More Alice Thomas Ellis hedge quotes

Sorry for the repetition, but this is mostly what I’m reading this week and there are loads of interesting hedge moments in her novels. Fairy Tale is her darkest book, not as much comedy as usual and some really quite unsettling stuff about the pagan countryside and the Tylwyth Teg needing a changeling. I’m very fond of it, but maybe not the best place to start if you’ve not read her others.

Anyhow, here the hedge becomes rather malevolent, reflecting the hostile magical environment surrounding the main characters:

‘Simon,’ said Miriam, ‘what are these scratches on your arms?’

‘They’re nothing much,’ said Simon indifferently, glancing at them. ‘The hedge needs cutting back. It’s almost closed the lane. I had to fight through the brambles.’

‘It was all right yesterday,’ said Miriam.

‘Things grow quickly here,’ said Simon. ‘They grow out of control.’

Then in this bit, the hedge  becomes symbolic of the boundary between our space and the chaos that lies beyond:

Flowers throve on death relying on dissolution for their nourishment. She could smell decay on the summer air… She shook her head, scowling at the prettiness that fringed the great shadow, the horror of chaos that lay just beyond the garlanded hedge and the limits of her comprehension…

A bit morbid, admittedly, but I particularly like this, as it’s one of the themes that often crops up in British mythology and thinking – assart hedges were originally carved out of the wildwood, then hedges were planted to surround the cleared fields. What lies within the hedge (in gardens and countryside) is what we control – what lies beyond is “the other”, wild nature, territory that we can’t control. The hedge is the boundary in between.


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Filed under Hedge Mythology, Literary Hedges, Rural Britain

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