counter create hit Travel Light - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Travel Light

Availability: Ready to download

From the dark ages to modern times, from the dragons of medieval forests to Constantinople, this is a fantastic and philosophical fairy-tale journey that will appeal to fans of Harry Potter, Diana Wynne Jones, and T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone.


Compare
Ads Banner

From the dark ages to modern times, from the dragons of medieval forests to Constantinople, this is a fantastic and philosophical fairy-tale journey that will appeal to fans of Harry Potter, Diana Wynne Jones, and T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone.

30 review for Travel Light

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Ever wanted a Tolkeinesque saga with a female lead? Look no further this is it, and from someone close to Tolkein who proof read Lord of the Rings before it was published. This was published in 1952, before Lord of the Rings in 1954. This really ought to stand alongside The Hobbit and Harry Potter and other such tales to be read as one grows up. For some reason it doesn’t and its remarkable author is not considered part of the canon. Mitchison lived to be 101 and her life and the scope of her inte Ever wanted a Tolkeinesque saga with a female lead? Look no further this is it, and from someone close to Tolkein who proof read Lord of the Rings before it was published. This was published in 1952, before Lord of the Rings in 1954. This really ought to stand alongside The Hobbit and Harry Potter and other such tales to be read as one grows up. For some reason it doesn’t and its remarkable author is not considered part of the canon. Mitchison lived to be 101 and her life and the scope of her interests and activities is quite remarkable. Part of the Haldane family, her early success was as a geneticist, she then volunteered as a VAD during the war. She was a lifelong feminist and campaigner for birth control, an active socialist and a very prolific writer. She published over ninety books including historical novels (one critic has described her as the greatest historical novelist of the twentieth century), science fiction, politics, sexuality, travelogue, fantasy, memoirs and numerous articles. Travel Light is the tale of Halla, born to a king but cast out to die, she is raised first by bears and then by a dragon. When she eventually returns to people she has the gift of languages and can speak to all people and animals. Halla has a particular dislike of heroes (especially because they tend to slay dragons) and is known as heroesbane for a while. There is magic here and lots of travel, an appearance from Odin Allfather (who advises Halla to travel light and keep moving), a Valkyrie who keeps popping up when heroes die to carry them off to Valhalla (which is definitely not what the heroes think it is), crooked princes and governors, duplicitous clerics to name but a few. Halla communicates with all kinds of animals and travels for a while with a group of men on a quest for justice. Halla deals deftly with the usual male desire to tie her to home and hearth and continues to travel light. It’s great stuff and Mitchison makes her moral points gently along the way. Halla is an interesting protagonist and is much more Gandalf than Bilbo Baggins. Although this is a fable, it does not have the usual fable structure. There are links to Beowulf; the Grendel family has a walk on part. The word hero is in this tale, a pejorative term for someone who makes their living from killing and murder. Established religion is corrupt and distinct from true belief which is important, but not to be held onto blindly. Mitchison is teaching respect, understanding and tolerance with a light touch. This is a book I wish I had read when I was younger. My main quibble is that it is too short. One reviewer, a writer of fantasy (Amal El Mohtar) has wondered what would have happened if she had read this as a child; “But, most crucially for me, I wonder: Where might I have gone if, instead of a middle-aged Hobbit enamored of his pantry, I had embraced a girl who lost three homes before choosing the open road?” Who knows indeed; this should be a classic.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Orey

    This was really beautiful. It's a meditative fairy tale that turns into something else entirely by the end. I'm a fast reader these days, and even though this book was short, it made me slow down and take my time. I appreciate that a lot. Like a lot of other readers, I found this one thanks to Amal El-Mohtar's NPR review: https://www.npr.org/2014/01/01/258384... And I'm so glad I did! There's a lot of heavy subject matter but a gentle touch, and no matter how grim things got, I always felt strange This was really beautiful. It's a meditative fairy tale that turns into something else entirely by the end. I'm a fast reader these days, and even though this book was short, it made me slow down and take my time. I appreciate that a lot. Like a lot of other readers, I found this one thanks to Amal El-Mohtar's NPR review: https://www.npr.org/2014/01/01/258384... And I'm so glad I did! There's a lot of heavy subject matter but a gentle touch, and no matter how grim things got, I always felt strangely soothed? There's a wonderful focus on language and the power of communication. I wish more fantasy would take up that challenge so thoughtfully. Overall, it's hard to believe this came out in the early 50s, since it still feels so fresh today. Also, the dragons were incredible. And the magic was excellent. Really, all of it was just so good. Now I want to read everything else that Mitchinson wrote.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jareed

