A Primary and Secondary Bibliography
by Roger C. Schlobin
GK Hall, 0-8161-8044-X, 1980
Andre Norton is one of the best known authors of contemporary science fiction and fantasy. A number of her works in the Ace paperback editions have sold over one-million copies (Locus, December 1977, pp. 1, 2), and many of her novels regularly remain in print for long periods of time. Scarface has sold over thirty-thousand copies, an amazingly high number for a juvenile novel. Six other novels have been reprinted by various book clubs, and librarians and book dealers are well aware of the popularity of Ms. Norton's books with both young and old. Her works have been published in nine Foreign languages----French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Italian, Hungarian, Russian, Arabic, and Portuguese----and two books, Star Rangers and The Sword is Drawn, have been reproduced as talking books for the blind. The former has also been published in Braille.
To classify Ms. Norton as strictly a science-fiction and fantasy writer or as a juvenile author would be an error. Her genres range far beyond the confines of only a few types of literature. Her canon includes mysteries, westerns, gothic fiction, historical novels, adventure stories, a biography, poetry, and non-fiction (see titles by genre), as well as science fiction and fantasy.
Recently, and as this bibliography indicates, Ms. Norton's works have been receiving unusual attention. In 1977 Gregg Press reissued seven of the works in her Witch World series in their first hardback appearances----Witch World, Web of the Witch World, Year of the Unicorn, Three Against the Witch World, Warlock of the Witch World, Sorceress of the Witch World, and Spell of the Witch World---with a long introduction by Sandra Miesel. In 1978 the same publishing firm has reissued seven of her earlier novels in hardcover: Sargasso of Space, The Crossroads of Time, Plague Ship, Secret of the Lost Race, Voodoo Planet, The Sioux Spaceman, and Star Hunter, again with an introduction by Sandra Miesel. In addition, Fawcett Books has recently paid $336,000 (not $393,000 as incorrectly reported in Locus, December 1977, p. l) for the paperback rights to eighteen of her earlier novels that were originally published by Harcourt, Brace and last owned by Ace Books.
Despite her popularity and the range of her fiction, she has never received the critical acclaim that might be expected in the case of so creative and prolific a writer. Both Barry McGhan ("Andre Norton: Why Has She Been Neglected?", Riverside Quarterly, 4 [January 1970] pp. 128-131) and Donald A. Wollheim ("Introduction" The Many Worlds of Andre Norton. Ed. Roger Elwood, Radnor, PA: Chilton, 1974) have examined this unexpected phenomenon. McGhan speculates that the reasons for this neglect are the general critical disinterest in fantasy, and the classification of Ms. Norton's works as escapist and juvenile literature. While also noting that her books have been restrictively labeled as “young adult,” Wollheim points to more concrete concerns: Ms. Norton’s works have rarely appeared in the popular science-fiction magazines, and her poor health has prevented her from promoting herself, as many authors do, at the numerous science-fiction conventions that are regularly held throughout the country each year. In addition to the reasons advanced by these two critics, another may be suggested: she is a superb storyteller, and her command of the narrative form is at times so effective that even the most critical reader becomes too enthralled to reflect and analyze.
Yet, while Ms. Norton's work has generally escaped critical attention until very recently, her career has not gone unrecognized or unrewarded. As early as 1944, The Sword is Drawn was a Literary Guild choice, and in 1946 it received a special award from the Dutch government. In 1966 Moon of Three Rings was a Junior Literary Guild selection. Her edition of Malcolm Jameson’s Bullard of the Space Patrol received the Boys' Clubs of America Medal in 1951, and the same group awarded her a Certificate of Merit for Night of Masks in 1965.
Ms. Norton’s awards have been especially noteworthy since she has been the first of her gender to receive certain of them. In 1963, at Westercon XVI, a major gathering of science-fiction fans designated her as the first woman to be presented with the Invisible Little Man Award for sustained excellence in science fiction. Southern fandom made her the first female recipient of the Phoenix Award for overall achievement in 1976, and she was the first woman writer inducted into the late Lin Carter’s Swordsmen and Sorcerers’ Guild of America “S.A.G.A.,” the group that regularly contributes to Carter’s Flashing Swords anthologies (Lin Carter, Imaginary Worlds: The Art of Fantasy [New York: Ballantine Books, 1973], p. 149).
Indeed, world-wide science-fiction fans and readers have paid tribute to Ms. Norton by nominating Witch World and Wizard's World(ss) for the prestigious Hugo Awards in 1964 and 1968, respectively. It was just recently, in 1977, that the same group gave her writing its highest tribute. She followed J. R. R. Tolkien, Fritz Leiber, and L. Sprague de Camp as the fourth writer and the first woman to be honored by a special award on the Hugo ballot, the Gandalf. This memorial to J. R. R. Tolkien honors Ms. Norton for her lifetime achievement in fantasy. The award is clearly the single most significant tribute that a fantasy writer can receive.
Even in light of the mystery of the critical neglect as opposed to her popular acclaim, a more challenging enigma is inherent in Ms. Norton’s enormous range and output. What kind of a person and author can generate eighty-seven novels and twenty-eight short stories to date in a sustained career of over forty-four years and show no signs of creative exhaustion?
