven felt abandoned by George, who left for weeks, even months, hiking and camping in the forest next to their house in Herefordshire, England. When George was home, he remained in his study with old books and papers. Jennifer, George's wife, shared in whatever obsessed George, but she became depressed and took her own life. Steven and Christian, George's sons, could not understand why or what their father was pursuing in Mythago Wood. When World War II started, both boys left for Europe to fight in the war. Afterwords, Christian returned to Oak Lodge, while Steven remained with friends in France. Then, George died in 1946, and Christian wrote Steven of a marriage to a Guiwenneth, a beautiful girl. Finally, late in 1947, Steven reluctantly decided to come back to England.

His first view of the house surprised him as it was a bit rundown and worn. But when he saw his brother Christian, Steven was shocked. Christian was dirty, thin and nervous. Worse, he smelled horribly, as if he had not bathed in a week. Plus Christian is wearing a long beard! And, where was Christian's wife? Christian doesn't want to talk about it. Then, Christian says, ""I've been going through a few changes, that's all. I've been picking up on the old man's work. Perhaps a bit of his reclusiveness is rubbing off on me, a bit of his detachment.""

The next morning, Christian tells Steven he must go into the woods ""Inwards,"", where he disappears with a rucksack for several weeks. Two weeks after Christian hiked into the woods, Steven finds a woman's body buried under the chicken huts....

'Mythago Wood' is a beautifully written homage to the traditional Celtic and Welsh fairy tales of creatures living in the deep forests (and Carl Jung's theories: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungi...). I do not mean the emasculated versions designed for modern Western children - I refer to the more violent and raunchy ancient versions which entertained and terrified hunters and farmers before the Romans invaded England. These fairy tales were myths about imagined (or real) magical tree beings and transformed woodsmen or vegetation god or goddess warriors living in deep forests. Many of these ancient tales are about the mythical Green Man: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green.... Another is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_G.... Guinevere is also a character which is based on older myths, but she has become gentrified. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guine.... Druid stories (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Druid), too, figure into the writing of 'Mythago Wood'.

Author Robert Holdstock has re-purposed these ancient popular tales into an entirely new and romantic myth with gorgeous poetic writing. If you find walking in the woods peaceful and satisfying, reading this novel brings that experience to the fore, despite the underlying mysteries of blood and sacrifice haunting most ancient forests and Holdstock's Mythago series.

A sample of Holdstock's writing:

"I followed him inwards, seeking the easiest route between tangles of bracken and nettles, enjoying the heavy stillness. The trees were small, here at the edge, but within a hundred yards they began to show their real age, great gnarled oak trunks, hollow and half-dead, twisting up from the ground, almost groaning beneath the weight of the branches. The ground rose slightly and the tangled undergrowth was broken by weathered, lichen-covered stubs of grey limestone. We passed over the crest and the earth dipped sharply down, and a subtle change came over the woodland. It seemed darker, somehow, more alive, and I noticed that the shrill September bird-sound of the forest edge was replaced, here, by a sporadic mournful song."

Oooooh, this is a good read!
Profile Image for Heather R.
364 reviews16 followers
April 7, 2018
Long-winded, chauvinistic tedium delivered in a tangled heap of fetid, reeking woodland rubbish. Yuck. There is so much to dislike about this book, but I’ll start with what I detest the most: the dull yet offensive plot. The unbelievably self-centered a—h—of a protagonist allows his family property to go to pot while he devolves into an unemployed shut-in, obsessed with the forest by his house. He falls in love with a projection of his lust: a teenaged wisp of a nubile (blarf) girl-child, all alone in the big woods. She’s apparently some Jungian archetype, and I think we are supposed to be impressed that the author read Jung and put Jungian archetypes in his story (sans nuance or character arc, sadly).

