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Travel Light

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  942 ratings  ·  204 reviews
From the dark ages to modern times, from the dragons of medieval forests to Constantinople, this is a fantastic and philosophical fairy-tale journey that will appeal to fans of Harry Potter, Diana Wynne Jones, and T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone.
Paperback, 135 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Peapod Classics (first published 1952)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  942 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: naomi-mitchison
Ever wanted a Tolkeinesque saga with a female lead? Look no further this is it, and from someone close to Tolkein who proof read Lord of the Rings before it was published. This was published in 1952, before Lord of the Rings in 1954.
This really ought to stand alongside The Hobbit and Harry Potter and other such tales to be read as one grows up. For some reason it doesn’t and its remarkable author is not considered part of the canon.
Mitchison lived to be 101 and her life and the scope of her inte
Spencer Orey
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was really beautiful. It's a meditative fairy tale that turns into something else entirely by the end. I'm a fast reader these days, and even though this book was short, it made me slow down and take my time. I appreciate that a lot.

Like a lot of other readers, I found this one thanks to Amal El-Mohtar's NPR review:
And I'm so glad I did! There's a lot of heavy subject matter but a gentle touch, and no matter how grim things got, I always felt strange
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: souls weighed down by the trivialities of life, children
Travel light my child, as the Wanderer travels light, and his love will be with you."(57)

descriptionTravel Light

Travel Light tells the story of Halla, a girl born to a King, who will also take the very same gift that was given, for he casts her out into the wilds before any words could be spoken. She is nursed by bears and raised by dragons. But the time of dragons has come to past and magic is waning, our dear Halla is destined to make a choice. Who will she be? Halla Bearsbairn? Halla Heroesbane? or Hall
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I came across this because of Amal El-Mohtar's NPR review; the idea of a book in dialogue with Tolkien, by one of the women around him who he encouraged and listened to, definitely appealed: I think just recently I was asking if anyone's written anything about Tolkien's female students, about whom I know very little except that I'm sure I have been told they existed. (Time for a woman to write a biography of Tolkien? Move over, Humphrey Carpenter, Tom Shippey?)

And this book delivered. It is rath
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think this would be considered a Y/A novel. Mitchison was ahead of her time. She was turning Fantasy inside-out back in the 50's, before the genre was even well-worn. First, she throws everything in - a bit of the feel of Beowulf, with the wonderful hyphenated phrases (flame-fringed, gold-collared, bracelet-giver), the Norse lore (Valhalla, Valkyries), the names (she goes through a series of life-twists that are marked by name changes = Halla Bearsbairn, Halla Heroesbane, Halla God's-gift), a ...more
(Read because it was highly recommended at an Arisia panel on forgotten classics by women back in January, and also because it was part of the Small Beer Press Humble Bundle.)

A few weeks ago I went and saw a one-man show called Transmission. It was about ideas, and values, and how the books we read in childhood worm their way into our conscious (and conscience) and affect us years and decades down the line--and it was a cry to reject that, to examine our received beliefs and rebuild them anew. S
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Note: If you have the Smallbeer Press edition, DO NOT read the Introduction. It doesn't "spoil" the book, it entirely ruins it by telling the whole thing, elements, denouement and all. Why editors do this consistently I cannot tell you, but it seems to be a new fashion when resurrecting older texts from oblivion.
Not my usual sort of read but I found myself really enjoying it. Mitchison blends Nordic myth with her personal perception of early Christianity, adding a pinch of fairy tale to tell the
Dawn Lawson
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing

There is no other word for this book.

A Fairy Tale for adults, before the genre existed.

Seemingly simple sentences like this spark aliveness throughout the book: Halla stretched her arms and the bracelets clinked and the rings flashed in the sunshine. “I’m glad I’m a dragon,” she said.

The best of fantasy, speculative fiction, slides truths into your mind through the back door while the front of your mind is enjoying the story.

for was not the sparkle of treasure implicit in the velvet d
Zen Cho
May 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sff
I thought this was a bit twee at first but got into it after a while, and ended up liking it a lot. The point at which it gets really good is when she leaves the dragons, and when she meets the men from Marob and what happens to them. And the Valkyries and All-Father and the abrupt-feeling revelation at the end that giants and dragons are getting scarce -- loved it. It had a numinousness it's hard to find in fantasy, though one goes to fantasy precisely for that.
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning. I loved the ripping pace of it and the sparkling prose. Every once in a while, a phrase would be so perfectly expressed that it would just stop me in my tracks. Wonderful book, deserving of its high praise. I wish it were better known.
Jamie Dacyczyn
I finished this book in an evening (it's only 135 pages), put it down, and thought, "Huh. That was......different?" It's clearly a book kind of meant for children, with with some startlingly violent moments that made me wonder if it was supposed to be a fairy tale book for adults written in the style of a children's story...? Or something?

It's about an unwanted princess named Halla who is taken by her nanny to be raised by bears (which the nanny turns into). When it becomes clear that her human
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, childrens
Like everyone else, I read Travel Light because NPR told me to.

Halla is born the daughter of a king, but he abandons her when he remarries. Luckily, her nurse is a werebear and takes her to live in the woods, with all the other bears.

This is not a spoiler because this all happens by the end of the first paragraph. By the end of the first chapter, Halla has found herself adopted by a dragon, and is learning proper dragon things, like how to catalog your hoard.

Unfortunately, Naomi Mitchinson does
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Oh, that ENDING was EXCELLENT. Such a wonderful little book, so ahead of its time!
I borrowed this from my University library for three reasons: firstly, I had never read any Mitchison and felt I should rectify that, particularly as she's a Scottish author; secondly, its original Virago green spine stood out to me on the shelf; and thirdly, the storyline sounded both weird and wonderful. I must admit that I don't ordinarily read books with elements of magic to them (with the exception of Harry Potter, of course), but I read the first page whilst I should have been looking for ...more
Louise Marley
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember why or how I bought this book. Someone must have recommended it, because it's a slim little volume, first published sixty years ago, and there's nothing about it that might have caught my eye. Whoever suggested it--maybe a Facebook friend--deserves my thanks!

Naomi Mitchison lived to be 101, according to the cover information, and published dozens of books. If this is representative, I'll be going in search of some of those. TRAVEL LIGHT defies categorization, truly, but if I had
Bogi Takács
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: have-it-around
(Read on recommendation by Rose Lemberg and Amal El-Mohtar.) Such a pleasant surprise. I have a feeling it skewed my standards re: children's books, now everything will seem less awesome...
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This is a book that is going to stick with me for years as I think it over and make new realizations about what it has to say. Lately I've been thinking about the question of "who gets to tell stories and who are they focused on" and Travel Light introduces so many new parts to consider, and I'm certain some that I won't even realize for a long time. Why is Grendel the villain? Why can't the hero be the antagonist? Who picks the protagonist and why? Are they the most interesting choice? Oka ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An amazing fantasy story that was beautifully written. It has certainly made me want to seek out more of Naomi Mitchison's work
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This totally needs a better cover than the Shel Silverstein-ish scrawling art. This is kinda like The Long Ships (aka “Red Orm”) but with a strong and very independent female protagonist, and a bit more magic/fantastic creatures. Can’t believe this gem (published right before LoTR) isn’t more widely known.

Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Travel Light is basically a subversive fairy tale about a princess who's cast out to live with bears, and then dragons, and then humans as she goes on her own hero's quest. In some ways it's also a cautionary tale against kings and heroes, who are nothing but self-entitled men who steal and kill and do terrible things with the terrifying certainty that they're in the right. Mostly, though, it's about traveling light and choosing your own destiny. It's a short, light read, but surprisingly denser ...more
Bob Churchill
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This novella feels like it's fallen out of time. It absolutely comes from the era of Tolkien and CS Lewis - published after The Hobbit and the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, but a few years before The Lord of the Rings - but it also prefigures Philip Pullman, especially in the somehow Lyra-like character of Halla (view spoiler) and continues beyond.

Pop culture
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
If you're looking for a fun fantasy novel for kids that isn't beholden to the Campbellian monomyth, look no further. Travel Light should be up there with Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit as a classic work of children's fantasy, but thematic material and a deeply anti-authoritarian streak have probably worked against its popularity.

It starts with a princess, and immediately goes sideways, when she his rejected by her father and thrown out of the castle, to be raised by bears and dragons. From t
The magical and mythical elements of this story were endearing and exciting. Halla is raised by bears and dragons, then approached by Odin, then sets off on an adventure! She speaks to animals and a Valkyrie visits her and befriends her. She ponders the meaning of dragon treasure, and what really matters in life. I loved that about this book. Halla is a badass character. The main plot is this political mission for three men from Marob, though, and it is BORING. Three men from Marob set out to vi ...more
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've never been a fan of 'Mindfulness', a word with a somewhat vague definition and a particularly strong and rooted presence in the lexicon of every single advocate of 'The Good Life' that I've ever had the misfortune to encounter. It reeks of stagnancy, being a tumor of a word swathed by circular, egregious studies, rising to the top of the commercial chain on heaps of zombified minds, to become a shiny vomitus of the industrialised spiritual and self-help market.

Halla embodies and represents
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How did I not discover this book or its author Naomi Mitchison sooner? I was so absorbed by the story and the beautiful, sparkling, breezy prose that I did something I've never done before when finishing a novel; I immediately began the story again. The story begins like so many fairy tales with an unwanted princess being secreted away from the palace, but then nothing else proceeded as I anticipated. There are bears and dragons and heroes, but there is something weightier than typical fairy tal ...more
Kate Savage
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unexpectedly charming. I dislike most books that seem to be aimed toward children. But the breezy-bold sentence structure won me over. Also: Mitchison pays close attention to other species.

The author wrote 90 books in her century of life. Some of these were aimed at fighting fascism. Some were arguing for reproductive rights (and got blocked or censored). And some, like this one, are about dragons and unicorns.
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: Neil
Delightful… but not at all what I expected.

This starts off as a clever young-adultish story set in a world of Norse mythology, kind of.

But then it somewhat suddenly veers into a completely different story about Christianity and the hypocrisy of the powerful, kind of.

The two halves work together quite nicely, though.

It only takes one evening to read. Check it out.
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting, especially with backgrounds and parallel to Tolkien Style
Sweet and charming, but didn’t find it as meaningful as others have.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I know that fairy tale / myth retellings are a dime a dozen, in some ways, but rarely are they done with so much eloquence, scope, and independence. I wish I'd had this book when I was younger, but even now, I find it melancholy and beautiful in ways that Young Me would have missed.
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Naomi Mitchison, author of over 70 books, died in 1999 at the age of 101. She was born in and lived in Scotland and traveled widely throughout the world. In the 1960s she was adopted as adviser and mother of the Bakgatla tribe in Botswana. Her books include historical fiction, science fiction, poetry, autobiography, and nonfiction, the most popular of which are The Corn King and the Spring Queen, ...more

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“Travel light my child, as the Wanderer travels light, and his love will be with you.” 5 likes
“If he could sleep, she thought, sleep through the unhappy months, the heart's hunger, the months of death and cold and not having what you most want, and wake with time gone past and blurred and a new year coming. But perhaps it is too early in the year, she thought after that, and besides, he is not a bear.” 2 likes
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