Embed from Getty Images 1945 photograph

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I have recently re-read and blogged about Mary Stewart’s 1988 novel Thornyhold, and since the book is still filling my thoughts, there may be another post to come. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some photos and a quote about Stonehenge. Stonehenge features in Thornyhold when the narrator, Geillis Ramsey, visits there – it is a quietly pivotal scene in the book. Thornyhold is set in 1948, before the UNESCO World Heritage Site was fenced off due to erosion in 1977.

We did see Stonehenge. In those days it stood unfenced, deserted, small in the middle of the great Plain, but as one left the road and walked to it across the grass the stones reared themselves to their awesome height, and the circle closed round with its own old magic.

This was certainly not the stone circle of my dream. There were harebells in the grass, and the lichens on the tall stones were beautiful in the sunlight, green and amber and furry grey as chinchilla. The breeze in the long autumn grasses sounded like the ripple of a slow river. Late though the year was, an occasional bird-call echoed above the Plain. Above us the sky arched, enormous, wisps of cloud breaking and forming and flowing through the blue like the creaming of a quiet sea.

There was no one else there. We walked slowly round between the massive menhirs, while he told me about the place. Nothing was known, he said, about its origins or the great men of our pre-history who had built it, but there was evidence to show where the stones had come from, and this, considering their size and the distances involved, was barely credible. Of course legends had arisen to explain the apparent miracle of the building. It had been erected in a night by Merlin, and King Uther Pendragon lay buried at its centre. The Druids had sacrificed their wretched victims there. Its builders had oriented it towards the rising sun of the summer solstice, and people still came sometimes to pray there, and watch for wonders. It was a calendar, a gigantic time-keeper of the years. It was a thousand-milestone on the path of some sky-haunting dragon…

None of it, truth or legend, was needed to enhance the magic of the place. For me, that was there in the clean air and the breeze on the grasses and the singing of happiness.

I think this quote is really evocative. And it acts as another nudge for me to re-read Mary Stewart’s Merlin books.

As always, I’d love to hear your views: do you like this quote? Have you been to Stonehenge? – I never have so I’d be interested to hear the impression left on those who have visited.

Embed from Getty Images

Happiness… ‘comes suddenly, like the sunrise at Stonehenge’


For more on Thornyhold, see also:  Thornyhold, Thornyhold: a bewitching tale, and (on similarities between Gilly and Mary Stewart’s childhoods) this post on Mary Stewart’s education.