The Valley of Song is a story about the building of a ship, the loveliest sailing ship that was ever launched at the ship-building town upon the river where Tabitha Silver lived. She is the heroine of this book, and she is the blacksmith’s little daughter. Interwoven with the story of the ship is the story of the adventures she had when she found a little low door in the wall of a disused quarry and went through it into that country which is nearer to all of us than we imagine. She made friends with the inhabitants of that country, and they helped the people of the little town to build the lovely ship. Indeed, if Tabitha had not found that little low door in the quarry the ship would never have been built at all.
Elizabeth Goudge knew and loved the real-life Buckler’s Hard in Hampshire where The Valley of Song is set. Readers of her much loved Damerosehay trilogy about the Eliot family will also recognise The Hard, which features in more than one of the books, although the events involving the Eliots take place about 150 years later than those described in The Valley of Song.
How one views a book is very much a matter of personal choice and whether you see this enchanting story, which I, Ann M-H, have loved for many decades, as fantasy or allegory is up to you, the reader. The setting is real as are the human characters but then Tabitha enters through the quarry door. There she finds the Workshop which she discovers has no boundaries neither within the depths and nor in the heights. The workers within the Workshop are the Good People such as Silkin, the Furrypate, who is the first one she meets. Tabitha also encounters the embodied Signs of the Zodiac shining with ‘pearly radiance’. At the apex of the Heights are the Great Ones, whom humans call angels.
Tabitha is a very real and delightful heroine. She is ten years of age, small, plump and sturdy with red curls, brown eyes, freckles and a determined chin. Despite her mother’s best efforts she is always untidy, dislikes being inside and nearly always in trouble for being late for school.
Elizabeth Goudge was born in the cathedral city of Wells in 1900. She moved around with her parents (to Ely, Oxford, Hampshire and Devon), and after her mother’s death in 1951 she moved to Oxfordshire where she died on 1st April 1984. She wrote many wonderful books, winning the Carnegie Medal for The Little White Horse in 1946.
Ann Mackie-Hunter has written the introduction to The Valley of Song on it setting, Buckler’s Hard. The book has a wonderful wrap-round cover.
(added to website 24 April 2020)