So what makes this Jungian-influenced fantasy a chauvinistic nightmare for me? Because sometimes a girl gets tired of being expected to play “nature” to the guy’s “culture.” If this idea is unfamiliar, check out 60-70s era feminist theory as background - but I’ll try to explain a little about what I mean. It’s painfully obvious throughout the book that the relationship is all about this guy’s libido and ego - she’s an animalistic fulfillment of wishes, one that can never be fully tamed (read: always exciting!) but can never be his equal. She does not even have real clothing or shoes or the English language. To the extent she is amenable to being part of civilization, it’s only with our protagonist. Yep, that’s the guy she purportedly chooses: some weirdo in a bathrobe, creeping around in his dad’s dilapidated cottage reading his dad’s manuscripts. Because at least he has a house of sorts? She leaves behind her life to be with him: no more slitting the throats of wild boars or riding on giant stag. Rather, she moves in with him, to be judged, bathed with deodorant soap, and finally to serve as a depository for the protagonist’s ... affections. ONLY to that extent that the protagonist (and his dad and brother - even more yuck) fantasize about her does she even *exist.* What does Gwueitthefe dream of? Nothing, because she has no autonomy, no self-determination. She’s like a cross between a prepubescent elven blow-up doll and a pet raccoon.

The mind boggles with so many questions: how is this douchetagonist the only one who can civilize this wild (yet completely virginal) jailbait? But more importantly, why did the author think it was a good idea to be so redundant and boring and dull and repetitive and long-winded and loquacious (did I mention boring?)? Why did someone not give this book some good, rigorous editing? How many times should we have to read about how darned wild and thick the woods are, and how the girl smelled like tangy woodsy lady funk?

Maybe I should’ve given up earlier... I got this for a gift in approximately 2009 and lost interest after a few pages. Then, I picked it up again in 2013 and lost interest quickly. After many of these reading spurts over the years, I finished it in APRIL 2018. I could’ve probably read the entire Bible in the time it took me to slog through this book. (And I know it would’ve been a better read to boot).

Other assorted gripes: the fact that not one character is even a little likeable. Authors should throw us a bone here and there, shouldn’t they? The word “mythago” - is it just me or does that word annoy anyone else? Oh and don’t get me started on “Gueinnieteatth“ or however it’s spelled. Did the protagonist just decide to throw in a butt load of extra consonants to try to make it look cooler? More Welsh, perhaps? Maddening. The book doesn’t take place in Wales, and the young lady couldn’t very well write, so she didn’t come up with the spelling. So who decided to name her a long, weird version of Gwyneth? The author, bless his heart. And he was *always* there, explicating everything, showing nothing, leaving me feeling nothing except annoyance and disgust. For me, the wretched spelling of Gwenyth is just one more thing to loathe about this book.

All that said, I’m sure it’s not *the* worst book I’ve ever read, so why give 1 star? I debated whether I should give it 2 stars, but the fact that a couple of friends encouraged me to read it and how ardently they built it up was certainly a factor. And it held so much promise per the description: anything set in a deep, dark forest, with unsettling, mysterious circumstances is a good start for me! I was hoping for another all-time favorite, to join books like Oryx and Crake or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I wanted a book with outstanding writing and not one throwaway word in it. A book with characters who’d live on as friends in my mind and heart. I’ve seen this compared to CS Lewis’s classic, but this book fails on every level. How can you even try to compare it to a book with a beautiful theme that celebrates goodness, compassion, freedom, and equality. In comparison, Mythago Wood is a rank perversion of the woodland fantasy novel.

To my friends who liked it, great! Enjoy this tangy Jung-dung, but no need to recommend any fantasy novels to me in the future!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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128 reviews14 followers
September 26, 2020
Negaidīti pārsteizoši ievilka mani mythago mežā :)

Ļoti atgādināja bērnības piedzīvojumus. Tad gan šādi koši mežu iemītnieki pa (ne)ceļiem netika satikti, bet pēcgarša pēc šīs grāmatas paliks vēl ilgi.
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