    Travel light my child, as the Wanderer travels light, and his love will be with you."(57) Travel Light Travel Light tells the story of Halla, a girl born to a King, who will also take the very same gift that was given, for he casts her out into the wilds before any words could be spoken. She is nursed by bears and raised by dragons. But the time of dragons has come to past and magic is waning, our dear Halla is destined to make a choice. Who will she be? Halla Bearsbairn? Halla Heroesbane? or Hall Travel light my child, as the Wanderer travels light, and his love will be with you."(57) Travel Light Travel Light tells the story of Halla, a girl born to a King, who will also take the very same gift that was given, for he casts her out into the wilds before any words could be spoken. She is nursed by bears and raised by dragons. But the time of dragons has come to past and magic is waning, our dear Halla is destined to make a choice. Who will she be? Halla Bearsbairn? Halla Heroesbane? or Halla Godsgift? But this is not what Travel Light is simply all about. “Perhaps she did not die,” said Halla, “perhaps her nurse turned into a bear and carried her away into the forest. Perhaps she was brought up by bears and dragons. Perhaps it was better for her in the end than being a king’s child.” “That was never the story,” said Modolf. “Forget the story,” said Halla.(139) And indeed it was never the story, just as Travel Light is not a simple children's book. It is about 'traveling light' in a muddled and muddied world, defining your own destiny and in the process finding yourself. Indeed the story moves with Halla's narrative. The episodic story moves between and beyond conventions and structures of the literary landscape. It seemingly starts out as a didactic fable with Halla’s bearish infancy. In this episode Mitchison grounded the work to Nordic Mythos with the occasional appearances of Valkyries and passing mentions of other Nordic legends. But this didactic fable violently veers off to a dragonish fire-proof adolescence, and with it, the very nature of the narrative. Aside from an amusing discussion of dragons’ distinctive hoarding nature, Mitchison delves into human nature and philosophy and moves from Scandinavian landscape of Paganism to the heart of Constantinople and of Christianity. It is important to note that the Nordic Mythos facet of the tale is never lost as the Valkyrie seems to keep appearing intermittently. As the tale which did not provide a clear span and flow of time (for it would seem that a hundred, thousand years even, have come to past) comes to a close, Halla is seen as a mythic figure herself and the nature of the narrative ends where it starts, Nordic mythology. As one can see, so much is in work here. Mitchison talks about human nature, beliefs systems and religion, but never, as I felt, did she shove it up to me. I felt that she kept true to the one thing she wanted to impart, ‘Travel Light’ and do so by being good to all. It has no form and defies the traditional linear progressions but I still enjoyed its exceptional and unprecedented transition from a fable-like story to a socio-political examination of human belief and dynamics, again in a sense, by ‘travelling light’, by simplifying matters and driving at its core. I highly recommend this book, and do so while weeping that it suffers in relative obscurity considering how good it is. Perhaps because it was publish in the era of Tolkien and Lewis? The shadows they have cast have inadvertently and yet effectively laid down a shroud of obscurity over works like this, which is interesting in light of Mitchison’s relation to Tolkien. She was a dear friend to Tolkien, was among the first to read the unpublished The Lord of the Rings, and when the said book suffered from poor reception compared to the then anticipated sale, Mitchison was asked to do blurbs for its marketing promotions. Naomi Mitchison Mitchison must have been an exciting and principled individual too! She traveled the world engaging in social activism mostly fighting for Indigenous Communities, to which end, she was adopted as adviser and mother of the Bakgatla Tribe in Botswana. She died in 1999 at the age of 101, if anything; Mitchison herself indeed, ‘traveled light’. Travel light!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    I came across this because of Amal El-Mohtar's NPR review; the idea of a book in dialogue with Tolkien, by one of the women around him who he encouraged and listened to, definitely appealed: I think just recently I was asking if anyone's written anything about Tolkien's female students, about whom I know very little except that I'm sure I have been told they existed. (Time for a woman to write a biography of Tolkien? Move over, Humphrey Carpenter, Tom Shippey?) And this book delivered. It is rath I came across this because of Amal El-Mohtar's NPR review; the idea of a book in dialogue with Tolkien, by one of the women around him who he encouraged and listened to, definitely appealed: I think just recently I was asking if anyone's written anything about Tolkien's female students, about whom I know very little except that I'm sure I have been told they existed. (Time for a woman to write a biography of Tolkien? Move over, Humphrey Carpenter, Tom Shippey?) And this book delivered. It is rather slight -- it's short, and on first glance, rather fable-like. Naomi Mitchison resisted any urge to insist on a moral, though: while there are religious people in the story, and Hella's travelling light seems a virtue in her, there are good people who struggle with faith, good dragons who keep out of the gods' way, and though for a while it looks as though there might be a moral about Christianity in there, then there's also a bit of a wry look at the church in Constantinople, and it ends with some more Norse mythology. I don't think she honestly ever pushes any moral except finding your way through life and being good to people and creatures, and in the meantime she has an intriguing wander through different cultures and traditions. Mitchison is a lot less sure than Tolkien about the period and the people she wants to write about, I think. Tolkien talked about creating "a mythology for England", and I've argued elsewhere that Susan Cooper succeeds, but I don't think Mitchison is as rooted in a place, an idea. Like her protagonist, she's willing to wander. I wonder what a difference it'd have made to genre fiction now if Mitchison had a greater role, and Tolkien a lesser? Maybe we'd have less to worry about from the constant onslaught of medieval European fantasy. It won't scratch the same itch as The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, for sure. It's a different sort of story -- if you're a fan of Le Guin, perhaps, it's more like the stories of Earthsea. Or it's like a more fantastical, more female Rosemary Sutcliff. Don't read it for The Hobbit 2.0 -- it's something all its own. Oh, and it can be quite amusing, too: Dragon Economics 101...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sylvester

