Anne: This is the author who wrote Glastonbury Tor and Honddu Vale. If you'd like to see my review of Honddu Vale, click HERE.
We read Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King my freshman year in high school. I was instantly in love like Anne of Green Gables with Ivanhoe. The romance of a baby born in a castle by the sea and whisked away to be raised in secret enchanted me. To top it off, when this child becomes a young man, he is revealed as the true king who would unite the kingdom and lead his people to victory over their enemies, establishing truth, justice and ... Okay, you get the idea.
Seeing my enthusiasm, my teacher loaned me her copy of The Crystal Cave. What impressed me most in this first book of Mary Stewart’s Arthurian saga was Merlin’s total dedication to giving Arthur to Britain. As a Christian who had seldom found any book other than Narnia that portrayed my faith as something to embrace fully, I identified closely. I saw in Merlin the kind of commitment the gospel calls me to.
My parents were deeply involved in foreign missions. For health reasons they were unable to serve overseas, but they dug deeply into their pockets to give, and many of their closest friends went “to the field,” as we said in those days. These missionaries spent time in our home when they were in the States. As a child, I listened to their stories around the dinner table. From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up. My mother told me that the only time that desire wavered was the first day of first grade when I came home convinced that to be a school cook would be an even higher calling.
This was the 1960s when my generation was taking on civil rights and Vietnam (when we weren’t frying our brains on drugs and free love.) I saw in the missionaries I knew the kind of commitment I wanted—the possibility of spending my life for something that mattered, of making a difference in the world. The Kingdom of God was something a whole lot bigger than American political issues (as much as I believed, and still do, in peace and civil rights for all.) Work done for the Kingdom would have an impact, not just on my lietime, but for eternity!
In The Hollow Hills, the second of Mary Stewart’s Arthurian books, the servant Ralf guards the child Arthur as he grows up in the obscure household of Count Ector in the north of Britain. Ralf’s role is not a glamorous one. The headstrong boy is clearly a handful, and when we first see Ralf after ten years, he is irritated and angry. But he has been faithful. He has not lost sight of Merlin’s vision.
For me as a teen the challenge was not, would I be willing to go to the ends of the earth to serve my King. It was rather, would I obey if God asked me to stay in the States. When I went forward the last night of our church missions conference one year, that was my commitment: Yes, Lord, even if you ask me to raise my family in boring old suburban USA, I will serve you with all my heart.
As it turned out, the Lord did not call me to a boring life. I have been a missionary librarian in Ethiopia during the Communist revolution, in Mozambique during their civil war, and in South Africa at the time of their first democratic elections. In between, there have been more peaceful years learning language and culture in Brazil and a stint organizing mission archives in England where I reveled in the history all around me.
Glastonbury Tor and Honddu Vale are set in sixteenth century Britain. In those books, among other things, I seek to give readers a glimpse of the Jesus I serve, a more powerful and dynamic warlord than Arthur, a more glorious king than Charlemagne, more willing to humble himself and live (or die) for his people than Aragon. This is the Jesus of Daniel and of Revelation, a King worth serving with all my heart.