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Travel Light

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  2,297 ratings  ·  443 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 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,297 ratings  ·  443 reviews


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Paul
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
...more
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: https://www.npr.org/2014/01/01/258384...
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
...more
human
Aug 25, 2020 marked it as tbr-plans-2021-classics-must-reads
i'm only here because it was mentioned in This Is How You Lose the Time War ...more
Jareed
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
...more
Alwynne
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Scottish author and poet Naomi Mitchison’s Travel Light draws on an impressive variety of Norse myth, literature and legend in her thoughtful, entertaining twist on a traditional fairy tale. It’s centred on a bold, unorthodox heroine Princess Halla born into an age of change where magic and the old gods are losing their sway. Cast out as a baby by her stepmother, Halla’s first raised by bears then adopted by a dragon. The dragon community educates Halla in their customs and beliefs, introducing ...more
Nicky
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
...more
Kristin B. Bodreau
Nov 01, 2020 rated it liked it
I first learned of this book while reading This Is How You Lose the Time War. I can certainly see why the idea of Traveling Light would resonate with Red and Blue. This is a very well done story in a traditional myth style. However, that is not a style I tend to click with. It was very straightforward without an overabundance of plot or character development. However, if you like Norse mythology, independent women, dragons or tales of traveling and a life of simplicity, this is a very good read. ...more
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
...more
Janelle
I would’ve loved this when I was a kid. Lots of Norse mythology references and a great lead character in Halla.
ambyr
(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
...more
Sylvester
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
Rosamund Taylor
May 17, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, childrens
Princess Halla is sentenced to death by her stepmother when she is only a baby, but is saved by her nurse and brought up by bears and dragons. This is an inventive fantasy, with a mythic quality and a sense of timelessness. Halla encounters creatures from Norse myth, such as Valkyries and winged horses, as well as meeting Odin, but her story also brings her to ancient Byzantium. "Travel Light" is a central theme: what we carry with us, what we should put down, and what is important. It's also ab ...more
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
...more
Dawn Lawson
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant.

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
...more
Carolyn DeCarlo
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Travel Light was the first book of the Food Court Book Club. We chose this book after reading This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Travel Light was mentioned in this book and we became intrigued after finding out there were only several copies of the text available in all of New Zealand. While marked as a title for eleven to twelve year olds, it provided lively conversation for a group of adults as well. For me this book did not represent the best fantasy fictio ...more
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. ...more
Dhwani Shah
Nov 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
What a beautiful beautiful story! It tackles the most difficult political and philosophical questions in such an easy manner, like explaining to a child. Halla, who doesn't know who she is, has always been in an identity crises that ebbs and flows, tries to find a place where she is happy and peaceful. The best part being that if she does or doesn't in the end means very little to her or the readers, it is all about looking for that place, even if there is no such place. It is an absurd world! ...more
Tracy
May 12, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This is so beautiful. I loved it so much. I would have loved it even more when I was a kid.
Amal El-Mohtar
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this before I started posting regularly on Goodreads, but have now reviewed it for NPR and written more about Mitchison here.

...more
Kaion
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens, fantasy
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
...more
Kelsey
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Oh, that ENDING was EXCELLENT. Such a wonderful little book, so ahead of its time!
Kirsty
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
Eleanor
Original title: Travel Light

When I saw that N. Mitchison was one Tolkien's closest friend I decided to give this book a try.
The premise was really intriguing, she's raised by bears and then dragons, there are references to norse mythology and there's the travel element which I always enjoy.

I really appreciated the attention that was given to the dragons and the fact and the author makes you see things a little differently, from their point of view, when talking about their relationship with hu
...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
...more
Juushika
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
A rescued child, fostered by bears and dragons, learns to travel light. The title is central conceit, character growth and theme: what we carry with us, physically, psychologically; what it means to keep or discard, and how it informs our experience--couched within a playful, flexible narrative that slides from fairytale to Constantinople. The changing settings and tone can be disorientating, even disappointing for becoming less fantastic, but it also allows for increasingly ambiguous thematic d ...more
Rodney
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.
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... ...more
Christina Dongowski
This has to be one of the most beautifully told stories I‘ve read in a long time. It should be way up on the fantasy canon & YA, but it probably got lost in the Tolkien & C. S. Lewis monopoly. That it has a girl as protagonist who is a bear who is raised as a dragon, critiques the hero as saviour-narrative and has a very dim view of Christianity as an authoritarian ideology to legitimate an exploitative and highly hierarchical central state and was written by a left wing female writer has probab ...more
David
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
Doug Luke
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Just about a perfect book. A serious fairy tale, with an anti-heroic viewpoint.
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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.” 9 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.” 4 likes
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