Madeleine L’Engle’s sequel to A Wrinkle in Time continues with the theme of “love conquering all” as Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe make the acquaintance of a “dragon” which turns out to be a cherubim. Once again, Madeleine takes holy icons and casts them in a new light: imagine meeting an angel, with many wings, and eyes, and puffs of smoke.
An angel who is able to kythe with you. Kything is Madeleine’s word for the ability to communicate without words, using only your thoughts and the understanding of the person with whom you kythe. It sounds fantastical, but I think this occurs in real life. I’ve been able to perceive what a loved one is thinking, perfectly, without words. A simple gesture, expression or significant glance, is often more revelatory of a person’s thoughts than words. Especially when one is in love. I’ve never kythed with an angel, of course, but aren’t there people with whom you can clearly communicate non verbally?
In order to save her brother, Charles Wallace, who’s mitochondria are being attacked, Meg must pass a series of three tests. Tests which aren’t even clearly laid out for her. The first one involves distinguishing which Mr. Jenkins (the school principal) is the real one of three, and which two are echthroi. Echthroi is plural for echthros, an evil which is able to extinguish anything in Creation. From stars in the galaxy to people on Earth. The echthroi are trying to extinguish Charles Wallace, and once again, we find Meg battling them to save him. She is able to do that by Naming, a concept I will leave you to discover should you choose to read this sequel.
One of the most striking phrases in this book, to me, is when Madeleine wrote a conversation containing this line, “You and I have good enough minds to know how very limited and finite they really are. The naked intellect is an extraordinarily inaccurate instrument.” (p. 87)
I agree. We cannot comprehend the magic of fantasy any more than we can comprehend angels, “echthroi”, or God. Understanding fantasy, like faith, is a matter of opening our minds to let in what lies beyond the capability of our intellect.