    I think this would be considered a Y/A novel. Mitchison was ahead of her time. She was turning Fantasy inside-out back in the 50's, before the genre was even well-worn. First, she throws everything in - a bit of the feel of Beowulf, with the wonderful hyphenated phrases (flame-fringed, gold-collared, bracelet-giver), the Norse lore (Valhalla, Valkyries), the names (she goes through a series of life-twists that are marked by name changes = Halla Bearsbairn, Halla Heroesbane, Halla God's-gift), a I think this would be considered a Y/A novel. Mitchison was ahead of her time. She was turning Fantasy inside-out back in the 50's, before the genre was even well-worn. First, she throws everything in - a bit of the feel of Beowulf, with the wonderful hyphenated phrases (flame-fringed, gold-collared, bracelet-giver), the Norse lore (Valhalla, Valkyries), the names (she goes through a series of life-twists that are marked by name changes = Halla Bearsbairn, Halla Heroesbane, Halla God's-gift), a unicorn or three, a heroine raised by bears and dragons who (my favourite) can speak the language of most animals and peoples (this adds all kinds of interest to the plot), and who having spent most of her life on Dragon Mountain, sees "heroes" as evil. There's a wonderful point where the whole St. George and the Dragon story gets turned inside out, and the dragon rescues the maiden from the hero. The plot doesn't follow the usual fantasy lines - Halla is definitely the heroine, but she is finding her way, listening to animals, people, watching for where she fits in. At certain points she sees that it's not haphazard. The Valkyrie tells her, "It's all there, it's all in the weaving." But it takes the entire book for her to find where she fits. Mitchison really bucks expectation. "Perhaps she did not die," said Halla,"perhaps her nurse turned into a bear and carried her away into the forest. Perhaps she was brought up by bears and dragons. Perhaps it was better for her in the end than being a king's child." "That was never in the story," said Modolf. "Forget the story," said Halla." Well, isn't that something. I mean, we know that being a king's child is an important element of fantasy, but Halla is, and doesn't take it up. Interesting. I enjoyed the Other-Perspective that Halla has. She really does think like a bear and a dragon a lot of the time. Here are some of her thoughts when Tarkan is in pain. "If he could sleep, she thought, sleep through the unhappy months, the heart's hunger, the months of death and cold and not having what you most want, and wake with time gone past and blurred and a new year coming. But perhaps it is too early in the year, she thought after that, and besides, he is not a bear." Yeah. I could see the good of being a bear once in a while. 1952, folks. Naomi Mitchison. Way back then, already.

  6. 4 out of 5

    ambyr

    (Read because it was highly recommended at an Arisia panel on forgotten classics by women back in January, and also because it was part of the Small Beer Press Humble Bundle.) A few weeks ago I went and saw a one-man show called Transmission. It was about ideas, and values, and how the books we read in childhood worm their way into our conscious (and conscience) and affect us years and decades down the line--and it was a cry to reject that, to examine our received beliefs and rebuild them anew. S (Read because it was highly recommended at an Arisia panel on forgotten classics by women back in January, and also because it was part of the Small Beer Press Humble Bundle.) A few weeks ago I went and saw a one-man show called Transmission. It was about ideas, and values, and how the books we read in childhood worm their way into our conscious (and conscience) and affect us years and decades down the line--and it was a cry to reject that, to examine our received beliefs and rebuild them anew. Story, the performer said, was dangerous, because story makes our brains suspend disbelief, and in the process uncritically accept not just the events of the tall tale but the moral behind it. I wonder what the performer would have made of this book. It has morals, certainly, but they're quicksilver, slippery things. There's criticism of money, greed, capitalism--but also acknowledgement that we live within a system that can sometimes only be changed from inside. There's a paean to freedom, but also to settling down; Halla's embrace of her itinerant, mendicant path is never without doubts, nor is it a path most characters can or want to tread. And as to story, well. "That was never the story," said Modolf. "Forget the story," said Halla. In short, this is a book about letting go, of accepting that nothing--not material things, not values or beliefs, not hatreds ("It is difficult to keep one's enemies") or even friendships--will serve you forever. And that includes its own message; it's a book that would, I think, in the end be proud to be set aside, superseded by a newer and more useful viewpoint. I wish I'd read it as a child. I will be sending copies, I think, to children that I know when the time is right--and maybe to the performer of Transmission as well.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

