Time Quartet For March

I read A Wind In The Door for The Time Quartet read-along in February, but I never posted my thoughts on it. In lieu of a review, here’s one of my favorite quotes from that novel by Madeleine L’Engle:

Meg had turned from the kitchen sink at the pain in her mother’s voice, and had seen her father reach across the table for her mother’s hand. “My dear, there is not like you. With my intellect I see cause for nothing but pessimism and even despair. But I can’t settle for what my intellect tells me. That’s not all of it.”

“What else is there?” Mrs. Murry’s voice was low and anguished.

“There are still stars which move in ordered and beautiful rhythm. There are still people in this world who keep promises. Even little ones, like your cooking stew over your Bunsen burner. You may be in the middle of an experiment, but you still remember to feed your family. That’s enough to keep my heart optimistic, no matter how pessimistic my mind. And 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 of my Yearling Book published in 1973)


Thinking that The Horn of Joy by Matthew Maddox was a real novel which drove the plot of A Swiftly Tilting Planet, I did a Google search and discovered it’s nothing more than a MacGuffin. “A MacGuffin?” you say, “what the heck is that?”  Funny you should ask, as I did, for here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is “a plot element that catches the viewers’ attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction”.

Sometimes, the specific nature of the MacGuffin is not important to the plot such that anything that serves as a motivation serves its purpose. The MacGuffin can sometimes be ambiguous, completely undefined, generic or left open to interpretation.

The MacGuffin is common in films, especially thrillers. Commonly, though not always, the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and later declines in importance as the struggles and motivations of characters play out. Sometimes the MacGuffin is even forgotten by the end of the film.

So, even if you don’t like Madeleine L’Engle (impossible as that is for me to imagine), or fantasy (which is less impossible), you have now either learned something new or been reminded of a literary technique. Fascinating, huh?

Specific to A Swiftly Tilting Planet, though, is this beautiful 5th century Irish poem named St. Patrick’s rune:

At Tara in this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness
And the earth with its starkness
All these I place
By God’s almighty help and grace
Between myself and the powers of darkness.”

In this third book of The Time Quartet, Meg must kythe with her fifteen year old brother Charles Wallace as he rides the unicorn Gaudior to vanquish their foe. More important to me than the plot, is the message within it: as always with Madeleine, a message of faith despite what one sees.

15 thoughts on “Time Quartet For March”

  1. I do love this series (though agree that Acceptable Time is not as good as the others). One of my absolute favourite things about this whole series is the beautiful St. Patrick's Rune you've shared. I think this was one of the first poems I memorized by my own choice.


  2. Goodness, LOTS of good stuff in this post. I've been LEARNED. My dictionary doesn't have KYTHE in it, so had to search that up. Loved the poem and enjoyed the lesson on a MacGuffin. These covers are beautiful. I do want to read A Swiftly Tilting Planet.:)


  3. I read these ages and ages ago, and while I always remembered liking them, re-reading that poem brought back some surprisingly vivid memories. It's quite beautiful.


  4. Do you know that I've never read An Acceptable Time? I own it, of course, and I've begun it several times, but I have never completed that book nor Many Waters. It's interesting that you say it's not as good, surely I must have sensed that years ago when I began it.


  5. After reading that The Horn of Joy was a fictional book Madeleine made up to help the plot along, I was worried that was true of this rune as well. Fortunately, it's a real poem said by St. Patrick apparently in time when defense was needed. I think I'd like to memorize it, too, it's quite powerful to me.


  6. Oh, Care, I love it when I've taught something in one of my posts! We both learned something new today, then, as I had no idea what a MacGuffin was (does McDonald's sell them? :).


  7. I'm not all that inclined to fantasy (I think I'm still traumatised from having to read Beowulf when I was 12) but I have always wanted to read L'Engle's A wrinkle in time.


  8. Alright, now I have to go downstairs to my bookshelves and find copies of these…actually my son's copies, but he won't mind, I'm sure 😉 I did not know what a McGuffin was, although I'd heard the term. Thanks, teacher friend.And I love the word kythe.


  9. Marie, the first one is my favorite, too. In fact, I didn't care for the story of A Swiftly Tilting Planet much at all, just the quotes and reflections on faith. The plot left me cold, especially when I found out The Horn of Joy isn't even a real book, just something Madeleine made up to drive her plot!


  10. I've read the Time-quintet series but the first book is my favorite. I may be rereading the series soon. Thanks for reminding me of l'Engle. I was disheartened though when she died more than 2 years ago.


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