A Swiftly Tilting Planet

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Overview
A Swiftly Tilting Planet is a 1978 science fiction novel by Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for her young-adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time...

, part of the Time Quartet
Time Quartet
The Time Quartet/Quintet is a fantasy/science fiction series of five young adult novels written by Madeleine L'Engle.Those novels are:*A Wrinkle in Time , , ISBN 0-374-38613-7*A Wind in the Door , ISBN 0-374-38443-6...

. In it, Charles Wallace Murry
Charles Wallace Murry
Charles Wallace Murry is a major character in Madeleine L'Engle's young adult science fiction novels A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet, sometimes referred to as the Time Trilogy...

, an advanced and perceptive child in A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle, first published in 1962. The story revolves around a young girl whose father, a government scientist, has gone missing after working on a mysterious project called a tesseract. The book won a Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and...

and A Wind in the Door
A Wind in the Door
A Wind in the Door is a young adult science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle. It is a companion book to A Wrinkle in Time, and part of the Time Quartet .-Plot summary:...

, has grown into adolescence. His intelligence and remarkable goodness carry him through an adventure in time to attempt to save the world from nuclear disaster threatened by Mad Dog Branzillo, the dictator of the fictional
Fictional country
A fictional country is a country that is made up for fictional stories, and does not exist in real life, or one that people believe in without proof....

 South American country of Vespugia.
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Encyclopedia
A Swiftly Tilting Planet is a 1978 science fiction novel by Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for her young-adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time...

, part of the Time Quartet
Time Quartet
The Time Quartet/Quintet is a fantasy/science fiction series of five young adult novels written by Madeleine L'Engle.Those novels are:*A Wrinkle in Time , , ISBN 0-374-38613-7*A Wind in the Door , ISBN 0-374-38443-6...

. In it, Charles Wallace Murry
Charles Wallace Murry
Charles Wallace Murry is a major character in Madeleine L'Engle's young adult science fiction novels A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet, sometimes referred to as the Time Trilogy...

, an advanced and perceptive child in A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle, first published in 1962. The story revolves around a young girl whose father, a government scientist, has gone missing after working on a mysterious project called a tesseract. The book won a Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and...

and A Wind in the Door
A Wind in the Door
A Wind in the Door is a young adult science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle. It is a companion book to A Wrinkle in Time, and part of the Time Quartet .-Plot summary:...

, has grown into adolescence. His intelligence and remarkable goodness carry him through an adventure in time to attempt to save the world from nuclear disaster threatened by Mad Dog Branzillo, the dictator of the fictional
Fictional country
A fictional country is a country that is made up for fictional stories, and does not exist in real life, or one that people believe in without proof....

 South American country of Vespugia. To change the outcome of the present, Charles Wallace must change the past, in a series of "might-have-beens", events which are turning points fought over by the powers of good and evil. The book's title is an allusion to the poem "Morning Song of Senlin" by Conrad Aiken
Conrad Aiken
Conrad Potter Aiken was an American novelist and poet, whose work includes poetry, short stories, novels, a play and an autobiography.-Early years:...

.

Plot summary


The book opens on Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving (United States)
Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. It has officially been an annual tradition since 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday,...

 evening, about 10 years after the events of A Wind in the Door
A Wind in the Door
A Wind in the Door is a young adult science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle. It is a companion book to A Wrinkle in Time, and part of the Time Quartet .-Plot summary:...

. Meg
Meg Murry
Margaret "Meg" Murry O'Keefe is the main character and main protagonist in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet of Science fantasy novels, the daughter of two scientists, the sister of twins Sandy and Dennys Murry and telepath Charles Wallace Murry, and the mother of Polly O'Keefe and others in the...

 is now married to Calvin
Calvin O'Keefe
Calvin O'Keefe is a major character in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet series of books, and, as "Dr. Calvin O'Keefe", an important character in her O'Keefe series of young adult novels. In an interview released on the DVD of the TV adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, L'Engle describes Calvin as "the...