    Note: If you have the Smallbeer Press edition, DO NOT read the Introduction. It doesn't "spoil" the book, it entirely ruins it by telling the whole thing, elements, denouement and all. Why editors do this consistently I cannot tell you, but it seems to be a new fashion when resurrecting older texts from oblivion. Not my usual sort of read but I found myself really enjoying it. Mitchison blends Nordic myth with her personal perception of early Christianity, adding a pinch of fairy tale to tell the Note: If you have the Smallbeer Press edition, DO NOT read the Introduction. It doesn't "spoil" the book, it entirely ruins it by telling the whole thing, elements, denouement and all. Why editors do this consistently I cannot tell you, but it seems to be a new fashion when resurrecting older texts from oblivion. Not my usual sort of read but I found myself really enjoying it. Mitchison blends Nordic myth with her personal perception of early Christianity, adding a pinch of fairy tale to tell the story of Halla, an unwanted child of the king's first marriage who is rescued by a were-bear nurserymaid (like they do) and begins a life of wandering. I've always wondered how these fairy tale kings can run a kingdom and fight battles and such, and yet are totally unable to stand up to their second wives. In some stories, Wife 2.0 turns out to be a witch, which would explain her power over the king (pun intended) but in others he just turns into a wuss on his second marriage. Of course, without that there would be no story. There are many possible "messages" to find in this story; the one I took away is that life is in the living. It's not about waiting for some marvellous event that will make everything wonderful and start a new life for you; it's about kindness to those around us and living each day. Now where did I put that cloak? (Is. 61:10)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Lawson

    Brilliant. There is no other word for this book. A Fairy Tale for adults, before the genre existed. Seemingly simple sentences like this spark aliveness throughout the book: Halla stretched her arms and the bracelets clinked and the rings flashed in the sunshine. “I’m glad I’m a dragon,” she said. The best of fantasy, speculative fiction, slides truths into your mind through the back door while the front of your mind is enjoying the story. for was not the sparkle of treasure implicit in the velvet d Brilliant. There is no other word for this book. A Fairy Tale for adults, before the genre existed. Seemingly simple sentences like this spark aliveness throughout the book: Halla stretched her arms and the bracelets clinked and the rings flashed in the sunshine. “I’m glad I’m a dragon,” she said. The best of fantasy, speculative fiction, slides truths into your mind through the back door while the front of your mind is enjoying the story. for was not the sparkle of treasure implicit in the velvet darkness of a cave? I take in old wounded dogs, and let them heal me. They light things up I didn't know were there. The whole phenomena surrounding my magic dogs is held in those few words. The magic of this book is held in those few words. I am incredibly grateful for the people in my group. They are just weird enough. We read This Is How You Lose the Time War, and that book used Travel Light in the plot. So of course we had to read it. I looked at the cover and thought it may be a cute little story. I'm not crazy for cute little stories. It is NOT a cute little story. It is -- brilliant. Brilliant in every way possible. Not only brilliant, the e book was affordable. That is a huge thing for me. Affordability was a thing when e books came out. Publishers hated them. Three of the big publishers were indicted for price fixing. They are doing it again, legally. $14.99 for an e book is criminal. They cost next to nothing to produce, and most publishers "forget" to check the lendable feature. I am not going to pay over $4.99 for something I can't even pass on. Yes, writers should be paid for their work. No, publishers should not try to make themselves rich on the backs' of writers. Travel Light is a quality work that didn't jump on the greed train.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Zen Cho

    I thought this was a bit twee at first but got into it after a while, and ended up liking it a lot. The point at which it gets really good is when she leaves the dragons, and when she meets the men from Marob and what happens to them. And the Valkyries and All-Father and the abrupt-feeling revelation at the end that giants and dragons are getting scarce -- loved it. It had a numinousness it's hard to find in fantasy, though one goes to fantasy precisely for that.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rodney

    Absolutely stunning. I loved the ripping pace of it and the sparkling prose. Every once in a while, a phrase would be so perfectly expressed that it would just stop me in my tracks. Wonderful book, deserving of its high praise. I wish it were better known.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Dacyczyn

