Igraine the Brave

Igraine the Brave

The magicians’ daughter Igraine dreams of living a knight’s life. A wrong spell turns everything inside out and suddenly she is right in the middle of a real knight’s adventure.

Everyone at Castle Pimpernel is looking forward to Igraine’s birthday. But when her magical present goes wrong and her parents accidentally turn themselves into pigs, it’s up to Igraine to put things right – even if that means facing giants, three-headed dragons and a particularly spiky knight.

Igraine woke up because something was crawling over her face. Something with a lot of legs. She opened her eyes and there it was, sitting right on the end of her nose, a fat black spider. Igraine was scared stiff of spiders. ‘Sisyphus!’ she whispered in a trembling voice. ‘Wake up, Sisyphus. Shoo that spider away!’ The cat raised his furry grey face from Igraine’s stomach, blinked, stretched – and snapped up the spider from the end of her nose. One gulp, and it was gone. ‘Did I say anything about eating it?’ Igraine wiped cat-spit off her cheek and pushed Sisyphus off her bed. ‘A spider on my nose,’ she muttered, throwing the covers back. ‘The day before my birthday too. That’s not a good omen.’ Barefoot, she went over to the window and looked out.

The sun was already high in the sky above Pimpernel Castle. The tower cast its shadow over the courtyard, the doves were preening on the battlements, and a horse snorted down in the stables. Pimpernel Castle had belonged to Igraine’s family for over three hundred years. Her mother’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather had built it. (There may have been a few more ‘greats’ in that; Igraine wasn’t sure.)

The castle was not large; it had only a single tower, which leaned over sideways, and the walls weren’t much more than a metre thick, but Igraine thought it was the most beautiful castle in the world. Wild flowers bloomed between the paving stones in the courtyard of Pimpernel Castle. Swallows nested under the roof of the tower in spring, and water-snakes lived under the blue water-lilies in the castle moat. The snakes would eat out of Igraine’s hand. Two stone lions, sitting on a ledge high above the gateway, guarded the castle. When Igraine scraped the moss off their manes they purred like cats, but if a stranger came near they bared their stony teeth and roared. Their roars were so terrifying that even the wolves in the nearby forest hid.

The lions were not the only guardians of Pimpernel. Stone gargoyles looked down from the walls and made terrible faces at any stranger. If you tickled their noses with a dove’s feather they laughed so loud that dove droppings crumbled off the castle battlements, but their wide mouths could swallow cannonballs, and they crunched up burning arrows as if there were nothing tastier in the world.

When I started writing "Igraine the Brave", I had just finished Dragon Rider, my first really loooooooong story, and Igraine was actually planned to have only about 60 pages. Writing recreation after a year on the dragon's back, scarcely more than a game. A small declaration of love for the book that I would take with me on a deserted island: Terence Hanbury White's "The Once and Future King", which I read for the first time at the age of sixteen.

For me "The Once and Future King" is the best phantastic novel to date, and also the best renarration of the Arthurian legend. So — inspired by Merlin's enchanted sugar bowl — I began telling about the Books of Magic of Pimpernel Castle, about the girl who would rather be a knight than a magician (I think I also would prefer to be a knight, — hm, or maybe I would like best to be both at the same time!) and 60 planned pages turned into more than 200. I drew some of my best illustrations (I guess only the Reckless illustrations are as good as them) and my husband and I did the layout for all the pages, arranged mice and magic books across them, and together we designed the complete book, something I hadn't done to that extent yet.

"Igraine the Brave" is one of my secret favourites out of all the books I have written so far. I have often thought about a sequel and I love the Sorrowful Knight, who would not exist without T.H. White's Lancelot, that knight who considers himself a bad person because of his ugly face. Once I attended a wonderful theatre play of Igraine in Bamberg and I saw several other brilliant stage adaptations as well, one with real horses and a slide on which the magic books were slithering down a slope.

Quite memorable!

Some days I wish I were Igraine or the Sorrowful Knight. Then I would love to have a giant like Garleff, who picks me up and carries me around a bit.

And I hope one day you all will read The Once and Future King and hopefully will love it as much as I do, for it has all the things that make a good story: It is infinitely funny and infinitely sad, and it is very wise."