Andre Norton was born Alice Mary Norton in Cleveland, Ohio, on February 17th, 1912, to Adalbert Freely Norton and Bertha Stemm Norton. She was a late child, born seventeen years after her sister. An apparent result of this was that she never developed close relationships with her siblings or her contemporaries and was influenced primarily by her parents. Her early family life was dominated by her mother’s strong literary interests, and before Ms. Norton could read herself; her mother would read to her and recite poetry as she went about various household chores. Ms. Norton was first introduced to literature by gifts of most of Howard Roger Garis’ Uncle Wiggley books and the legacy of a copy of The Swiss Family Robinson. Later, good grades in school were rewarded by copies of Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Oz books, and her young imagination was also stimulated by playing with the miniature animals that were about the house, an occupation that clearly is a foreshadowing of the delightful animal creations that fill many of her works. The maternal influences continued well into Ms. Norton's career, as her mother did all her proofreading and served as a critic-in-residence. This influence was appropriately honored in 1969 when Ms. Norton completed her late mother’s autobiographical novel, Bertie and May.
The Norton family’s commitment to reading and literature was fortified by a strong sense of family history. Both Gary Alan Ruse’s and Paul Walker’s interviews ("Algol Profile: Andre Norton" [Algol, 29, Summer-Fall 1977, pp. 15-17] and "An Interview with Andre Norton" [Luna Monthly No. 40, September 1972, pp.1-4]) point out the importance of this heritage in Ms. Norton’s development. Her mother’s family had been Bounty Land settlers in Ohio, and her great-grandfather had married a Wyandot, named Elk Eyes, to fully ratify his land claim. In fact, theirs was the first such union between a Caucasian and an Indian in the territory. Her father's fascination with westerns and accounts of the early trail drives can be traced to his birth in the Indian territory that is now Nebraska, to his witnessing the Indian uprising of 1866, and to the fact that he lived in Ellsworth, Kansas, shortly after the time of Wyatt Earp. Another member of Ms. Norton’s father's family had the dubious distinction of being a witness in the Salem witch trials. In addition, three of her mother’s uncles had served in the Civil War: one of them was imprisoned in Andersonville, and another died at Gettysburg. It was this rich family history that inspired Ms. Norton's early historical novels, such as Follow the Drum, Ride Proud, Rebel!, Stand to Horse, and Rebel Spurs. Rebel Spurs is based on the actual life of a rancher who fortified his ranch, allied himself with the Pima Indians, and stood off numerous Apache attacks. Ride Proud, Rebel! is derived from the Civil War diary of one John Smith, and the period of early feminine rule in colonial Maryland is the source For Follow the Drum.
Ms. Norton’s writing career began while she was attending Collingwood High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Under the tutelage and guidance of an English teacher, Miss Sylvia Cochrane, she edited and contributed to the high school publication, The Collingwood Spotlight. A solitary teenager, she devoted much of her extracurricular time to editing and writing, and it was during this early formative period that she wrote Ralestone Luck, which was later rewritten and published as her second novel in I938.
After graduating from high school, Ms. Norton attended Flora Stone Mather College of Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve) for a year from the fall of 1930 to the spring of 1931, with the intention of becoming a history teacher. The depression quickly put an end to the luxury of a full-time college education. She was forced to find work and help support the household. For the remainder of her college education, Ms. Norton had to be content to exhaust the evening courses in journalism and writing that were offered by Cleveland College, the adult division of Western Reserve University. She was soon employed by the Cleveland Library System and concentrated on children’s literature. Her involvement in the children’s story hour would later bear fruit. Rogue Reynard, based on the medieval beast fables; Huon of the Horn, based on a medieval French romance entitled Boke of Duck Huon of Burdeax; and Steel Magic. Based on the Arthurian legends, were the results of stories she had prepared for the children.
While much of her time was spent as an assistant librarian in the children’s section of the Nottingham Branch Library in Cleveland, she became something of a trouble-shooter for the entire system and worked in thirty-eight of the forty branches at one time or another. In the eighteen years from 1932 to 1950 that she worked for the library system, her lack of a degree prevented her from advancing as her ability might have dictated, and the lack of employment opportunities during the depression forced her to stay and endure a number of discomforts that made her tenure unpleasant. Nevertheless, despite financial difficulties and the excessive responsibilities of the library position, in 1934 she published her first novel, The Prince Commands, a historical fantasy, and went on to publish eight more novels and two short stories before she left the library system in 1950.
It was when she published her first novel that Ms. Norton began to legally use the name Andre, and she has continued to use it exclusively. Thus the citation of “Andre“ as a pseudonym for her given name, Alice Mary, in a number of bibliographies, biographies, and critical accounts is in error. In actuality the only pseudonym Ms. Norton has ever used is Andrew North, (She did use “Allen Weston” once when collaborating with Grace Allen Hogarth---See Murders for Sale.) This name change was implemented primarily because she expected to be writing for young boys, and she felt that the change would increase the marketability of her work in this traditionally male market. This was an added asset when she entered the masculine-dominated science-fiction field.