    I finished this book in an evening (it's only 135 pages), put it down, and thought, "Huh. That was......different?" It's clearly a book kind of meant for children, with with some startlingly violent moments that made me wonder if it was supposed to be a fairy tale book for adults written in the style of a children's story...? Or something? It's about an unwanted princess named Halla who is taken by her nanny to be raised by bears (which the nanny turns into). When it becomes clear that her human I finished this book in an evening (it's only 135 pages), put it down, and thought, "Huh. That was......different?" It's clearly a book kind of meant for children, with with some startlingly violent moments that made me wonder if it was supposed to be a fairy tale book for adults written in the style of a children's story...? Or something? It's about an unwanted princess named Halla who is taken by her nanny to be raised by bears (which the nanny turns into). When it becomes clear that her human biology can't quite match up to the bears' instincts to hibernate, they convince a dragon to adopt her as part of his treasure. After the dragon clan makes her fireproof, her formative years are spent living in a dragon's cave, helping him organize his treasure, learning dragon customs and folklore (princesses are honored to be sacrificed to dragons and heroes are wicked men who want to kill innocent dragons to take their gold!), and befriending other creatures like mermaids and Valkyries. When a tragic event forces Halla to strike out on her own, the "All Father" (Odin, based on the description) gives her a piece of his cloak and some advice to "travel light". She eventually finds her way among some new (human) friends, visits Constantinople, and has much adventures along the way. The writing style was definitely from a different time (written in 1952), and it reminded me strongly of old fairy tale books I've read in the past, especially "A Book of Princess Stories" by Kathleen Adams & Frances Elizabeth Archinson (a book I read over and over as a child). Like a classic fairy tale, this had some nonsensical events and those moments of casual violence that make the modern reader think, "Wait, this is for children??" There aren't many fairy tales written for children these days that mention brains being smashed out or that a character looks "like a little village slut." (Seriously, that line made my eyebrows shoot up. Whoa now, can you even say that??) The tone was generally light, even when it was sad, in such a way that felt almost humorous without being directly funny. There were so many lines that I want to quote, especially with Halla's dragon-like views about treasure, but I especially loved this one when Halla is trying to learn about a different city by asking various animals: "But there were cranes and herons circling who had news of a kind, and sometimes beavers, though they were much too busy for light conversation, since logs of wood were their treasure and their plans all had to do with the getting of it." I don't know why this kind of phrasing delights me, but I loved it. I also loved this long sentence right from the first page, when Halla's nurse decides to save her from her cruel stepmother: "So she turned herself into a black bear then and there and picked up the baby in her mouth, blanket and all, and growled her way out of the Bower at the back of the King's hall, and padded out through the light spring snow that had melted already near the hall, and through the birch woods and the pine woods into the deep dark woods where the rest of the bears were waking up from their winter sleep." Doesn't that sound like a story you want to envelop yourself in? I will admit that I loved the beginning of this book, when she's among the bears and dragons, more than the second part where she's among humans. Halla joins a small group of men who were traveling to see the Emperor, and I frankly had a hard time telling them apart, even though their names were nothing alike. I think I was secretly hoping they'd go away and leave Halla to resume talking to bears and dragons and such. She still gets a chance to chat with horses and rats, but I want dragons! I also started to worry for a while that this was going to turn out to be a Christian allegory, in the vein of Narnia, when she arrived in Constantinople (ie, the center of the Roman Catholic church at the time) and there was much talk from other characters about who was and who wasn't a true Christian. However, Halla doesn't seem to pay this much mind, and she's clearly more attached to the All Father/Odin and her Valkyrie friend, so I definitely don't think the author was writing a Christian story. This is just a little fable about a girl traveling from a Medieval-ish Germanic-ish region through time (literally, as we learn that Odin had boosted her ahead a few centuries) to witness the spread of Christianity and thus the subsequent loss of older beings like dragons and giants. She herself never shows the slightest inkling that she wants to convert. And in fact in the end (view spoiler)[ she rides off with the Valkyries to become one of them, (hide spoiler)] which is not exactly in keeping with Christian mythology. I also checked the author's Wikipedia page, which talked a lot about her feminism, birth control activism, and how one of her books was criticized for not emphasizing Christianity....which confirmed for me that this book was definitely NOT intended as a Christian story. Good, I don't want no stinkin' allegorical life lessons, I just want DRAGONS, VALKYRIE, and BEARS, oh my! All in all, I found this book to be a pretty delightful little tale. Definitely for fans of old-school fairy tales and fables, or for fans of newer books like Catherynne Valente's Fairyland series. I'm definitely going to look into their author's other works as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kaion

