The Moorchild

The Moorchild, by Eloise McGraw, is one of my favorite books of all time. I re-read it again lately as part of a habit I developed over the past few years: Re-reading all of my favorite childhood books, in English.

I first discovered this book about 15 years ago (wow). My friend recommended it to me, she said I would love it, and indeed, I was instantly hooked by what she told me about it. So I borrowed it from her and started reading it right away. Even today, the story hits me straight in my personal life in many different ways. It is a perfect example of a fantasy book that has both: magic and reality blended well together.

The main character, the girl I drew below, fails to live among those she considers “her kind”: the Moorfolk. Mischievous, magical creatures that inhabit the moors. They are strongly connected to nature and value the safety of their “Band” before anything else. It is discovered that she is, in fact, half human – half Moorfolk, and therefore, threatens the safety of the Band. The Folk banish her and send her to live among humans as a changeling. Named ‘Saaski’ by the couple whose real baby she was swapped with, she grows up taunted and feared by the villagers for being different. She feels comfortable only on the moors, where she usually escapes to, and plays very strange melodies with her bagpipes.
As Saaski grows up, memories from her forgotten past with the Folks (aka previous life) slowly (slowly) emerge. She begins to realize how special she is… as well as the terrible wrong her existence caused to her “parents”. She is determined to do something, to open the door of her past and face those who already rejected her once.

I was too lazy to scan this

In the Hebrew version, it is difficult to tell where and when exactly this story is taking place. Middle ages probably, somewhere Christian. Saaski’s musical instrument always made me think of Ireland.
In English, the characters speak in a very strange kind of English, which confirms my theory (not that I’m knowledgeable of Irish types of speech). But it truly doesn’t matter because the story is told in such global tale kind of manner, that soon the only “locations” are the village (The Humans) and the moors (The Wilderness).
I love the old language and the descriptions in this book. Nature descriptions in particular.

I also love the philosophical approach to dealing with emotions. The Moorfolk lack them and so they can banish one of their own without feeling empathy. Saaski lacks them a bit too. Which is exactly why she ponders over them all the time and trying to understand them. From the fear and loathing the villagers express when they see her, to the “love” (“Or is it pity?”) her parents show her. Eventually, Saaski learns to value and draw strength from what the Moorfolk consider a human weakness.

Another topic the story explores in a fascinating way is reincarnation. Saaski was somewhat a different “being” when she lived with the Moorfolk, and for most of the story, she has no idea who she was in her past life. But shadows of it are slipping into her present and influencing it. She simply “knows” how to do things (such as playing her melodies) or seeing sights others don’t, she remembers words and names that are from the Moorfolk’ language but she is not aware of it.
It may sound a bit funny, but I sometimes feel as if I see things from my previous life as well. Or long past memories. Here and there I wonder whether these are human memories because they remind me of animals’ viewpoint. It can also be scenes from places I really can’t remember visiting in person. Maybe my mind is playing tricks, for sure I should explore my memory more often and write down the confusing frictions.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone. Also, I don’t usually notice dedications when I’m reading, but this one is truly wonderful:

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