During Ms. Norton's one brief absence from the Cleveland Library, she owned and managed a book store and lending library called the Mystery House in Mount Ranier, Maryland, in 1941. While the bookstore was a failure, it was at much the same time, 1940 to 1941, that she engaged in an activity of greater importance. During this period, she worked as a special librarian in the cataloging department of the Library of Congress. She was specifically involved in a project related to alien citizenship. The project was abruptly terminated by the beginning of World War II, but the skills learned augmented and developed the meticulous research that characterizes all Ms. Norton's fiction. In addition, her experience in the Library of Congress later was valuable background for the association with the World Friends‘ Club in Cleveland that resulted in her fourth novel, The Sword is Drawn, in 1944. This espionage novel chronicles the activities of the Dutch underground during World War II and was written at the request of the World Friends‘ Club. It was so successful that the Dutch government awarded Ms. Norton an enamel plaque in 1946 for the book's authenticity and for its portrayal of the valiant efforts of the underground. Additional research, letters supplied by the Dutch, and over two hundred photographs supplied by one of the leaders of the underground led to the publication in 1949 of a second novel focusing on Dutch history in the Indies and Nazi and Japanese war holdouts in the islands, Sword in Sheath. A third novel in the series, At Swords Point, was published in 1949. It draws on Ms. Norton’s fascination with jewelry and its often bloody history. The novel centers on the noble efforts of a young man to solve the mystery of his brother's death, is also set in the Netherlands, involves the active remnants of the World War II underground, and focuses on the recovery of a set of jeweled miniatures of knights in armor. A fourth novel in the series, Sword Points South, set in South America and drawing on the activities of the emerald trade, remains unfinished and unpublished. (Webmaster’s Note: At the time this article was being created Andre told Dr. Schlobin the title was Sword Points South, however the recovered manuscript of the fourth Swords book is titled Trouble in Mayapan and is listed as such on this website.)
While Ms. Norton did leave the Dutch setting and history behind, the elements of mystery and intrigue that are the strongest aesthetic features of the three published novels in the Sword series continue as major characteristics in her later work. Her fascination with jewels and talismans, and with their histories and occult properties, continues as principal images in The Zero Stone, the Witch World series, Wraiths of Time, and her gothic novels, particularly The White Jade Fox and The Opal Eyed Fan. Often these jewels or talismans are the sources of unusual power. Strange black stones and cloudy crystals generate life and power in The Zero Stone and its sequel, Uncharted Stars. In Ms. Norton’s justifiably heralded Witch World series, special cloudy crystals are used by the matriarchal witches to focus their sorcerous powers, and in one of the short stories in this series, Dragon Scale Silver(ss) a magically conceived silver bowl is the link between two twins. Throughout Ms. Norton's work, such objects almost always have special significance.
After Ms. Norton left the Cleveland Library System in 1950, she worked as a reader for Martin Greenberg at Gnome Press until 1958. Her most striking memory of these eight years is of her reading the manuscript of Murray Leinster's The Forgotten Planet (1954).
Most importantly, it was during this period that Ms. Norton wrote her first science-fiction novel, Star Man’s Son 2250 A.D. Her beginning was auspicious. Donald A. Wollheim, the publisher of the novel, explains in The Universe Makers: Science Fiction Today (New York: Harper & Row, l971) that the novel had sold over one million copies in the Ace paperback edition as of 1970. However, this was not, as many believe, her first excursion into science-fiction and fantasy. Early in her career, in 1947, she had published a short story in a short-lived pulp magazine, Fantasy Book, entitled People of the Crater(ss). This story was later included as Garin of Tav(ss) in one of her most successful collections, Garan the Eternal. In addition, in 1949 she had edited the first of four science-fiction anthologies, for the World Publishing Company in Cleveland. This first being a collection of Malcolm Jameson’s stories, Bullard of the Space Patrol.
It was the freedom afforded by her position with Gnome Press that allowed Ms. Norton to concentrate more fully on her writing career, and in 1954 alone she published six novels and another edited anthology, Space Pioneers. When she left Gnome in 1958, she had written twenty-three novels. After that, the increased income from her book sales and her relationship with Ace Books, as described by Lin Carter Andre Norton: A Profile and in Imaginary Worlds, allowed her to write on a full-time basis. This she has done with marked enthusiasm. In the period from 1958 to 1978, she added sixty-seven novels, three short story collections, five edited anthologies, and twenty-three short stories (a genre she professes no special skill in) to her already extensive canon.
In November of 1966, her uncertain health necessitated a move to Florida. She now lives there with her cats, large library, and figurines. She spends much of her time writing and reading, and her active mind and excellent hospitality belie any thought that she will yield to her family's encouragement that she retire.
Andre Norton quickly contends that her life has not been interesting. Yet, the richness of her writing seems to contradict that self-evaluation. Her life does seem devoid of great adventures, but it has obviously generated a wealth of material for her creative abilities. Part of the answer to this apparent contradiction can be clarified by recalling John Keats‘ “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.” Keats‘ “negative capability”--the ability to project the mind into art---successfully captures the quality of Ms. Norton’s vicarious experience while also touching on her fascination with history:
Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in Fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortex when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific--and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
So too, Ms. Norton has spent a lifetime industriously extending herself into reading and researching, and her excellent memory has let little of this information escape. She candidly expresses this enthusiasm in her introduction to C. J. Cherryh’s Gate of Ivrel:
There are those among us who are compulsive readers--who will even settle a wandering eye on a scrap of newspaper on the bus floor if nothing better offers. Books flow in and out of our lives in an unending stream. Some we remember briefly, others bring us sitting upright, tense with suspense, our attention enthralled until the last word on the last page is digested. Then we step regretfully from the world that author has created, and we know that volume will be chosen to stand on already too tightly packed shelves to be read again and again (p. 7).
