Sunday, September 16, 2012

Top 10 literary otters

Miriam Darlington is a prizing winning English poet. Otter Country, her new book, is an account of the author's search for wild otters in the remote places of Britain, which blends natural history, memoir, literary history and travel writing. Darlington travelled from her home in Devon to the wilds of Scotland, to Cumbria, Wales, Northumberland, Cornwall and Somerset in search of the aquatic mammals.

For the Guardian, Darlington named her top ten literary otters, including:
Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson

First published in 1927, Tarka must be the most famous otter ever caught in the pages of a story. The heart-ripping adventure in Williamson's fictional tale tells of a courageous hunted animal. Everything in the story prickles with the otter's-eye-view: Tarka watches the meandering river and listens to its language of sibilant sounds; he plays with the river's "paws of water" and tumbles between its "star-streaming claws". "From his couch of bitten and pressed-down hollow stems, Tarka watched the dragonflies which flew glittering over the water. On a reed beside him was fixed the brittle greyish mask of a nymph… it took the dragonish breath of noon and changed into gleams of scarlet; its eyes grew lustrous with summer fire." Tarka's peace is frequently shattered by the baying of hounds, and his heroism culminates in a dramatic 10-hour hunt where he battles with his terrifying nemesis Deadlock. Anyone who hasn't sprouted whiskers, webs and a tail by the end of this story needs to read it again.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue