Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Patricia McKillip wrote Something Rich and Strange as one of Brian Froud’s Faerielands series. This is a beautifully written, ethereal novel that earned the author the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award in 1995. It is my first McKillip, and I fell in love with her writing and decided that, although I liked all four books in Froud’s series, this book is my favorite!
Megan is an artist living at the ocean’s edge with Jonah, a collector who owns a shop named Things Rich and Strange. Each day, Megan takes her sketchpad and walks along the beach sketching seascapes and tidepools. She creates lovely drawings, but she also picks up all the garbage washed up by the waves. She returns home with pockets full of the flotsam and jetsam of thoughtless humans.
“…You can’t sweep the sea,” Jonah would say as she pulled garbage and treasure from her pockets. “No,” she would answer, “but I can tidy a tide pool.” Then she would show him her drawings.
She had three that day: one a mound of sea urchins, one a carpet of anemones, and the last, which he lingered over longest, intent, musing, picking at his teeth with his thumb. He took his hand away from his mouth finally, pointed.
“I don’t recognize this.”
Megan looked over his shoulder; their heads touched. Sea lettuce, she was about to say, glancing at the shapeless, fluid lines. The word caught; her mouth stayed open. It wasn’t algae; it had an eye; it crawled across the bottom, small, rippling, horned. She took a breath, perplexed.
“I don’t either.”
Mysterious and magical creatures continue to sneak into her drawings, and then Megan and Jonah meet a most unusual brother and sister, both embodiments of the sea. Jonah becomes enamored of the sister, with her beautiful siren-like voice, and is finally lured into the sea. Megan must pay a price to find him and bring him back (if he wants to return). Part of that price is that both of them, and all of us, must understand that the sea is rich with life, and that our lives are directly connected to the health of the sea and all its creatures.
“…I sang to you because I need you to see me as I am now. You must find ways in your world to help me. I am no stronger than the most minute life in the sea. If you kill that, I begin to die. The smallest thing you can do to help me will give me strength to live.”
McKillip’s message in this story is very important, but it doesn’t pound you over the head. It is all part of a lyrical, poetic, mystical tale…beautifully told.