Elizabeth Goudge: ‘The Well of the Star’

Much has been made of the influence of Elizabeth Goudge’s Little White Horse on Ms. Rowling’s Harry Potter books — and with good reason. As I detail in the last chapter of Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures, beyond Ms. Rowling’s pointing to this fantasy as a favorite of her childhood and saying it was a “direct influence” on her work “perhaps more than any other,” Horse‘s structure, symbols, and anagogical freight would tell us the same. In brief, the model for what Harry represents, the polarities of the magical world, and the alchemical artistry of Ms. Rowling’s work can be found in Ms. Goudge’s classic.

Beth, dear friend of this blog and writer at BookwormJournal, found another Goudge story, a Christmas tale titled ‘The Well of the Star,’ that also seems a potential influence, especially with respect to mirrors and sacred sight (Coleridge’s natural theology, i.e., the hermetic idea of reflection and recognition as the heart of knowledge and Communion). Beth’s helpful comments and citations are here and I recommend them. Little White Horse readers will remember first the well in Merryweather Manor’s walled courtyard where the heroine of that story finds the hidden string of pearls, essentially “those of great price,” that resolve the contraries of the magical valley and then Loveday’s silver mirror, in which Maria sees her golden aura. Goudge is a wonder; as Ms. Rowling said about Horse, it “is a very well-constructed and clever book and the more you read it, the cleverer it appears.” “Clever,” I’m afraid, doesn’t do it justice.

More tomorrow on perhaps the original Logos mirror in English fiction, the Shepherd’s Palace mirror in Pilgrim’s Progress! Thanks to Beth for finding and sharing this neglected Goudge classic.


  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    I’ve just started The Bird in the Tree (1940), and the end of the fourth section of the first chapter finds a nine-year-old boy with a rough life behind him pondering an account of the wreck of a grain ship (with no lives lost) a century before and the relation of a field of wild corn, never harvested, always replanting itself, to it. “As the wind passed over them [the stunted stalks] they rustled a little desolately, and Ben’s heart suddenly ached intolerably for that unwanted, ungarnered gold, and for the great ship that had gone to its death in this place. The field was its grave and the uncut whispering corn its epitaph. He wondered what it was saying. ‘Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die…’ He had heard that somewhere, and couldn’t remember the end, and suddenly he forgot that he had been unhappy […].” I suddenly wondered if JKR’s use of Biblical quotations had something distinctly Goudgean about it.

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