On clearcut good and clearcut evil

I finished the third book, Greenwitch, in ‘The Dark Is Rising’ sequence last night. I am still immensely enjoying the series, but there is something that is nagging me a bit about the books. The books are about the battle between Dark and Light, right? Well, the children who are the main characters in the book never seem to have any trouble working out who is on the light side and who is on the dark side. Will, who is an ‘Old One’ (and therefore has superhuman abilities) is able to sense almost instantaneously if someone is from the Dark – this is more acceptable, as he is an Old One; but the three Drew children, who are normal children like you and me, are pretty much able to work out as soon as they meet someone if they are working with their Great Uncle Merry (Gumerry) or working against him.

dark is rising

Children’s books appeal to us because (sometimes) they simplify the world. Usually there is a clear ‘bad guy’ that you recognise and must thwart to either save a loved one, save something precious, or save the world. I don’t usually have a problem with this, as I understand that children’s books are a way for children to start to understand the world, and in order to understand the concept of good and evil you sometimes have to make clear definitions of what (or who) that is. But the world is not that simple – unfortunately people are not divided up into good and bad people.

I think perhaps the reason that this idea is bothering me slightly in ‘The Dark is Rising’ sequence is that usually there is a clear idea of why a bad guy is a bad guy. They are after riches, or revenge, or power, or world domination. I’m not sure I understand the appeal of ‘The Dark’ (maybe it’s because I’m such a good person). I can’t pinpoint the Dark charactersp’ motivations. A character cannot simply be dark or bad or evil – they need to have a reason for it. I think that’s what my problem is.

There are still another two books in the series, so perhaps the Dark characters’ motivations will become clearer, or the Light characters’ goodness will become clouded and less clear, or perhaps they won’t, and the Light characters will stay good, and the Dark characters will stay nasty, with no blend in between. I’ll have to wait and see.



  1. I believe Cooper has said she was influenced both by her parent’s Christian faith and the WWII belief that one side was absolutely right and one was absolutely evil.

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