Ms. Norton's home is indeed filled to overflowing with books on a wide range of subjects, and one of her leisure time activities is perusing book catalogs for additional titles that pique her varied interests. A quick survey of her “too tightly packed shelves” reveals books on such subjects as the English longbowman; Victorian architecture and gardens; speculative archaeology, especially the works of T. C. Lethbridge; folk tales, including Stith Thompson's multi-volume index to folk tales; the occult and witchcraft; cats; general history; and Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon sagas.
Despite her insistence that she keeps only titles she wants to read more than once, her collection of fantasy, science fiction, and general ﬁction is imposing. Among her admired authors are H. Beam Piper, James H. Schmitz, Susan Cooper, Edgar Rice Burroughs, David Mason, Alan Garner, C. J. Cherryh, A. Merritt, Cordwainer Smith, H. Rider Haggard, J. R. R. Tolkien, Evangeline Walton, Poul Anderson, Dornford Yates, Roger Zelazny, Richard Adams, Ruth Plumly Thompson, L. Sprague de Camp, Keith Laumer, Anne McCaffrey, and William Hope Hodgson. Some of her selections reflect admiration and pleasure. Others--most notably Haggard, Piper, Yates, Thompson, Mundy, and Hodgson---constitute sources and influences. All demonstrate a considerable range of interests that makes the study of her sources a journey into a kaleidoscope.
Her debt to Burroughs, Haggard, Merritt, and Mundy lies in her aesthetic commitment to the value of a clear, fast-moving plot. Contributing to this commitment to the value of strong narrative was her discovery of the works of Henry Fielding, Daniel Defoe, Tobias Smollett, and Samuel Richardson while she was attending Western Reserve University, an event she retells vividly even though some forty-seven years have passed since its occurrence. In the same vein, her mother’s collection of nineteenth-century American and Victorian novelists also made a marked contribution to her narrative development, and it was her mother's library and her own affections that generated her scholarly study of the works of Maria Susanna Cummings, Mary ]ane Holmes, Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte (“E.D.E.N.”) Southworth, Elizabeth Wetherell (pseudonym for Susan Bogart Warner), and Augusta Jane Wilson, the nineteenth-century American novelists whom Nathaniel Hawthorne, envious of their financial success, called “those damned scribbling women." (Unfortunately, the only manuscript of this book was loaned to a college professor some years ago and never returned.) (Webmaster Note: The manuscript mentioned was recovered and appears on this site as The Scribbling Women.)
More specifically, William Hope Hodgsorn’s The Night Land, a book Ms. Norton was instrumental in having included in Lin Carter’s Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, is the direct source for Night of Masks. Night of Masks resulted from her fascination with Hodgson’s dark world, and her setting and characters benefit from the innovative concept of a world lit by an infrared sun. Dark Piper is based on the folk tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and Year of the Unicorn, part of the shape-changer subdivision of the Witch World series, is derived from the tale of Beauty and the Beast. John Rowe Townsend has correctly pointed out that Star Gaurd is a retelling of Xenophon’s Anabasis ("Andre Norton", A Sense of Story: Essay on Contemporary Writers for Children, J. P. Lippencott, p. 145). The strange outsized ring in The Zero Stone was inspired by a description of an odd piece of jewelry, meant to be worn with armor, in an off-beat book called The Hock Shop (1954) by Ralph R. Simpson, and the Time Trader novels had their inception in the minimal historical information concerning the Bronze Age Beaker Traders as described in Paul Herrmann’s Conquest by Man (1954).
The Jargoon Pard, another novel focusing on the Witch World shape-changers, can be accounted for by Norton's aforementioned fascination with jewelry, and the protagonist’s characteristics are the result of a special reading of the Tarot cards. Shadow Hawk, a historical fantasy set in Ancient Egypt, emerged from Ms. Norton's reading of the works of Joan Grant, specifically Winged Pharaoh, Eyes of Horus, and Lord of the Horizon. Scarface, a juvenile adventure story, is based on the diary of a Dutch physician who was captured by pirates, and it draws heavily on the life of Henry Morgan as well. To change a western into a science-fiction novel and write The Beast Master and its sequel, Lord of Thunder---novels that describe the poignant quest for self and home by a Navaho Indian after Terra has been destroyed---Ms. Norton obtained Navaho phrase books and linguistic studies from the Government Printing Office in Washington, DC.
Ms. Norton’s Magic series is an example of her ability to derive structure as well as content from her sources, and each volume in the series uses a single, central image to unify and generate the action. In Steel Magic, the utensils in a picnic basket become the talismans of Arthurian Britain and the means of entry into a fantasy world. Octagon Magic uses an elaborate doll house to propel the heroine into a world of historical conflict. Lavender-Green Magic uses a maze; Dragon Magic, a puzzle; Red Hart Magic, a peep show that Ms. Norton discovered in a picture of an Elizabethan inn in a history of the period; and Fur Magic, an Indian medicine bag and the Indian legend of the changer.
