For pop culture lovers, and especially fantasy literature, the last twenty years has perhaps been a bit lacking in novelty, with few exponents of real depth to support a genre landscape still fully anchored to the great authors of the last century. In fact, in this complicated autumn of 2020, one of the many hidden gems of twentieth century literature finally arrives in Italy: published by Fazi Editore, Il viaggio di Halla has landed on our shelves, a 1952 work by Naomi Mitchison never published in our country until now.
We are talking about this novel on the pages of the cinema section because we believe it can represent a valid exponent of a trend that has found consecration and fortune on the big screen, from the formative tones of a world phenomenon like Harry Potter to the fairy-tale and mythological atmospheres of a cult like The Lord of the Rings.
And with the latter, however, Halla's journey shares more than a few conceptual links.
Chi era Naomi Mitchison
Naomi Mitchison was a silent giantess of the literary landscape throughout the twentieth century.
Born in Scotland in 1897 and lived to the ripe old age of 101 (she passed away in 1999) her fictional production boasts more than 70 books and her figure, very active in the political and social panorama of her years, soon became a leading name in the struggle in favor of socialism, feminism, sexual freedom and abortion.
His political involvement, however, never overshadowed his writing talent, which in the mid-1950s led her to publish one of her most famous works in the UK, precisely Halla's journey.
Not only that: Mitchison was the best friend of JRR Tolkien, and for this reason the first reader ever of the main masterpieces of the father of modern fantasy, The Hobbit e The Lord of the Rings.
The link with Tolkien must have been particularly formative and inspirational for both authors, who in their literary production have - as Halla's Journey demonstrates - various analogies.
The work published by Fazi Editore is a story strongly immersed in the Nordic atmospheres of Scandinavian mythology, in a historical moment like the present one in which Norse culture itself occupies a prominent place on the stage of the popular imagination (as demonstrated by the overflowing sales of Assassin's Creed Valhalla or the television phenomenon Vikings).
Halla is the daughter of a Scandinavian king who, in the first pages of history, decides to abandon his progeny in the woods. The protagonist will be saved by the Bears, who will raise her just as if she were an omnivore, teaching her their language and making her forget her belonging to the human race.
Halla spends her childhood cared for by the Matulli bear, her shapeshifting nanny who rescued her after being abandoned by her parents.
Growing up, however, the girl is attracted to the world of Dragons, whose community comes forward to adopt her, snatching her back from the hearth that has raised her for years and welcoming her among their own kind.
Halla, therefore, he will take off the clothes of the acquired Bear and wear those of a Dragon, mystical and legendary creatures devoted mainly to the passion for gold and the accumulation of great riches, the only real purpose in their life.
But very soon the heroine will have to come to terms with her human nature, and the encounter with some of the main deities of the Norse pantheon they will force her to choose between following the path of the Dragon or that of human knowledge, traveling and learning new secrets about the world and religion.
In the footsteps of Tolkien
There are several elements that will make you appreciate Naomi Mitchison's Halla's Journey. The first is that it is a full-blown fairy tale, set in suspended and fabulous atmospheres. Secondly, the author was able to paint this reality by impressing it with great effectiveness in the Scandinavian mythical scenario, combining the brutality of the Viking gods, the majesty of the Valkyries and the mysticism of ancestral creatures with the soft and reassuring tones of a coming-of-age tale.
Plus, we believe that Halla's Journey is a highly recommended read for those who loved, and still devours, Tolkien's production, even going beyond the founding mythology of The Lord of the Rings.
In fact, Mitchison's work is very reminiscent of some of the small hidden masterpieces of the author of LOTR, which in turn clearly took inspiration from Norse mythology in defining the narrative and schematic pillars of modern fantasy.
We must not forget how greatly inspired Mitchison's work seems to other literary cornerstones set in Middle-earth: from the epic and fairy-tale scenarios of The Dragon Hunter to the reassuring atmospheres of The Hobbit, all works whose conceptual spirit pours into Halla's Journey.
Gives The Hobbit, indeed, Halla's Journey takes up some of the founding character traits of the Dragons, like their obsession with gold, which in the novel by Fazi becomes a pretext to tell the epic of conquest rather than the negative traits that make these creatures antagonists, not heroes.
Interesting feature de Halla's journey, in fact, it is the reversal between animal or mythological creatures and human beings, with the latter initially represented as a danger to stay away from.
In its relationship to the animal kingdom as a training vehicle for the growth of the protagonist, finally, it is linked to another great classic of literature for children and young people such as The Jungle Book.
In short, yet another demonstration of how much Halla's journey is an essential reading, pleasant thanks to the light but exciting style of the author, for all lovers of fairy tales, fantasy and the coming of age. A small book, literally, in which about 150 pages pours all the love for genre literature and extraordinary travels.