Mountain Garden is written in and as a classic picaresque narrative. It contains time-honoured, favourite writing styles including elements of the morality tale, fairy tale, epic and of course, the instructive fable. The pace is measured very deliberately, the words, spare. The stateliness of the actual pace links directly with the tale’s protagonist, Buckan, a creature who bears all the hallmarks of loyalty, spirituality, steadfastness, unselfishness and loyalty – in fact the perfect ‘gentil knight’ as Chaucer has it or the mediaeval knight chevalier based on earlier Arthurian legends.
Buckan is instantly recognisable as an Aslan-type figure and the stag itself is of course particularly linked to royalty – and especially depicted in heraldry the stag is often pure white in colour (with its attendant symbolism) and also depicted with a simple but impressive crown around its lower neck.
The tale is certainly atmospheric.
There seems also in Mountain Garden an undeniable folkloric element set at no particular time. It could be just as plausible to understand that the story is set in the long and distant past or indeed, so far into the future as to be positively post-apocalyptical. The odds are on the former but the latter cannot be eschewed either. In either case, the creatures have come to possess sophisticated human traits such as concepts of rivalry, hierarchy, treachery, position and power and of course, forging or switching alliances.
At times, Mountain Garden has the feel of a mediaeval romance itself based on, however lightly – say, Chaucer’s characterization of birds and animals such as ‘Parliament of Fowles’ or the arrogant farmyard cock Chanticleer in the Canterbury Tales. Tristan and Isolde too, perhaps?
The inclusion of rich, visual description, used strategically makes the text especially magnetic and enjoyable in places.
A spiritual journey, legendary quest, a fauna epic, betrayal versus heroism – Mountain Garden’s strength in the main lies in the fact that it has a familiar structure that resonates and reminds with childhood moments. It takes the reader on a vital journey through danger, right, wrong, faith but most of all – love.
About the Author: Robin Dutt has been art critic, curator and adviser for over a decade, working for BBC radio, The Independent, London Evening Standard and Galleries Magazine amongst others. He has written many catalogues including those for the Musée Rimbaud in France and the Academia Italiana.