 and is expecting their first child. Calvin has become a scientist and is in Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 at a conference. The Murry family is joined for Thanksgiving dinner by an unusual guest—Meg's very antisocial mother-in-law, Mrs. O'Keefe. When they receive the news of impending nuclear war
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear warfare, or atomic warfare, is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is detonated on an opponent. Compared to conventional warfare, nuclear warfare can be vastly more destructive in range and extent of damage...

 caused by the dictator "Mad Dog Branzillo", Mrs. O'Keefe lays a charge on Charles Wallace — to prevent the disaster. She teaches him "Patrick's Rune", a rhyming prayer of protection that has been passed down to her from her Irish
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 grandmother.

Charles Wallace goes for a walk to the star-watching rock, a family haunt, and begins to recite Patrick's Rune. His recitation summons a flying unicorn
Unicorn
The unicorn is a legendary animal from European folklore that resembles a white horse with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead, and sometimes a goat's beard...

 from the heavens who introduces himself as Gaudior. The unicorn explains to Charles Wallace that he must prevent nuclear war by traveling through time
Time travel
Time travel is the concept of moving between different points in time in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space. Time travel could hypothetically involve moving backward in time to a moment earlier than the starting point, or forward to the future of that point without the...

 and telepathically merging with people who lived in the locale of the star-watching rock at points in the past. By doing so he may change pivotal situations, "might-have-beens", in which things might have turned out better than they did. Though unsure how events in the distant past near his home can affect a South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

n dictator, Charles Wallace agrees.

They are threatened along the way by the Echthroi
Echthroi
Echthroi is a Greek word meaning "The Enemy" . The singular form of the word, Echthros , is used in many versions and translations of the Bible for enemy...

, the antagonists introduced in A Wind in the Door
A Wind in the Door
A Wind in the Door is a young adult science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle. It is a companion book to A Wrinkle in Time, and part of the Time Quartet .-Plot summary:...

. The Echthroi are evil beings whose goal is the total destruction of the universe. As Charles Wallace tries to make the might-have-beens turn out for good, the Echthroi are fighting to make them turn out for evil.

Gaudior and Charles Wallace's travels bring them to: Harcels, a Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 boy at least 1,000 years in the past; Madoc
Madoc
Madoc or Madog ab Owain Gwynedd was, according to folklore, a Welsh prince who sailed to America in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492. According to the story, he was a son of Owain Gwynedd who took to the sea to flee internecine violence at home...

 Gywnedd of Wales, a pre-Columbian trans-oceanic traveler; Brandon Llawcae, a Welsh
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 settler in puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 times; Matthew Maddox, a writer during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 who wrote a novel about the legend of Madoc Gwynedd; and Mrs. O'Keefe's brother Chuck Maddox, during their childhood. Meg connects with Charles Wallace from home through "kything
Kything
Kything is from an old Scottish word, "kythe," meaning "to make visible." Madeleine L'Engle used it to describe a fictional type of communication, in a sense like telepathy, found in several of the books in her Time Quartet...

", the telepathic communication she learned in A Wind in the Door.

Eventually, a connection arises between the star-watching rock and Mad Dog Branzillo. In the 12th century, two Welsh prince
Prince
Prince is a general term for a ruler, monarch or member of a monarch's or former monarch's family, and is a hereditary title in the nobility of some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess...

s named Madoc
Madoc
Madoc or Madog ab Owain Gwynedd was, according to folklore, a Welsh prince who sailed to America in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492. According to the story, he was a son of Owain Gwynedd who took to the sea to flee internecine violence at home...

 and Gwydyr travelled to North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 to escape the in-fighting for their father's throne
Throne
A throne is the official chair or seat upon which a monarch is seated on state or ceremonial occasions. "Throne" in an abstract sense can also refer to the monarchy or the Crown itself, an instance of metonymy, and is also used in many expressions such as "the power behind the...

