While we sit arguing over 'didna' vs. 'didnae' and 'canna' vs. 'cannae', those people who don't love all things Scottish sit and scratch their heads, wondering what could possibly be the attraction in learning these tongue twisters.
Well, there isn't much--unless you have the Celtic blood in your veins, in which case it's not merely an attraction. It's an out and out passionate love.
Now when I was first learning how to read it, I started easy and built up because it can be quite confusing. Douglas Bond is a great beginning for that sort of thing, as long as you don't stop there. His Crown and Covenant books have enough for a good taste, even if his readers debate on how well he portrayed it. After that, Kidnapped makes an excellent continuation, as Stevenson does a decent job incorporating the Scottish. The next step up would be the Bethany House re-publications of George MacDonald's works. The Baronet's Song is on the lighter side; The Fisherman's Lady and The Marquis' Secret are even better. But The Peasant Girl's Dream, in my findings, has the best Scottish dialogue next to reading the real thing.
Someday I'm going to crack out the real MacDonalds. Did you know that, as glorious as Phillips' reprints are, the originals are even richer on a cursory glance through? I had no idea, but the beauty of them almost made my soul hurt as I read MacDonald's original prose for the first time this morning. It's breathtaking. And the dialogue is quite thick.
Today's review, The Peasant Girl's Dream, is one I promised to my readers back in the second post ever posted in this blog. (Yes, I've been keeping track!) Note that this book was originally titled Heather and Snow in MacDonald's original.
And much as I want to read MacDonald's originals, I dearly love the re-prints as well.
Kirsty Barclay lives in the heather hills with her childhood friend, Francie Gordon. At sixteen she's a sensible young lass, mindful of her God, a good reader, and a stout truth-teller when Francie gets a little too vain of his own accomplishments. She lives with her parents and her brother Steenie, who some folks call crazy. In today's world he would have been diagnosed with some sort of mental ailment, but at that time he had not the benefit of such medical consultations, and his family let him roam the hills looking for "the Father o' lichts".
Francie Gordon wants to marry Kirsty (surprise, surprise!) though she'll have none of him. Not that she wouldn't mind, if he were a little less fond of himself.
After an unfortunate incident with Francie and a young woman, during which Kirsty takes it upon herself to give him a crack across the head, he sets off to prove his manhood in the army, and Kirsty bides quietly at home taking care of her loved ones--waiting, hoping that he will come to himself someday.
It's not a dramatic tale--though it has its moments of drama, certainly-- and it doesn't really have a main plot; more relationship plots between Kirsty and Francie, Francie and his mother, Kirsty and Steenie, and Francie and the pretty young lass Phemy. But it's an excellent portrayal of a young woman's struggle to encourage her brother-figure into his manhood, and an excellent Scottish tale of love in all different forms.
I wouldna like ye to gang away thinkin' I doubted yer word, Francie. I believe anything ye tell me, as far as I think ye ken, but maybe no sae far as ye think ye ken. I believe ye, but I confess I dinna believe in ye--yet. What hae ye ever done to gie a body any right to believe in ye? Ye're a good rider, and a good shot for a laddie, and ye run middlin' fast--I canna say like a deer, for I reckon I could lick ye mysel'! ~The Peasant Girl's Dream, Chapter One
The Peasant Girl's Dream has mild language here and there.
Throughout MacDonald's works you'll find the idea of universal reconciliation, the theology that all men--even if they have to go to hell temporarily--will be reconciled to God in the end. He believed in hell, but he did not believe in Divine Judgment. Jesus Christ came to save us from sin, yes, but not from eternal damnation. Keep this in mind as you read his books. They are enjoyable novels, but faulty at some points.
MacDonald's works influenced C.S. Lewis, though I don't know how far Lewis followed him in his beliefs. What's more disturbing is MacDonald's influence on his editor, Michael Phillips. Phillips' novels originally started out as sound and enjoyable stories; now they drip with universal theology, and the stories themselves are so entwined that his latter works are no longer redeemable.
But MacDonald's original works don't carry the idea nearly so far or so blatantly as Phillips, and I still find enjoyment in them, coupled with a discerning mindset. The Peasant Girl's Dream ranks next to the Malcolm novels amongst my favorites; and I look forward to reading it again sometime soon.
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Blessings on your reading adventures this week!