    Like everyone else, I read Travel Light because NPR told me to. Halla is born the daughter of a king, but he abandons her when he remarries. Luckily, her nurse is a werebear and takes her to live in the woods, with all the other bears. This is not a spoiler because this all happens by the end of the first paragraph. By the end of the first chapter, Halla has found herself adopted by a dragon, and is learning proper dragon things, like how to catalog your hoard. Unfortunately, Naomi Mitchinson does Like everyone else, I read Travel Light because NPR told me to. Halla is born the daughter of a king, but he abandons her when he remarries. Luckily, her nurse is a werebear and takes her to live in the woods, with all the other bears. This is not a spoiler because this all happens by the end of the first paragraph. By the end of the first chapter, Halla has found herself adopted by a dragon, and is learning proper dragon things, like how to catalog your hoard. Unfortunately, Naomi Mitchinson doesn't keep up this pace of this delightful beginning, but it does set up the pattern of Halla's story. Halla seems cursed (or blessed) by the gods to find herself in new places and adapting to them before she must leave again, to forever "traveling light" with only the lessons she's picked up to help her on her way. NPR was right, and Travel Light is an interesting entry in fantasy literature. In terms of comparisons, however I would bypass Tolkien (and Rowling and Jones and White), and place it somewhere more along the lines of Michael Ende's The Neverending Story or Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, hell, or even, The Odyssey in terms of hero who must face a series of trials through a strange land. (I already went on a rant about Harry Potter, but I would additionally like people to stop comparing every fantasy to Tolkien unless the discussion actually warrants it.) Interestingly enough, this strange land appears to be actual medieval Europe, and not the faux-medieval Europe of many a fantasy novel. There's an interesting undercurrent of the age of old religion and folk tradition giving way to the new order of empire and institutions as Halla grows up and becomes increasingly knowledgeable about the human world. Halla herself is a creature of the old, if not quite human, ways. Raised by bears and dragons, she is patronized by Odin and makes friends with Valkyries, but also finds herself adapting to the newer world, at one point, traveling with a delegation to Constantinople to see the emperor. It's a long way from her fairy tale beginnings, but part of the charm of the book is Halla's straightforward confusion over how humans do things. Not like bears or dragons at all. Sadly this is where the story starts to go off the rails, as Halla's allegorical tale gets overshadowed by a nonallegorical story about her delegate friends learning how much empires and institutions suck. The Holy Roman emperor doesn't give a cr*p, the Catholic Church is corrupt, and their people would've all been better off sticking with self-rule and paganism. (This is where the Lord of the Rings parallel can come in, with the beautiful magic elves going off into the west and leaving Middle-Earth to the new age of Man and our machines and stuff.) Ultimately, I do like the arc of Travel Light. I appreciate Mitchison's validation of her heroine's decision to keep moving and keep changing, while also portraying both the good and bad of that choice. I like that it is a choice. Halla could settle, she's adaptable enough, but she chooses to keep going, keep experiencing. That's rad, and not nearly a common enough conclusion to coming-of-age tales, let alone in the fantasy genre. So right on.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

    Oh, that ENDING was EXCELLENT. Such a wonderful little book, so ahead of its time!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I borrowed this from my University library for three reasons: firstly, I had never read any Mitchison and felt I should rectify that, particularly as she's a Scottish author; secondly, its original Virago green spine stood out to me on the shelf; and thirdly, the storyline sounded both weird and wonderful. I must admit that I don't ordinarily read books with elements of magic to them (with the exception of Harry Potter, of course), but I read the first page whilst I should have been looking for I borrowed this from my University library for three reasons: firstly, I had never read any Mitchison and felt I should rectify that, particularly as she's a Scottish author; secondly, its original Virago green spine stood out to me on the shelf; and thirdly, the storyline sounded both weird and wonderful. I must admit that I don't ordinarily read books with elements of magic to them (with the exception of Harry Potter, of course), but I read the first page whilst I should have been looking for thesis-applicable tomes, and felt that it sounded rather promising. I had earmarked it to be an inclusion in the final Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon which I will be taking part in (largely because when in the process of PhD studies, your entire life often feels like a readathon in itself), but ended up reading the first three chapters the night before because I was too intrigued to let it lie until morning. From the outset, I was reminded both of the Icelandic sagas and C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia series; it's a fun and slightly strange amalgamation of the two at times. There are touches of the general fairytale to it too. Travel Light is one of those books that continually keeps the reader guessing. Nothing quite takes the direction you expect, and elements of the plot are therefore quite surprising. I'm normally very put off with the presence of talking dragons in fiction, but here they just seemed to fit here. Well written and well paced for the most part (I must admit that it did become a little dull toward the middle, but it did soon pick itself back up again), I have come away wondering why Mitchison's books aren't more widely read. If Travel Light is anything to go by, I feel that they have a lot to offer, particularly for fans of the mythical and mystical. A strange little book, but a memorable one, which I'm pleased I chose to borrow.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Louise Marley

    I can't remember why or how I bought this book. Someone must have recommended it, because it's a slim little volume, first published sixty years ago, and there's nothing about it that might have caught my eye. Whoever suggested it--maybe a Facebook friend--deserves my thanks! Naomi Mitchison lived to be 101, according to the cover information, and published dozens of books. If this is representative, I'll be going in search of some of those. TRAVEL LIGHT defies categorization, truly, but if I had I can't remember why or how I bought this book. Someone must have recommended it, because it's a slim little volume, first published sixty years ago, and there's nothing about it that might have caught my eye. Whoever suggested it--maybe a Facebook friend--deserves my thanks! Naomi Mitchison lived to be 101, according to the cover information, and published dozens of books. If this is representative, I'll be going in search of some of those. TRAVEL LIGHT defies categorization, truly, but if I had to call it something, I would call it a fable with historical and multi-religious underpinnings. (I know. I told you it was hard to categorize!) The story of a princess being cast out as an infant feels familiar to those of us who thrive on fairy tales, but shortly into the story you know you're going on a different journey. Mitchison must have polished this little gem right down to its bones, because it is both short and swift-moving, almost terse and yet fully imagined, deceptively simple but surprisingly compelling. Just when you think you have a handle on what the story's about and where it's taking you, some new turn in the path surprises you. Highly, highly recommended. Come to it with an open mind! I don't think there is another book like it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    (Read on recommendation by Rose Lemberg and Amal El-Mohtar.) Such a pleasant surprise. I have a feeling it skewed my standards re: children's books, now everything will seem less awesome...

