In one of his earlier novels, Something Wicked This Way Comes
, Bradbury warned to “Beware the autumn people”. Despite issuing this caution, I’m convinced that Bradbury saw himself
as an ‘autumn person’, given his fascination with the season and all that it symbolises: the lush growth of summer dying away; the Earth’s final death-rattle before the long, cold, still of winter; the ever-encroaching darkness.
I, too, am one of the autumn people. I’m not about to bore you with the details here, but there’s something so utterly intoxicating about this time of year - there are just so many wondrous sights, sounds and smells that simply don’t exist at any other time, which set both my senses and my mind ablaze with yearning. The world feels so different. Transformed. Magical
And of course, the linchpin of the whole season happens to be the very best holiday of the year: Halloween.
In The Halloween Tree
, eight boys set out for an evening of trick-or-treating and spooky festivities, but are quickly drawn into an unexpected undertaking that sees them trying to save the ninth member of their party from the icy clutches of Mr. Death. With the aid of the mysterious Clavicle Carapace Moundshroud, they embark on an adventure that takes them back in time, where they discover the death rituals and celebrations of past civilisations, from ancient Egypt to Celtic Britain, the witches of the European Dark Ages and El Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. The boys learn that there’s so much more to the myths, folklore and traditions of their beloved holiday than costumes and candy, and that the autumn rituals to honour the dead span right back to the very beginnings of humankind itself.
In a world where Halloween has become synonymous with knocking doors and begging for sweets (or, for those kids ten years-old and over, the hope of a bit of money for cheap cider and cigarettes) and is, ostensibly, viewed by those adults who consider themselves ‘normal’ (also see ‘boring’) as nothing more than a children’s holiday, this tale is a reminder of what fears and forces compelled our ancestors to uphold these rituals in the first place. It warms the broken fragments of my cold, dead heart.
But then, as an autumn person, it would, wouldn’t it?
This book would be absolutely perfect
to read to youngsters in the week leading up to Halloween. By the flickering light of the jack-o’-lantern, of course.