The Fionavar Tapestry

The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy consists of The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road. The first book of the trilogy was published in 1984, and was runner-up for SF Book Club’s book of the year award. The second and third were both published in 1986. The Wandering Fire won the Aurora Award in 1987.

The trilogy is set firmly and consciously in the Tolkien tradition of High Fantasy. GGK has said that one of his motives for writing it was to show that the ‘matter’ of High Fantasy was deep enough to be used in various original ways, and that the genre did not have to become debased into nothing but pale Tolkien imitations. The Tapestry tells the tale of five young Canadians who are taken to Fionavar, the first of all worlds, by Loren Silvercloak, a mage of that world. Ostensibly invited to come as guests of the court for a celebration of the anniversary of the monarch’s ascension to the throne, all five students quickly find that their roles in Fionavar are far more complex than they originally expected.

In its review, Locus magazine termed the Tapestry “the essence of High Fantasy.” I feature on the site only reviews that cover all three books. Click here for reviews by Douglas Barbour, an esteemed poet, scholar, and sf critic, and Charles de Lint, the distinguished fantasy novelist.

GGK often reads extracts from his books when at conventions or signings. He chooses these extracts consciously, for specific reasons. Visit the section on ‘reading passages’ to read his explanation of his choices. Here I present one extract he is wont to read from each book of the trilogy. Suffice to say that if you haven’t read the trilogy, don’t click on these links – they are all big spoilers. Click here for the passages.

From Martin Springett’s lovingly detailed tapestry-like images that graced the covers of the first editions of the trilogy, to the surreal concept of a naked Jaelle on the Polish cover of The Summer Tree, cover art for the three books of the Tapestry has been interesting and varied. See the cover art for The Fionavar Tapestry for yourselves here. But that’s not all we have for artwork on Fionavar. Martin Springett has created more images from Fionavar, from a series on the gods and goddesses of the world, to a chapter by chapter illustration of the books, exclusive to this website. He’s even designed a set of laminated bookmarks you can buy, with details from his covers. Click here for Images of Fionavar.

It’s not only Martin’s artistic talents that were inspired by GGK’s world, but his musical talents as well. Martin’s interpretation of ‘Rachel’s Song’ can be found in the Music section of the site.

All of the interviews of GGK that are present on the site (in GGK’s words) feature some discussion of the Tapestry, but the one that is most focused on the themes and ideas of Fionavar is the interview conducted with Raymond Thompson. This interview was given as part of a series Mr Thompson was doing on modern writers of Arthurian myth, and was also given before GGK had published any other books.

Academics have also turned their attention to The Fionavar Tapestry, and we have a selection of their papers reproduced on this site. Professor John Doherty examines the use of Arthurian legend in the trilogy, while Dena Taylor examines themes of power and moral choice, and Holly Ordway examines mythical and historical sources. Our newest paper on the site, by Neil Randall, examines the technique of ‘focalization’ in the Tapestry, and its effect on the progression of the narrative.

On a slightly less formal note, we have a series of ‘annotations‘ on the site donated by Sean Miller, of short notes on different aspects of GGK’s books, including some observations on the sources and inspirations behind some of the mythic figures of Fionavar.

From Middle-Earth to Wonderland, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi, gives descriptions of the many lands and places that have been created over the centuries in literary works. It also contains a mock-travelogue entry on Fionavar. *Slight spoiler alert*.

Another very fun piece was written by Mabry Slemmons. This is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Survival in Fionavar – but be warned; abiding by its rules cannot guarantee your survival!

To continue in the light-hearted vein, have you ever thought about who you’d cast in a film of The Fionavar Tapestry? Who would be the perfect Diarmuid? Jaelle? Loren? Well, a few years back some web surfers did just that, and came up with The Fionavar Tapestry Casting Couch – now brought to you, complete with pictures, on the site. See what you think!

How good is your Fionavar know-how? Good enough to score 100% on a quiz? At some point we’ll have quizzes on all the books of The Tapestry on the site, but at the moment we’re beginning at the beginning – with two quizzes on The Summer Tree. There’s an easy quiz, and a hard quiz. Try them out and see how you do!

Did you ever wonder what Convocation Hall looks like, where the five first see Loren and Matt, and the events of The Fionavar Tapestry are set in motion? Two GGK readers did, so they journeyed to Toronto to see it, together with the other Canadian landmarks mentioned in The Tapestry. They took photos, wrote a travel diary, and were kind enough to share it with us in Gateway to Fionavar: A Photographic Travelogue.

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