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

    Wow. This is a book that is going to stick with me for years as I think it over and make new realizations about what it has to say. Lately I've been thinking about the question of "who gets to tell stories and who are they focused on" and Travel Light introduces so many new parts to consider, and I'm certain some that I won't even realize for a long time. Why is Grendel the villain? Why can't the hero be the antagonist? Who picks the protagonist and why? Are they the most interesting choice? Oka Wow. This is a book that is going to stick with me for years as I think it over and make new realizations about what it has to say. Lately I've been thinking about the question of "who gets to tell stories and who are they focused on" and Travel Light introduces so many new parts to consider, and I'm certain some that I won't even realize for a long time. Why is Grendel the villain? Why can't the hero be the antagonist? Who picks the protagonist and why? Are they the most interesting choice? Okay so I've read Shonen manga and know the answer to the last one is a definitive NO, but the other three questions, along with hundreds of others this book has me asking, I'll be thinking about for the rest of my life (and hopefully make me grow as a reader and writer). ------ ALSO, I know this is sort of a rebuttal to The Hobbit, but I felt it was more in the line of Orlando, with a focus on mythology and religion rather than literature (both have a heavy focus on gender). The prose is written in the style of a fairy tale and the flow is mesmerizing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    An amazing fantasy story that was beautifully written. It has certainly made me want to seek out more of Naomi Mitchison's work

  19. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    This totally needs a better cover than the Shel Silverstein-ish scrawling art. This is kinda like The Long Ships (aka “Red Orm”) but with a strong and very independent female protagonist, and a bit more magic/fantastic creatures. Can’t believe this gem (published right before LoTR) isn’t more widely known. This totally needs a better cover than the Shel Silverstein-ish scrawling art. This is kinda like The Long Ships (aka “Red Orm”) but with a strong and very independent female protagonist, and a bit more magic/fantastic creatures. Can’t believe this gem (published right before LoTR) isn’t more widely known.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Travel Light is basically a subversive fairy tale about a princess who's cast out to live with bears, and then dragons, and then humans as she goes on her own hero's quest. In some ways it's also a cautionary tale against kings and heroes, who are nothing but self-entitled men who steal and kill and do terrible things with the terrifying certainty that they're in the right. Mostly, though, it's about traveling light and choosing your own destiny. It's a short, light read, but surprisingly denser Travel Light is basically a subversive fairy tale about a princess who's cast out to live with bears, and then dragons, and then humans as she goes on her own hero's quest. In some ways it's also a cautionary tale against kings and heroes, who are nothing but self-entitled men who steal and kill and do terrible things with the terrifying certainty that they're in the right. Mostly, though, it's about traveling light and choosing your own destiny. It's a short, light read, but surprisingly denser and more nuanced than you'd expect. The writing style reminds me a lot of Tolkien, which means I had to be in a certain frame of mind to read this, but once I got myself going, it was worth it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    The magical and mythical elements of this story were endearing and exciting. Halla is raised by bears and dragons, then approached by Odin, then sets off on an adventure! She speaks to animals and a Valkyrie visits her and befriends her. She ponders the meaning of dragon treasure, and what really matters in life. I loved that about this book. Halla is a badass character. The main plot is this political mission for three men from Marob, though, and it is BORING. Three men from Marob set out to vi The magical and mythical elements of this story were endearing and exciting. Halla is raised by bears and dragons, then approached by Odin, then sets off on an adventure! She speaks to animals and a Valkyrie visits her and befriends her. She ponders the meaning of dragon treasure, and what really matters in life. I loved that about this book. Halla is a badass character. The main plot is this political mission for three men from Marob, though, and it is BORING. Three men from Marob set out to visit the emperor in Greece to recall their governor who has apparently condoned the murder of one, Tarkan Der's, betrothed. Which sounds exciting but mostly we spend time sitting around waiting for them to visit the emperor and faffing about with some guy named Father John and there are several long conversations that just bog down so much. There is a lot of reference to some characters being Christian, but the politics of that are not clarified so it's just meaningless. In the end, the Marob men and Halla travel back north and Tarkan Der seems like he wants to marry Halla and she's like meh why don't you marry this other girl in this village we just saved from marauders. I read this aloud to my 8 year old, so I probably noticed the lulls in action more than I would have had I just been reading it, but tbh I would have just skimmed those anyway. So, lots of good parts but the main plot is a ball and chain keeping this book from really taking off.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    How did I not discover this book or its author Naomi Mitchison sooner? I was so absorbed by the story and the beautiful, sparkling, breezy prose that I did something I've never done before when finishing a novel; I immediately began the story again. The story begins like so many fairy tales with an unwanted princess being secreted away from the palace, but then nothing else proceeded as I anticipated. There are bears and dragons and heroes, but there is something weightier than typical fairy tal How did I not discover this book or its author Naomi Mitchison sooner? I was so absorbed by the story and the beautiful, sparkling, breezy prose that I did something I've never done before when finishing a novel; I immediately began the story again. The story begins like so many fairy tales with an unwanted princess being secreted away from the palace, but then nothing else proceeded as I anticipated. There are bears and dragons and heroes, but there is something weightier than typical fairy tale or fantasy as well. Halla's core morality develops through her experiences and serves as a bridge between the world of Norse mythology and early Christianity. However, this is no Narnian tale; Christian governors and priests exercise corrupt power and are motivated by self-interest and cruelty. Her own motivations pass from physical appetite to material acquisition to altruism, but not because she is converted. Halla travels lightly gaining wisdom and autonomy while letting everything else fall away. Naomi Mitchison would have been a fascinating woman to meet. She lived from 1897 to 1999 in Scotland. She left Oxford where she was pursuing a Science degree to become a nurse during World War I. She had an open marriage in the 1920's and was writing about birth control in the 1930's. According to Wikipedia she was a friend of Tolkien's and a proof-reader for The Lord of the Rings. James Watson's The Double Helix was dedicated to her and largely written in her home. Travel Lightly was published in 1952; Naomi Mitchison wrote scores of fiction and non-fiction works during her 101 years.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate Savage