In addition to these sources for individual works, one of the predominant influences in Ms. Norton’s fiction is the psychic pseudo-science of psychometry. This activity is formally defined as the detection by a sensitive of the residue that exists in an artifact that has been handled by man through the ages. This residue contains events, human emotions and experiences, and, in the case of religious or mystical objects, psychic power. The process is more fully defined by Ms. Notions female protagonist, Ziantha, in Forerunner Foray:
For a long time it had been a proved fact that any object wrought by intelligence (or even a natural stone or similar object that had been used for a definite purpose by intelligence) could record. From the fumbling beginnings of untrained sensitives, who had largely developed their own powers, much had been learned. It had been "magic" then; yet the talent was too “wild,” because all men did not share it, and because it could not be controlled or used at will but came and went for reasons unknown to the possessors (p. 50).
This concept is further dramatized in Wraiths of Time. A young Black girl has been thrown into a parallel universe where the ancient Nubian kingdom of Meroe has never fallen and has continued to develop its psychic powers for two thousand years. The young protagonist, Tallahassee Mitford, is drawn back to replace a dead princess in a struggle between good and evil. The keys to success for the virtuous advocates of the “Power” are a crystal ankh and a staff. Tallahassee is the wielder of the staff, and both talismans are the products of the concentrated psychic powers of the people of Meroe. Early in the book, another character explains the signiﬁcance of such objects to Tallahassee:
"There was a strong belief in the old African kingdoms that the soul of a nation could be enclosed in some precious artifact. The Ashanti war with England a hundred years ago came about because an English governor demanded the King’s stool to sit on as a sign of the transferral of rulership. But even the King could not sit on that. Sitting on a Floor mat, he might only lean a portion of his arm upon it while making some very important decree or when assuming the kingship. To the Ashanti people the stool contained the power of all the tribal ancestors and was holy; it possessed a deeply religious as well as a political significance--which the English did not attempt to find out before they made their demands” (Wraiths of Time, pp. 5-6).
Ms. Norton's original source for this concept is the works of T. C. Lethbridge. Pertinent works include E. S. P: Beyond Time and Distance, The Monkey’s Tail: A Study in Evolution and Parapsychology, A Step in the Dark, and The Legend of the Sons of God: A Fantasy? Some of this influence is condensed in Ms. Norton’s Merlin’s Mirror, and in this work, both the wizard Myrddin/Merlin and the king Arthur are the sons of the union between earthly woman and extraterrestrial artificial insemination. In combination with the novel’s account of ancient alien visits to Earth is Merlin’s ability to sense the alien residue in various objects, such as the stones of Stonehenge. To recover Excalibur, a sword made of star metal, Merlin uses a small scrap of star metal as a divining rod. Thus, through their commonality, the scrap is attracted to the sword. An even more striking example of psychometry is the basis for Forerunner Foray. Ziantha, a young sensitive and thief, is compulsively drawn to an artifact. It appears to be only a stone, but hidden within is a gem of enormous psychic power that holds the memory of and the key to a prehuman tomb containing untold wealth.
Yet, as significant as Lethbridge’s books were to Ms. Norton’s initial interest in psychometry, she did not accept his premises at face value. Rather, she has herself conducted rigorous experiments with admitted sensitives. The result is that Ms. Norton now entertains a doubting acceptance of the concept. More important than the validity of psychometry to an understanding of her fiction, however, is that psychometry provides the bridge between two of her dominant interests and two of the dominant characteristics of her work: history and speculative archaeology. This bridge is defined by the character Lantee in Forerunner Foray as he explains to the protagonist Ziantha how the two of them should find themselves transported to the distant past:
“Now what is this about the focus-stone? Apparently some trick of psychometry hurled us back into this [the past], and the more l know how and why the better” (Forerunner Foray, p. 116].
Ms. Norton fully exploits this “trick” in many of her novels, far too many to list, in fact. Whether it be the artifacts of alien visits to ancient Earth or the concept of the prehuman Forerunners whose tantalizing artifacts are scattered through the universe and provide so many of Ms. Norton’s works with an epic scope and a brooding mystery, the important thing is that psychometry is one of the major ways by which Ms. Norton can exercise her inclination toward the intriguing elements of history and combine them with elements of either science fiction or fantasy. The necessity of the retention of the value of the past within Ms. Norton's aesthetic is aptly dramatized by the enigmatic and magical Miss Ashemeade, who can accurately be identified as the Norton persona in the fantasy novel Octagon Magic:
“There was a lady in England,“ Miss Ashemeade replied, “who once said that it was as disgraceful for a lady not to know how to use a needle as it was for a gentleman to be ignorant of how to handle his sword.” She wiped her fingers on a small napkin. Lorrie did not know just what was expected of her, but she said after a moment's pause:
“Gentlemen do not have swords any more.”
“No. Nor do many ladies use needles either. But to forget or set aside any art is an unhappy thing” (p. 55).
In her essay On Writing Fantasy, Ms. Norton affirms the importance of the functional use of the past in her works and further delineates the humanistic elements of history that she likes to represent.
