This is the Marais,
It's a salt marsh in Normandy, France near a house that some friends kindly let us stay in a few years back. The Marais and Mont St Michel were the inspiration for my story Matthew and the Angel which features in my short story collection Word Beasts. You can read and extract for free on Kindle.
It's about a boy who breaks a sword and runs away to Japan to learn how to be a master smith. Its ultimately about what happens when he comes back and tries to return the sword. It is only a short story but I was intrigued by St Michael, as described in the abbey church of Mont St Michel. There he's described as the destroyer of the Protestants and unbelievers. I had problems imagining him as Christian saint and it got me to wondering, what if Michael the avenger left and what replaced him, the gold statue that perches on the roof was something that only looked like a angel.
I never thought much about my stories someone, I think it was Joanne Hall told me she wrote fantasy stories about the edges of landscape. There's a posh word for that but I can't remember for the life of me what it is! Anyway she spoke about Place, the edges of the sea, the edges of a town and the edges of a forest and how she was caught between these edges. That sumsup the tidal marshes of Normandy, and Mont St Michel very well indeed. Mont St Michel is an island cut off from France when the tide flows in. It's very similar to St Michael's Mount in Cornwall which features in Michael Moorcock's novel (as Moidel's Mount) Eternal Champion Corum lives here and has to battle Pine Warriors, undead warriors with Pine sap instead of blood. After I read it toilet cleaner always smells sinister to me now!
So Matthew is a normal child, sort of. There's a few hints in the story that he may be something special, (if you're going up against a devil you need something on your side) In Matthew's case it's his innocence and the fact that his Great Great Grandfather visited Faerie that saves his skin. Matthew and the Angel is only a one-off story but I like Matthew and I find myself wondering what it must have been like being an Anglo-French child lost in Japan for eight years. The Japan section is terribly short but sometimes less is more. I often think of Samwise Gamgee's last words: "He drew a deep breath. 'Well, I'm back.' he said." and I wonder what happened next. Tolkien tells us roughly but I like imagining it for myself. Hayao Miyazaki loves to give us open endings too. The stories in his films usually end cleanly but he always leaves us imagining what happens next. Ponyo and Satske kissing, Porco Rosso turning back into a human, Satsuki and Mei in Totoro spending time with their mum in the new house and showing their little sister the woodland spiritsfrom http://brenyfilmblog.blogspot.com/2014/10/howls-moving-castle-2004.html
What's amazing about Miyazaki is his reverence for nature and magic. I love that his films create a sense of wonder while leaving gaps for us to fill in for ourselves. It's why my book Word Beasts, is subtitled 'Tales of Myth and Wonder' because I wanted to create a sense of wonder for readers. There's an interview with Myazaki where he takes the interviewer to the window and says, 'look at that rooftop, you and I could go flying over that rooftop together, imagine that.'
"From that rooftop, what if you leapt onto the next roof, dashed over to that blue and green wall, jumped and climbed up the pipe, ran across the roof, and jumped to the next? You can, in animation. When you look from above, so many things reveal themselves to you. Maybe race along the concrete wall. Isn't it fun to see things that way?”
—The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
And you know what? I think we can.