. But once there, Gwydyr turned against Madoc and tried to conquer their new home. Madoc defeated Gwydyr in combat, and Gwydyr left to South America. Both men married into the local Native American populations and became part of the local folklore. Many generations later in the 1860s, a descendant of Madoc marries a descendant of Gwydyr, and Mad Dog Branzillo is their descendant. However, thanks to Charles Wallace's changing of "might-have-beens" in the history of Branzillo's ancestors, things turn out differently. Distant descendants of Madoc marry, reuniting Madoc's line and resulting in a peaceful man being born instead, and the threat of nuclear war is dissolved.

St. Patrick's Rune


A Swiftly Tilting Planet also includes an ancient rune, which is supposed to ward off evil and save the world from the threat of nuclear war. The poem features in several parts of the book, each with slightly different wording or different punctuation; the poem's definite composition is unsure.

At Tara
Hill of Tara
The Hill of Tara , located near the River Boyne, is an archaeological complex that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin in County Meath, Leinster, Ireland...

 in this fateful hour,

I place all Heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

 with its power,

And the sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

 with its brightness,

And the snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 with its whiteness,

And the fire
Fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

 with all the strength it hath,

And the lightning
Lightning
Lightning is an atmospheric electrostatic discharge accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms, and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms...

 with its rapid wrath,

And the wind
Wind
Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space...

s with their swiftness along their path,

And the sea
Sea
A sea generally refers to a large body of salt water, but the term is used in other contexts as well. Most commonly, it means a large expanse of saline water connected with an ocean, and is commonly used as a synonym for ocean...

 with its deepness,

And the rocks
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 with their steepness,

And the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 with its starkness

All these I place

By God's
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 almighty help and grace

Between myself and the powers of darkness!

Sources


The background story of Madoc
Madoc
Madoc or Madog ab Owain Gwynedd was, according to folklore, a Welsh prince who sailed to America in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492. According to the story, he was a son of Owain Gwynedd who took to the sea to flee internecine violence at home...

 and his brother, who along with their descendants are central to Charles Wallace's mission, derive from a legend about a pair of 12th century Welsh explorer-princes. According to the legend, Madoc arrived in North America centuries before Leif Ericson
Leif Ericson
Leif Ericson was a Norse explorer who is regarded as the first European to land in North America , nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus...

 and settled with the people there, eventually giving rise to a Welsh-speaking native tribe with some Caucasian features. Although the legend is generally centered on Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

, along the Ohio River
Ohio River
The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

 and elsewhere, L'Engle places Madoc and his genetic line in Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

, near the Murry home. As she tried to find a link between Wales and South America to bring her story threads together, L'Engle was given a book that mentioned an actual 1865 expedition from Wales to settle in "exactly that part of Patagonia
Patagonia
Patagonia is a region located in Argentina and Chile, integrating the southernmost section of the Andes mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific ocean and from the east of the cordillera to the valleys it follows south through Colorado River towards Carmen de Patagones in the Atlantic Ocean...

 where I had placed Vespugia."

The verse given as Patrick's Rune is L'Engle's adaptation of an authentic medieval prayer, "Saint Patrick's Breastplate
Saint Patrick's Breastplate
Saint Patrick's Breastplate is a Christian hymn whose original Old Irish lyrics were traditionally attributed to Saint Patrick during his Irish ministry in the 5th century; however, it was probably actually written later, in the 8th century. It is written in the style of a druidic incantation for...

", which in turn is a variation on the Lorica
Lorica (incantation)
In the Christian monastic tradition, a lorica is a prayer recited for protection. The Latin word lorica originally meant "armor" or "breastplate." Both meanings come together in the practice of placing verbal inscriptions on the shields or armorial trappings of knights, who might recite them before...

 of Saint Patrick. L'Engle's rune invokes the same natural phenomena (sun, moon, lightning, rocks, etc.) as the fourth verse of the hymn "Saint Patrick's Breastplate", attributed to St. Patrick, translated by Cecil Frances Alexander, according to the hymnal used by the Episcopal Church, of which L'Engle was a member.

