Witchcraft And Magic
A critique of the portrayal of Loveday Minette in the recently released film of The Little White Horse by Nancy Bray
Delighted to say that after seeing a poster for Moonacre Magic, I steered clear. To be fair, it would take a very gifted team to produce a film that anywhere near approaches the magic of the book.
When I try to explain E Goudge’s strength, I like to take the example of Wrolf. Wrolf, throughout my childhood, was both a lion and a dog. I never had to select between the two options. That is perhaps a good definition of magic, in which contradictory elements co-exist. It would take a very clever film maker to recreate this effect, when the visual is so impactful.
Reading reviews of the film on your site, I felt smug at my decision. However, one aspect of an article on your webpage jarred. Doreen Brown takes issue with the representation of Loveday Minette: “In the story it is her quiet motherly qualities which are essential, so why turn her into a new-age witch?” While I am sure that the representation of Loveday is probably deplorable, I think giving her slightly witchy qualities is not unfathomable in terms of the book, and of Elizabeth Goudge’s wider work. Loveday is a fairy creature. She is a moon princess, not a sunny character like her partner Uncle Benjamin. She grew up a deeply unhappy young woman and her pride is a serious flaw that she is unable to overcome by herself. Riding in the park with Maria, she draws herself up and flashes sparks just because she learns that Maria does not like pink. Not just a “quiet motherly” figure, she shows herself capable of alienating Maria, as she did Uncle Benjamin before her, and repeating the mistakes of her moon princess ancestor, whose inability to take a broad view helped establish a family tragedy over many years.
Magic can be both divine and dangerous. Loveday lives closely with the parson, who is of course a hugely important influence for her, but it is not until the end of the book, when her life is imbued with forgiveness, that it is fully confirmed that she will grow old in grace and warmth, instead of ageing into a lonely, bitter (witchy) old woman.