But the first requirement for writing heroic or sword & sorcery fantasy must be a deep interest in and a love for history itself. Not the history of dates, of sweeps and empires—-but the kind of history which deals with daily life, the beliefs, and aspirations of people long since dust (The Dipple Chronicles, p. 8) (reprinted in The Many Worlds of Andre Norton).
Vivian de Sola Pinto, in his excellent study Crisis in English Poetry 1880-1940 (rev. ed., New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1958), provides a creative pattern that accurately identifies how creativity can exist in a seemingly uneventful life like Andre Norton’s. He defines two journeys by which the author can find full expression in his or her art: the outer voyage and the inner voyage. For an author of science fiction, fantasy, or any other highly ﬁctive literature to make a strong outer or mimetic voyage to actual places or events is absurd. The very nature of such literature makes such experience clearly impossible. However, the idea of inner voyage does provide a clear means of ascertaining the nature of Ms. Norton’s Keatsian experience. De Sola Pinto quotes C. F. G. Masterman’s Condition of England (1909) for a definition of this inner voyage: “a voyage within and across distant horizons and to stranger countries than any visible to the actual senses” (p. 13). This is the nature of the innovation, scope, and settings of Ms. Norton’s fiction, and its intent is a direct indication of her mental activity. Ms. Norton's life, then, has been limited only by the parameters of her own interests, and her literary output clearly shows that her inner voyages have taken her to “distant horizons” and lands strange and vast.
It is not surprising, then, that the world of Andre Norton’s fiction is cosmic in scope. At the beginning of Merlin’s Mirror, Ms. Norton sets just such a scene as a backdrop for the tasks of the protagonist Myrddin:
Time had been swallowed, was gone, and still the beacon kept to its task, while outside the cave nations had risen and decayed, men themselves had changed and changed again. Everything the makers of the beacon had known was erased during those years, destroyed by the very action of nature. Seas swept in upon the land, then retired, the force of their waves taking whole cities and countries. Mountains reared up, so that the shattered remains of once-proud ports were lifted into the thin air of great heights. Deserts crept in over green fields. A moon fell from the sky and another took its place (p. 5).
Indeed, her characters range through galaxies and are embroiled in issues and conflicts of universal and elemental concern. Their quests and actions are intermingled with essential and critical patterns of being, both for themselves and others. The characters are arrayed in a cosmos filled with strange races and alien climes, and the narratives grow from a deep tradition, exist in a momentous present, and face a vital future.
Surprisingly, even though many of her novels are set in the future, she has no special affection for the technological, and, in fact, science is most often the antagonist in her fiction. In the Janus series, an alien computer is the villain, and in the Witch World series, the dreaded Kolder are a scientific race from a parallel universe. Ms. Norton, as quoted in Rick Brooks’ “Andre Norton: Loss of Faith,” makes her stance quite clear:
“Yes, I am anti-machine. The more research I do, the more I am convinced that when western civilization turned to machines so heartily with the Industrial Revolution...they threw away some parts of life which are now missing and which the lack of leads to much of our present frustration" (The Dipple Chronicles, p. 22) (reprinted in The Many Worlds of Andre Norton).
However, although it is unusual that an author who writes so much science fiction should be anti-technological, it is not at all odd when one realizes what is of primary importance in Ms. Norton's fiction. The scientific and the mechanistic settings exist only to provide a context for her real emphases: plot and character. People, their lives, and their futures are her central concerns. As John Rowe Townsend points out, “Miss Norton handles her gadgetry with great aplomb. She never draws special attention to it; it is simply there”("Andre Norton", A Sense of Story: Essay on Contemporary Writers for Children, J. P. Lippencott, p. 148) Quite simply, her futuristic settings provide the often violent, comprehensive, and active arenas for her dramas. The fact that they may be set in the future is a minor part of her work. Rather, she dwells primarily on the chronicles of beings and their journeys through existence.
Structurally, her stories move quickly through these settings, and there is little doubt that she is a skillful master of narrative. Her storytelling is always complete, leaving few, if any, loose ends. Her effective use of chronology and causality move the reader easily into and through events that out of context may appear implausible, and her writing is uniformly credible. In her essay On Writing Fantasy, Ms. Norton captures the effect of her own narrative when she reflects on the achievements of writers she herself admires:
There [the combination of history and imagination] we can find aids in novels---the novels of those inspired writers who seem, by some touch of magic, to have actually visited a world of the past. There are flashes of brilliance in such novels, illuminating strange landscapes and ideas. To bring to life the ﬁrelit interior of a Pictish broch (about whose inhabitants even the most industrious of modern archeologists can tell us little) is, for example, a feat of real magic (The Dipple Chronicles, p. 8) (reprinted in The Many Worlds of Andre Norton).
