Borrobil – William Croft Dickinson



Two young children decide to explore a dark forest on Beltane Eve, and get far more than they bargained for when they find themselves in the past.


I’m reading a book by Seth Dickinson, and for no good reason, his name reminded me of this book by William Croft Dickinson that I read first as a child, and once or twice since then. Other than being fantasy books by men named Dickinson, they have little in common.

Despite having read Borrobil a few times, I didn’t recall it well. In part, that’s because it’s a fairly standard children-through-portal story, though several years in advance of the Narnia books that really brought the idea into vogue. It’s a nice story – and nice for its time in that the girl and boy are fairly equal partners in the adventure – if relatively low in cohesion and tension.

The main problem I found on this read through was that it’s not a coherent story so much as as a collection of tall tales – as told by good wizard Borrobil – strung together on a thread of low-key (but often fatal) adventure.  Borrobil tells a lot of stories and sings a lot of songs. They don’t all have much in common, but they’re fun.

One thing I found appealing was that, although clearly a children’s book, it’s modestly substantial, at 170 pages of small text, and it’s not been bowdlerized, at least as far as death is concerned. The children are never in much danger, but people do die violently left and right (okay, occasionally), without so much as a second glance. I don’t think you’d see that these days. Whether that’s good or bad is up for debate, but it does remind me that my childhood was different from that of today’s children.

All in all, a pleasant, modest entry in the genre; a nice read, but not worth putting a lot of effort into seeking out.

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