    Unexpectedly charming. I dislike most books that seem to be aimed toward children. But the breezy-bold sentence structure won me over. Also: Mitchison pays close attention to other species. The author wrote 90 books in her century of life. Some of these were aimed at fighting fascism. Some were arguing for reproductive rights (and got blocked or censored). And some, like this one, are about dragons and unicorns.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Delightful… but not at all what I expected. This starts off as a clever young-adultish story set in a world of Norse mythology, kind of. But then it somewhat suddenly veers into a completely different story about Christianity and the hypocrisy of the powerful, kind of. The two halves work together quite nicely, though. It only takes one evening to read. Check it out.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chrissy

    Interesting, especially with backgrounds and parallel to Tolkien Style

  26. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Sweet and charming, but didn’t find it as meaningful as others have.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    I know that fairy tale / myth retellings are a dime a dozen, in some ways, but rarely are they done with so much eloquence, scope, and independence. I wish I'd had this book when I was younger, but even now, I find it melancholy and beautiful in ways that Young Me would have missed.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robin Stevens

    One of the most truly special books I've read this year. It's so lightly, beautifully written - it feels a little like a fairy tale in the way the story moves along - but the way characters speak to each other is wonderfully wry and well-observed, and everyone feels very real. The story of Halla, a princess who spends time as a bear and a dragon before she's pulled into human conflicts in Constantinople, this really is like nothing else out there - it deserves to be brought back into print in th One of the most truly special books I've read this year. It's so lightly, beautifully written - it feels a little like a fairy tale in the way the story moves along - but the way characters speak to each other is wonderfully wry and well-observed, and everyone feels very real. The story of Halla, a princess who spends time as a bear and a dragon before she's pulled into human conflicts in Constantinople, this really is like nothing else out there - it deserves to be brought back into print in the UK! (12+) *Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. If you use it in any marketing material, online or anywhere on a published book without asking permission from me first, I will ask you to remove that use immediately. Thank you!*

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steph Hayward-bailey

    A quick easy read however I found the middle of the story a little long winded and slightly boring. The beginning and end of the book were written well and I found these parts interesting.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jen526

    This was lovely! I was introduced to this author (like most people who've found her, I think) through her association with Tolkien, but if I hadn't known that, I'd have believed it to be a much more recent work. There's no sense of "datedness" to it the way you get from some other YA-ish works from that time period. I had no need to adjust my reading to allow for more stylized or "literary" prose the way I've had to with Tolkien in the past, and particularly the way the story takes Halla's indep This was lovely! I was introduced to this author (like most people who've found her, I think) through her association with Tolkien, but if I hadn't known that, I'd have believed it to be a much more recent work. There's no sense of "datedness" to it the way you get from some other YA-ish works from that time period. I had no need to adjust my reading to allow for more stylized or "literary" prose the way I've had to with Tolkien in the past, and particularly the way the story takes Halla's independence and self-sufficiency for granted... it feels like it could've been published last week. Highly recommend this to anyone who likes stories that have the timelessness of a fairy stories or myths. This is an uncommonly pleasant read in that genre - the story of a girl raised by bears, and then dragons, and her journey to find her place in the world.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.