Much of the effectiveness of Norton's narrative structure stems from her utilization of the comic mode or the mythic patterns of spring that Northrop Frye explains so cogently in The Anatomy of Criticism. Her protagonists are involved in a struggle and must triumph over an unlawful, established society to survive. Frequently, the protagonists must undergo a rite of passage to find self-realization, and the completion of the comic mode, or “triumphant comedy,“ as Frye calls it, demands the establishment of a new order and the acquisition of freedoms and new insights into the nature of existence. Thus, in Star Gate, the half-human, half-alien Cim must deny the society of his human mother and come to terms with his own manhood and his mixed heritage to find a place in the advanced society of his alien father. Furtig, the mutated cat and protagonist of Breed to Come, discovers that his existence is dependent upon his ability to discover his own potential and confront the mythology of his long-departed human masters, especially when they suddenly return. In Star Guard, The Zero Stone, and The Stars Are Ours!, the protagonists must overcome monolithic and authoritarian societies to reach their goals, and in Judgment on Janus they must defeat the rigid bigotry of the patriarch Skywalkers to preserve the truer humanity of the alien lftcan. Thus, Ms. Norton’s fiction dwells on one of the most poignant and appealing narratives in literature: the success and elevation of the innocent. In this process, bondages and wastelands are overthrown, new and generative orders are established, and the protagonists are ennobled.
The passage of Ms. Norton's characters through this process constitutes her themes, and their concerns, needs, and successes are the major ideas that her fiction presents. One of the clearest examples of her use of character to express a pattern of experience is Sorceress of the Witch World. Kaththea, the protagonist, is nearly destroyed when she mistakenly gives her love, innocence, and sorcerous powers to an evil adept, Dinzil. She must pass through the darkness of her own fear to find rebirth. To save her family, she undergoes a rite of passage and passes from a degenerate state to a generative one, the archetypal quest for salvation. Ultimately, she opens herself to the virtuous archmage Hilarion, one of the enormously powerful “Old Race” of the Witch World series, and is elevated to a new level of awareness:
Thus I was forced to open my eyes, not on the terrible blinding chaos I had thought, but to see who stood by me. And I knew that this was not one of Dinzil’s breed, those who do not give, only take. Rather it was true that between us there was neither ruler nor ruled, only sharing. There was no need for words, or even thoughts---save a single small wonder quickly gone as to how I could have been so blind as to open the door to needless fear (Sorceress of the Witch World, p. 220).
This pattern is much like the one found in certain nineteenth-century British Romantics and is especially similar to the passage from innocence to experience to higher innocence in William Blake’s prophetic books. In view of Ms. Norton’s commitment to life and generation, it is natural that Rick Brooks should observe that “… the chief value of Andre Norton's fiction may not lie in entertainment or social commentary, but in her `reenchanting’ us with her creations that renew our linkages to all life“ (The Dipple Chronicles, p. 16) (reprinted in The Many Worlds of Andre Norton). This she does accomplish, and her strong characterization is the vehicle for the humanistic themes in her work.
Because Ms. Norton’s characters come in all sizes and shapes, their most important qualities are internal, and the distinctions among human, alien, and animal simply do not apply. In The Beast Master and Lord of Thunder the native and admirable Norbie race possesses horns, and the protagonist's best friends are telepathic animals. The long-lived Zacathans, a reptile race, are the honored and wise historians of the galaxy, and their studies of the pre-human Forerunner civilizations give depth to a number of Ms. Norton’s novels, most notably those in the Shann Lantee and Zero Stone series. There are also large numbers of superior telepathic animals in Ms. Norton’s fiction; frequently, they are nobler than humanity. Their roles range from the semi-sentient loyalty of Vorken, the hideous winged reptile of Star Gate, to the intelligent kinkajou, cats, and foxes of Catseye who are the salvation of the human Troy. Nowhere in Ms. Norton’s fiction is this ecumenical attitude more explicitly stated than in Star Guard, as Terran mercenaries, in conflict with their own kind, find the first sign of what will be their new allies:
Kana eyed the slit speculatively. It was too narrow for the length if it were fashioned to accommodate a humanoid. It suggested an extremely thin, sinuous creature. He did not feel any prick of man's age-old distaste for the reptilian---any reminder of the barrier between warm-blooded and cold-blooded life which had once held on his home world. Racial mixtures after planet wide wars, mutant births after the atomic conflicts, had broken down the old intolerance against the “different.” And out in space thousands of intelligent life forms, encased in almost as many shapes and bodies, had given “shape prejudice“ its final blow (Star Guard. p. l5l).
In fact, this non-prejudicial attitude in regard to types of being has been present in Ms. Norton’s cosmos from the very beginning, and it has been prophetic in its anticipation of at least one contemporary issue. Amanda Bankier, in the feminist fanzine The Witch and the Chameleon (Women in the Fiction of Andre Norton, August 1974, pp. 3-5), pays tribute to Ms. Norton’s humanistic foresight when she says:
For a long time before concern over sexism became wide-spread, Andre Norton had been quietly providing us with strong female characters, and exploring the woman's side of sexist societies in her fantasies and science fiction (p. 3).
