From the pen of Alexander Marshall...
From the pen of fellow member Alexander Marshall, comes this glimpse of a work long-planned and even longer in the execution:
Tobias Aloysius Green, CBE was an English writer, poet, WWI veteran (a Second Lieutenant in the Yorkshire Fusiliers), folklorist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy and science fiction classic works Tales from the Valley and The Eternium Quest.
Green was Professor of Folklore at Oxford from 1927 to 1947, and Spellbridge Professor of English language and literature from 1947 to 1959. He was a close friend of Bernard Crispin.
Randolph Green published a series of works drawn from the legacy of his father’s library, including The Genetian. These, together with Tales from the Valley and The Eternium Quest, form a connected body of tales, poems, invented histories, and essays about an imagined universe known as the Prime Universe, an idea which he shared with a more-or-less cohesive group of other writers and artists who called themselves The Next Chapter. From about 1930 through to the early 1960s, in Spellbridge College, Oxford, this informal group of friends and colleagues met to read excerpts of their work to each other, share anecdotes and news, and generally talk about literature and the times they were living in.
As time went on, they conceived a grand scheme: a fictional universe to which they could all contribute in a loosely coordinated way, creating interlinking stories and drawing on similar elements to construct tales that would span genres and time periods in order to produce a vast cultural milieu. Green’s Prime Universe was regarded by many of them as the foundation of this shared world.
Over time, they were joined by many other individuals who went on to influence key fields in their lifetimes and beyond, including:
Fred McGee and Joe Colby of Miracle Comics
Stanley Oldman, a Canadian TV producer whose work for the BBC would involve the revolutionary series The Gatekeepers
Robert Lancelot Brown, writer of children’s literature especially Hereward the Wake
Barry Henderson, the children’s filmmaker
Natalia K. Gwyneth, American science fiction and fantasy author (who married Bernard Crispin)
and several others.
After Crispin’s death in 1963, Green largely withdrew from the group and it dwindled. But not before it had had quite an impact on the culture, it could be argued.
While many other authors had published works of fantasy and science fiction before Green, the great success of Tales from the Valley and The Eternium Quest led directly to a popular resurgence of the genres. Green's writings have inspired many other works of fantasy and science fiction and have had a lasting effect on the entire field.
Tobias Green was born in Yorkshire in 1893 into a Catholic household, marrying his childhood sweetheart, Esmerelda Hawkins, with whom he had three children. Many of what later became the Tales from the Valley were originally invented for Green’s children.
Green once described The Eternium Quest as ‘a conscious, though not always successful attempt to reconfigure the popular, materialistic and modern conception of the universe, replacing it with a Christian one’. Theological themes in the grand epic tale include the battle of good versus evil, the inevitability of pride’s downfall, and the presence of God in the world.
Here is a selection of quotes from Green’s work:
‘Light can be hidden in darkness;
Guardians stand by your side.
There is strength not touched by weakness;
You are loved by that which abides.
Seemingly dead and abandoned,
All eyes seeing emptiness there,
The night sky is watching and waiting,
Preparing a welcoming chair.’
‘Why should this be any business of mine?’ asked Magnaminium.
‘Why should the air that fills your lungs be there when you breathe in?’ replied the old man. ‘You have yet to grow enough to fill the shape you occupy for you to ask such a question. This business, as you call it, is here; it has come to you, and no other; such is your place in the Great Dance at this time.’
‘A world in which joy, love, peace, harmony, laughter and light were the chief occupations of people - that’s my business, and a long time it's taking.’
‘Don’t try to breathe in the void of space and space won’t try to freeze your blood. A simple arrangement.’
‘Friendships are easy amidst abundance. When shortfalls arise, look to see them wither.’
‘Oh the world can be a cold place, certainly. And a dark one. But, as in a mine under the earth where jewels wink from the surrounding rocks, fair and bright, so does beauty bless it. And because beauty is buried in it, it’s worth embracing, as I hope you’ll see.’
‘You would mete out death like a cosmic judge? Can you grant life, as though you were its father? Pah! You are getting above yourselves. You are trying to see the whole game when you are only a piece in it. Only those who play the game can see the shape of things, and even they struggle.’
‘Stay safe, if safe you call it. Stay indoors, stay away from adventure. But it’s a wide world, with others wandering out of doors, not playing safe at all. Sooner or later adventure will find your door. Wouldn’t you rather seek it out than hear that unexpected knock?’
‘Tears hurt, don’t they? They also heal. But the healing part of tears comes in the dregs, once the well has been emptied.’
‘It is the glory of stories that they show us that the route out of the hard world in which we live is inward, not outward. Do they encourage us to withdraw from the world? To run away from it? Or do they lead us through the secret labyrinth to the weapon-hoard?’
‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Blazes from the east like world renewed;
There seems no end to its beneficence:
No finite edge to curb what can be viewed.’
‘Eternium created the green heaven;
Eternium carved out the worlds within.
Eternium made out of stars the Seven;
It was what made the night to light give in.’
‘Do we fight because we love blood and pain? Do we go to war because we desire to rend and crush? Nay, we love peace and laughter; we build, we sing. It is the things that we love which give us the power to overcome the dark; darkness can feed nothing but emptiness.’
‘There, on the topmost turret of the highest tower in the land, he bent his knee and kissed her hand, unaware of the sun, the sky, the city or anything around him other than her nearness.’
‘All around us are great secrets, invisible pathways, hidden guardians. We walk by them, oblivious, every minute we move. But we are the ghosts. And they are not blind to us, as we are to them.’
‘One step starts a path, as they say.’
‘The strangest place can become a crucible for the spirit.’
‘Forever is born from doing nothing.’
‘The deepest mine oft holds the brightest gem.’
‘Perilous business, stepping outside. One never quite knows the weather further down the road. Dress for summer, get rained on; dress for winter, and summer laughs at you. I’d stay in, but it’s too quiet there.'
‘What are you afraid of?’ he asked her.
‘Being left in the shadow of greatness. Becoming a shadow,’ she replied.
‘Wine heals many wounds but only for a time; and the clouds that you let pass carry rain elsewhere. I’ll be sober and suffer; I’ll get wet here and save a farmer trouble there.’
‘In the heart of the stone, life glinted. Just as in the heart of the hard world, we breathe and move.’