The Horn of Joy


Matthew Maddox's second novel, The Horn of Joy (1868), serves as a McGuffin in A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Charles Wallace spends a significant portion of the book trying to remember or discover what Maddox wrote in it, or to reach Maddox himself as a way of learning how to fix the right might-have-been. Readers sometimes wonder whether The Horn of Joy ever existed; but it is a fictional book, created by L'Engle. Polly O'Keefe
Polly O'Keefe
Polyhymnia O'Keefe is the protagonist of the Madeleine L'Engle novels A House Like a Lotus and An Acceptable Time, and a major character in two previous books, The Arm of the Starfish and Dragons in the Waters. The eldest daughter of Meg Murry O'Keefe and Dr...

 finds a copy of The Horn of Joy in her room (formerly Charles Wallace's room) when she visits her grandparents in An Acceptable Time. Maddox's equally fictional first novel, Once More United, is said to have been published in 1865.

Vespugia



Vespugia is the same fictional country
Fictional country
A fictional country is a country that is made up for fictional stories, and does not exist in real life, or one that people believe in without proof....

 that L'Engle's character Vicky Austin later visits in Troubling a Star. L'Engle explains in Walking on Water that Vespugia is "set in the middle of what used to be called Patagonia, a sizeable area along what are now the boundaries of Chile and Argentina." L'Engle's husband, Hugh Franklin
Hugh Franklin
Hugh Hale Franklin was an American theatre and soap opera actor. He was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma.Franklin was best known for his role as Dr. Charles Tyler on All My Children, a role he played from the show’s first episode in 1970 until 1983...

, is credited with having named Vespugia.

Series


This is the fourth book of the Time Quartet
Time Quartet
The Time Quartet/Quintet is a fantasy/science fiction series of five young adult novels written by Madeleine L'Engle.Those novels are:*A Wrinkle in Time , , ISBN 0-374-38613-7*A Wind in the Door , ISBN 0-374-38443-6...

, preceded by, in chronological order, A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle, first published in 1962. The story revolves around a young girl whose father, a government scientist, has gone missing after working on a mysterious project called a tesseract. The book won a Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and...

(1962), A Wind in the Door
A Wind in the Door
A Wind in the Door is a young adult science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle. It is a companion book to A Wrinkle in Time, and part of the Time Quartet .-Plot summary:...

(1973) and Many Waters
Many Waters
Many Waters is a 1986 novel by Madeleine L'Engle, part of the author's Time Quartet . The title is taken from the Song of Solomon 8:7: "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it...

(1986). However, this was not the publication order. Many Waters was written and published later than A Swiftly Tilting Planet, but takes place earlier with respect to the characters. These four books and An Acceptable Time
An Acceptable Time
An Acceptable Time is a 1989 young adult science fiction novel by Madeleine L'Engle, the last of her books to feature Polyhymnia O'Keefe, better known as Poly or Polly ,...

(1989) are often referred to as the Time Quintet. An Acceptable Time takes place a generation after A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and is part of the Polly O'Keefe series of books. The larger "Murry-O'Keefe" series (the Time Quartet plus the books with Poly/Polly O'Keefe in them) contains three novels between A Swiftly Tilting Planet and An Acceptable Time in terms of character chronology. These are The Arm of the Starfish
The Arm of the Starfish
The Arm of the Starfish is a young adult novel by Madeleine L'Engle, first published in 1965. It is the first novel featuring Polly O'Keefe and the O'Keefe family, a generation after the events of A Wrinkle in Time...

, Dragons in the Waters
Dragons in the Waters
Dragons in the Waters is a 1976 young adult murder mystery by Madeleine L'Engle, the second title to feature her character Polly O'Keefe. Its protagonist is thirteen-year-old Simon Bolivar Quentin Phair Renier, an impoverished orphan from an aristocratic Southern family...

and A House Like a Lotus
A House Like a Lotus
A House Like a Lotus is a 1984 young adult novel by Madeleine L'Engle. Its protagonist is sixteen-year-old Polly O'Keefe, whose friend and mentor, Maximiliana Horne, has sent her on a trip to Greece and Cyprus. As she travels, Polly must come to terms with a recent traumatic event involving Max...

.

External links