In addition to the insignificance of shape and the importance of internal quality, Ms. Norton's leading characters are at odds with the social order. For example, Andas, in Android at Arms, stands alone against an entire royal dynasty. Also, they are frequently outcasts, disenfranchised, alone with only themselves, their ethics, and a very few close allies. Often, they are hunted or hounded by the authorities, as are Murdoc Jern and Eet in The Zero Stone and Uncharted Stars. Sometimes they have been exiled from their own kind: Fors flees his clan after he has been denied his heritage in Star Mans Son 2250 A.D. Other times, it is simply that a holocaust or a conflict has left them alone or separated, as in Storm Over Warlock and Ordeal in Otherwhere. Finally, and most often, what sets the protagonists apart are special powers. Ziantha’s distinctive psychic ability, in Forerunner Foray, has been a source of persecution and alienation for her for so long that she is still suspicious even when confronted with one of her own kind:
But this was a man [Lantee] with a talent akin to hers, equal, she believed. And she could not forget the actions on Turan’s [Lantee’s] time level that had endangered them both, that they had shared as comrades, though he was now the enemy. He made her feel self-conscious, wary in a way she had not experienced before (Forerunner Foray, p. 266).
Whatever the reasons for their separation, Ms. Norton’s characters are uniformly isolated and driven. As a result, it is not unexpected that fear is an emotion and motive common to all of them. The tragic Hosteen Storm, of The Beast Master, his native Terra destroyed, is an accurate model for the agonizing terror that almost paralyzes many of the characters:
He would not remember. He dared not! Storm's hands balled into fists and he beat them upon his knees, feeling that pain far less than the awaking pain inside him. He was cut off--exiled--And he was also accursed, unless he carried out the purpose [revenge] that had brought him here (The Beast Master, p. 60).
And the characters have good reasons to fear. As if the hostile environments and antagonistic human agencies were not enough, unseen and metaphysical dangers also exist, and they are far more threatening than the physical. In the Witch World series, the fantasy genre and its perspective allow the removal of physical appearances and demonstrate that the real fear in Ms. Norton’s fiction is not that of physical harm, but of the extinction of the self. In Witch World, Jaelithe, the female protagonist, warns of just such a danger in the blasphemous and inhuman weapon of the scientific Kolder:
“A Man is three things.” It was the witch who spoke now. "He is a body to act, a mind to think, a spirit to feel. Or are men constructed differently in your world, Simon? I cannot think so, for you act, you think, and you feel! Kill the body and you free the spirit; kill the mind and ofttimes the body must live on in sorry bondage for a space, which is a thing to arouse man's compassion. But to kill the spirit and allow the body, and perhaps the mind to live--” her voice shook, “that is a sin beyond all comprehension of our kind. And that is what has happened to these men of Gorm. What walks in their guise is not meant for earthborn life to see! Only an unholy meddling with things utterly forbidden could produce such a death“ (Witch World, p. 51).
It is undoubtedly their alien natures and their fears that govern the characters. Yet, a more subtle restlessness shapes their destinies. Just as Ms. Norton's own life has been a pursuit of knowledge, so too her characters possess a yearning for understanding. They seek a place for themselves and desire a healing and shaping of self through discovery. Gillan of Year of the Unicorn feels this unprovoked need and restlessness:
How does one know coming good from coming ill? There are those times in life when one welcomes any change, believing that nothing can be such ashes in the mouth, such dryness of days as the never altering flood of time in a small community where the outside world lies ever beyond gates locked and barred against all change (Year of the Unicorn, p. 5).
Alone, frightened, alienated, threatened, searching--Ms. Norton's characters are nevertheless always admirable, and they do have and do find positive virtues. Their own ethical systems may shake and weaken, but ultimately they are vindicated and are more attractive for their frailty. Despite their varied and mutated shapes and talents, they achieve a genuine nobility, a nobility always truer than that of the more “normal” types around them. They are healers of themselves and those around them, and they gain the freedom that only comes from the recognition of responsibility to self. Frequently, their resolutions are androgynous: within themselves or in union with another, they find the ideal combination of male and female characteristics. Most of all, they discover a sanctity of ideas and ethics, and they recognize their own places within the patterns and rhythms of elemental law and carry that recognition forward into a hopeful future. These patterns and rhythms are in nature, but nature is only one of their manifestations, only a part of the necessary interrelationships that are the foundations of a complete and proper realization of self. Hosteen Storm, in The Beast Master, feels the full power of this link between himself and elemental order when he stands alone against a group of hostile aliens:
Storm was no singer, but somehow the words came to his tongue, fitted themselves readily together into patterns of power so that the Terran believed he walked protected by the invisible armor of one who talked with the Faraway Gods, was akin to the Old Ones. He could feel the power rise and possess him. And with such to strengthen him what need had a man for other weapons? (The Beast Master, p. 172)
Ultimately, all the qualities of Ms. Norton’s settings and characters produce a fiction which realizes the value of the mystical and religious nature of the deeply personal. A natural harmony arises that is optimistic and heartening and that dwells on the small things that are valuable beyond their size. Much of the nature of Ms. Norton's deeply human writings is captured in a brief, poignant moment in Merlin’s Mirror. Myrddin, the alien child, alone and without allies, must again go forth into a world that barely tolerates him and that certainly doesn't understand him. He must fulfill an immense responsibility that he didn’t ask for, barely understands, and often dislikes. As he leaves his camp, he turns and addresses the only friend he has made in his wanderings:
“Little brother,” he said. and at his words the raven stopped its fierce tearing of the meat, looking up at him with beads of eyes which seemed more knowing than any Myrddin had ever seen set in a bird skull. “Farewell, keep safe. When I return you shall feast again” (Merlin’s Mirror, p. 91).